"Caring for Our Elders" Forums Held in San Francisco, California
On September 23, 2007, SGI-USA members in San Francisco, California met for an informative and inspiring forum on "Caring for Our Elders" at the SGI-USA San Francisco Culture Center. This was the seventh of a series on elderly care that began in January, sponsored by SGI-USA women in San Francisco. The idea for the forums grew out of discussions held by the San Francisco Region Women's Division Planning Committee (WDPC), based on their own struggles of caring for aging parents. The women decided to sponsor educational forums on elder care, aging and community resources combining personal experiences based on the life-affirming philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism to find meaning and creating value in their interaction with the elderly through their declining years. The goal for each forum was to provide support for those who are caring for an elder in the form of professional advice along with encouragement based on the principles of Nichiren Buddhism.
Since January, meetings have focused on "Care for Others" and "Care for Self." "Care for Others" included Alzheimer's and dementia, daily care for seniors, hospice care and working with medical professionals. "Care for Self" topics included personal mental health and healthy aging. The meetings were planned and conducted by local SGI member Gwen Harris, who has a masters degree in gerontology. Ms. Harris became interested in the field as she cared for her elderly father. In her work she now assists caregivers in finding appropriate services and also consults with families following the death of a loved one.
The September 23 forum was a review of the previous six forums as well as an opportunity for participants to provide feedback for future forums. Attendees were treated to soulful jazz piano performed by Sam Cady, San Francisco Region men's division leader. The meeting opened with excerpts read from Humanism and the Art of Medicine, a dialogue between SGI President Daisaku Ikeda and medical professionals.
Kay Rood, longtime SGI-USA member and leader, shared a moving experience about the difficult challenges she faced in caring for her own parents in the final years of their lives and how she used her Buddhist practice to ensure victory for herself and for her parents; specifically developing patience and appreciation in communicating with them, as well as tackling the many medical and legal difficulties that arose.
Six panelists from a variety of disciplines involved in elder health care professions provided insight into the various resources available to those caring for elders. The panelists spoke about diet and nutrition, hospice care and advanced directives, communicating with the elderly, communicating with health care professionals, health care options and resources for the elderly, and taking care of the caregivers themselves. Following presentations, the panelists participated in small group discussions with the audience. The forum ended with a question and answer session with San Francisco Region Leader Kathy D'or-Ried.
WDPC member Nancy Ziedler, facilitator for the meetings, became involved as a result of the emotional and logistical challenges she faced in caring for her 90-year-old mother. She found herself at times angry, sad or anxious all the while trying to be a loving daughter. The daily job of caring for her mother at home became overwhelming as she took on responsibility for overseeing all of her mother's activities, including her finances, medical appointments, grocery shopping and social appointments.
[Adapted from a report from the SGI-USA San Francisco Region Women's Division Planning Committee; photos courtesy of Lloyd Carlson]