Reimagine Everything: Asians Bring Our Own Values to Caregiving

July 20, 2016 • AARP, Columnists

Ron MoriBy Ron Mori

Someday, most of us will either become caregivers for our loved ones or need caregiving from our loved ones. It’s a fact. It’s inevitable.

Now that I can see my 60s on the horizon, I’m even more aware of the importance of caregiving in my family, and in our community. Many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have a different take on the responsibility of caregiving than typical Americans. Our family traditions and cultural values like respect for elders, or for Japanese Americans, on and giri — obligation and sense of duty — make caregiving a looming reality.

We’re conditioned all our lives to prepare to care for our elders. We need to research the best services, the best facilities — and, if possible, take care of our family members and not just place them in an institutional facility.

And though it might be difficult for AAPIs to talk about such tender issues openly, that reality is exactly why we need to discuss caregiving before it’s too late. We need to plan for caregiving and know who will take care of whom, and how, and where the funds will come from. It’s a topic that I have avoided with my brother and sister, but a conversation we are just starting to have with my mother, who is 89.

Caregiving is an important part of AARP. We have a lot of resources online gathered together in a section (http://www.aarp.org/home-family/caregiving) that has news, tips, helpful articles and advice.

And for AAPI audiences, we’ve created two short documentary films that are intended to help spark that family discussion about caregiving while there’s still time to plan and make hard decisions that I, myself, have avoided.

Two years ago, we produced a film, “Caregiving: Dahil Mahal Kita,” that features how three Filipino families dealt with caregiving. One of the people profiled, retired U.S. Army Gen. Anthony Taguba, is our AAPI Community Ambassador, and he speaks around the country about his experience as a caregiver for his father and how important it is for families to discuss future caregiving.

In June, we premiered a new short film, “Caregiving: The Circle of Love,” that focuses on three Chinese American families’ experience with caregiving. One of the people profiled in this film is Richard Lui, the high-profile Asian American anchor for MSNBC. His father has Alzheimer’s, and although Richard lives and works in New York City, he flies to his parents’ home in San Francisco every weekend to help care for his dad.

The other two profiles in the film are equally powerful: Elizabeth Chun is part of the “sandwich” generation and cares for both her mother and her grandchildren. Lily Liu, AARP’s Historian Emerita, gave up her job to care for her mother. The film’s director, Toan Lam, is himself a former caregiver for his family.

The premiere for the film was held at the University of San Francisco, so Richard and his parents could attend. They watched it in a separate room while over 200 audience members were in the main room at Fromm Hall. After the screening, Richard joined Lily Liu and filmmaker Toan Lam (Elizabeth Chun unfortunately couldn’t leave her caretaking responsibilities for the event) for further discussion about their roles as caregivers. But before the panel, Richard waved goodbye to his parents at the back of the room, and his mom and dad waved back before heading home.

It was a touching, powerful moment that reminded everyone there that even through the fog of Alzheimer’s, patients can have mental clarity (Richard’s dad thanked a photographer for taking pictures of the family) and also reminded people that the love of a son or daughter for his parents can run deeper than just “duty.”

Richard is a true Caregiving Champion for AARP, and a role model for all of us.

Here is the Chinese caregiving documentary:

http://videos.aarp.org/detail/video/4846069296001/.

Here is the Filipino film:

http://videos.aarp.org/detail/video/4846069296001/.

Ron Mori is a board member for the Washington, D.C., JACL chapter, and manager of community, states and national affairs — multicultural leadership for AARP.

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