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Blog #1 Hanako

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

A long time ago, when I was working as a therapist at an Alzheimer's residential facility in San Francisco, I met this 80 year old lady living with Alzheimer's, who was a Japanese-American, nisei (2nd generation). When she moved to the facility where most of the residents were white, it was clear that she was feeling very uncomfortable being around with White-Americans. I learned from her chart that during World War II, when she was small, she was forced away from her home to live in an assigned Japanese internment camp. As her dementia progressed, she started telling me that the white residents were watching us and we should be careful about who we talk to, in her Japanese language, to express her suppressed grief, anger, and hurt. Since her children didn’t speak Japanese, I was her main listener/witness/partner-in-crime to validate her experiences and feelings. Eventually, her family grew to understand her situation and decided to transfer her to another facility that would be emotionally healthier for her, where more Asian people resided and caregivers reflected her culture.

Hanako was the first person who taught me the importance of understanding where my clients are from, their cultural and historical background, their mother tongue, and what the client’s and their family's values are. I will never forget the precious time Hanako and I shared together.

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