Omoiyare – What Does That Mean?

Omoiyare is a Japanese custom which means to be caring, considerate and compassionate towards others' needs.

It is also the title of a poem by Frances Kakugawa that is included, together with several more poems by Kakugawa, in What Kind of Ancestor Do You Want to Be? The University of Chicago Press, 2021




Omoiyare is about meeting others’ needs. But Omiyare, the poem, also points out that caregivers have needs. A caregiver I met recently told me: “It fills my heart when I’m appreciated”.

From What Kind of Ancestors Do You Want To Be?



There will be no Nobel Prize for what we do,
no trip to Sweden, no medals, gold, silver or bronze.
But here we stand, Caregivers, past and present, preserving for all generations,
this lesson learned in what it means to be human...

Once we abandon this heritage, all the years spent,
day after day, year after year, in the shadow of the thief...
all would have been for naught. Bruised, frayed, tattered,
like a flag after battle, we stand with Human Kindness and Compassion,
a legacy for ages hence.

© Frances Kakugawa

Frances Kakugawa has written 16 books including 3 books of poetry and information on caregiving for adults, and one book for children on giving care.

In 2002 she was recognized in the Living Legacy: Outstanding Women of the 20th Century in Hawaii book.

Frances Kakugawa


Excerpt from Wordsworth Dances the Waltz, Watermark Publishing (2007)


She was Grandma to me
Because she was Grandma,

Not because she had a memory
Or because she knew my name.

Now that she’s losing her memory,
She’s still my Grandma, isn’t she?

Wordsworth Dances the Waltz © Frances Kakugawa

I Am Somebody (Watermark Publishing, 2014) is a reminder that both loved one and caregiver deserve compassion, respect and a life with dignity. As a caregiver for her Alzheimer's-afflicted mother for many years, Kakugawa often felt embattled and at odds with her mother.

Through writing, she had a revelation. "I wrote a poem, from my mother's point of view, imagining what she would say: 'When I soil my clothing, or do something absurd, / Do not tell me, "Why didn't you?" / If I could, I would.' This idea came to haunt me and became my mantra whenever I wanted to shout in exasperation, 'Why did you?' or 'Why didn't you?'"


On September 23, 2021, Melissa commented:

I love this! Use of poetry is wonderful. Alix’s poem is perfect representation of the caregiver experience in a lovely art form. I wish I did poetry when I was a caregiver- so creative and healing at the same time! Please continue to share as part of your blog – maybe feature caregiver corner of poems.

Dr. Warren replied:
Hi Melissa,
Thanks for your comment!! It makes me happy to get feedback.  I reached out to Frances Kakugawa. She regularly speaks and writes about  her experiences as a caregiver and the daughter of a person with Alzheimer's Disease. Frances is a well known poet and writer. I've reached out to Frances and we'll be featuring her in an upcoming post.

With Aloha,

[email protected]

Posted in Alzheimer's, Caregiving, Dr. Warren, Geriatrics with Aloha, Poetry and tagged , , .


  1. Good morning from Pittsburgh. Loving your latest column. Wondering if you have heard the Japanese thought regarding memory loss/ Alzheimer’s? A Japanese colleague told me that persons with cognitive disorders have one foot in this life or world and the other foot in their next life or world. This is such a kind, considerate and respectful way to understand memory loss in our elder patients. Rascal Flats has the very best song about this. It’s called “Ellsworth.” It brings me to tears every time I hear it but I love this song. Hoping it touches your heart too.

  2. This is wonderful Pattie, When i think about people in general, many of us have only one foot in the “normal” world. We’re each abnormal in our own way.

    I had never heard the song by Rascal Flats. “Grandma burned the biscuits….Tomorrow she won’t remember what she did today” Beautiful song. In a way living in the past is beautiful if it brings joy. Life has been good, nothing can take that away.

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