Kupuna Caregiver: Daddy’s Girl

Kupuna Caregiver

It’s a passion of hers to help others, especially dad. 

“So my father called me doctor from when I was small, so I guess he saw my path before me. I wanted to be an astronaut when I was in elementary,” chuckles Dr. Poki’i Balaz.

Dr. Balaz moved back from Los Angeles in 2012, leaving a promising career at Cedars Sinai after her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

“Nothing in my career or school prepared me for the role that I was about to embark on,” says Dr. Balaz.

But she continues to persevere as the primary caregiver to her father, a physician at Kokua Kalihi Valley, a support group facilitator, ambassador, and state champion for the Alzheimer’s Association Aloha Chapter, while continuing to serve the Native Hawaiian Population.

“It has to be done. I just make sure I get it done because my dad is my inspiration. Knowing that I can help be that little piece of the puzzle that might be able to help someone improve their journey or the quality of life of the caregiver.  Maybe they won’t have to go through the troubles that I went through when I started out,” says Dr. Balaz.

She stresses to always live in the moment.

“I was supposed to be out the door in 5 minutes and I apologized when I got to work. But I let them know why I stayed with him. He laughed and smiled, and once in a while he’ll reach up and hold my hand. I put on the music and he started tapping his foot. So those moments are rare now as the disease has progressed so I made sure to enjoy those moments,” says Dr. Balaz.

Her father is in the end stages of Alzheimer’s, but she’s honoring his request to age in place with his family by his side.
“I hope that when he smiles at me everyday, when he gives me a nod or when the two of us are dancing together, that that’s his way of telling me that I’ve done a good job. I hope that he’s happy with everything I’m doing. I’d like to believe that, and I think that he would be proud of me,” says Dr. Balaz. 

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