Kupuna Caregiver: The flutist and the sound of music

Kupuna Caregiver

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Caren Kusaka has been playing the flute for over 50 years.

“When I was 4 or 5 years old, my aunty played in the Hilo County Band and she played the flute and piccolo and one day she got the flute out and says, ‘oh, here try it.’ So I tried it and she was surprised that I could actually blow into the mouthpiece and get a sound,” said kupuna caregiver Caren Kusaka.

Caren and her two sisters help care of mom – who suffers from memory loss.

“I’ll play something that I always play for my mom,” said Kusaka.

Studies have shown that music can provide emotional and behavioral benefits to people with memory loss.

“I’ll play an old Japanese folk tune and I’ll say, ‘Mom, what’s the name of it.’ And she goes, ‘I don’t know.’ But she’ll hum it, but she doesn’t know the words but she goes, ‘oh, that’s really pretty. Did you hear it before?’ And she says, ‘Maybe.”

Music also benefits caregivers.

“It’s very relaxing and sometimes it’s very invigorating,” said Kusaka. “And when I say invigorating, usually when we play with the band it’s loud but sometimes when I go to the band, I’m really tired and after the two hours of rehearsal I just feel really good you know and I’m ready to go again.”

Caren and her husband met each other when both were music majors at the University of Hawaii, and it’s one of the many things — from hiking, running marathons and composing music together — that have kept their marriage going for nearly 50 years.

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