As part of a lifestyle and aging series, we’re working with renowned photographer Terry Lorant to showcase inspirational leaders in the industry. Each month, we’ll feature one or a few inspirational member(s) of the Amazing Care Network community who is using his or her voice to empower others in the collective aging experience. Read, in their own words, what the Amazing Care Network’s efforts mean to them.

This month we’re proud to feature ACN Member, Eliza Duerme

I remember not long ago hearing on PBS about a network near Boston that had been formed by and for older people who help each other. It was all about the networking. And then I heard Cora talk about starting something that sounded similar called the Amazing Care Network.

I could really see the value of this program for a couple of things in my own life. First, my younger sister has had cancer, and recently she’s had a recurrence, so I volunteered to help her do some research. It’s funny, when you’re very close to a disease, sometimes you actually don’t want to know a lot. You’re better off not knowing but at some point, you need to face the music. For instance, we want a second opinion if another surgery is warranted and if it was, what are the risks. Google doesn’t have all the answersso how do you deal with that? You’re almost on the sidelines, and it’s difficult to know the right things to do.

There’s a plethora of information out there but how do you wade through all of it? I’m not a medical doctor, but I think I know some of the questions to ask. Which doctor do we look for?  I could use some help with that.

The second thing involves the situation with my mother-in-law who just turned one hundred. She’s still in her house, and she refuses to go to assisted living. So, what to do? You can Google and look for caregivers, but there are so many difficult issues. How do you know what criteria to use to pick and choose? So again, it’s back to being educated. What questions do you really ask? The answers may all be there but how do you sift through all this information?

My husband and I were able to find a live-in person for her, and after 2 weeks, she was adamant, “I don’t want anyone here.” I’m sure this is not an unusual case, but how do you talk to a person like that? There will come a point when she will really need assisted living. We visited one and of course it looks nice, but how do you really judge?

The Physicians Network that Amazing Care has established is an objective  resource and I really need to take advantage of it. I need to ask this network, “What do you do in this case?” And “How do I use this knowledge base to answer my questions?”

It’s such a big question for so many of us who have family in this kind of situation. I’m just the daughter-in-law, but even for my husband, he’s wrestling with — at what point do you control somebody’s life? The Amazing Care get-togethers are helpful with these kinds of things…it’s good to hear other people with similar issues.

My own mother passed away two years ago at 89 in the Philippines. My father’s still there and he’s 95, but he’s a strong 95-year old. I have four siblings, and we take turns visiting him. The good thing in the Philippines is that it’s so much cheaper! You could have two caregivers during the day and a separate one at night for a fraction of what we’d have to pay here.

So, there’s a need for Amazing Care to help us with these kinds of things.

The third personal thing is that my husband and I married late, the first marriage for both of us, and we don’t have kids. My husband takes care of things for his mom. I saw my mother pass away. They were lucky, they had kids.  Fast forward, where am I going to end up?

I’ve never really believed in long-term care. So, I’m starting to think, it’s really opened my eyes…who’s going to buy my Pampers?  And, really, I don’t have to dig up all this information myself. I just need to take advantage of the resources that Amazing Care has organized. It’s there; I mean, it’s fabulous.

I understand that the idea has really caught on in Hawaii. And I think I know why, because the social connections are much stronger there. Here, on the mainland, you think, maybe falsely, you can run to Stanford Hospital or the Library, or Google. It’s the culture. It’s: I’ll do my research on my own. I’ll Google till the cows come home. Whereas I think in Hawaii, it’s more like: I want to speak to somebody. It’s Ohana, it’s family, and it’s less individualistic.

I worked here in the Silicon Valley as a software engineer until I retired. And it’s almost like asking help means you can’t handle it, “You mean you can’t do this research on your own?” I think there’s some of that.

Well, the first step is that we need to admit that there’s so much we don’t know, and that we need to accept that we need help. That’s one of the reasons why I thought it was really neat when I heard that Amazing Care had a symposium with Millennials. I think the kids are humble enough to say, “I don’t know this and I really need to know.” That’s so encouraging to me.

I think they’re somewhat humbler than us old fogies who seem to need to act like we know everything. I think it’s humility to say, “Hey, I can’t do this on my own,” or, “I really need talk to people.” I think this generation is much more networked than we ever were.

When something like illness or grief strikes you, that’s when you realize how much you need people. With the Amazing Care Network…the Network is the key piece!