by Julie Cleveland
Patti Boorkman and Masaru Aoyama are research study coordinators and interviewers for the KAME Project, a study at the University of Washington. This study is investigating patterns of dementia and healthy aging in older Japanese adults living in Seattle/King County, Wash. The KAME Project works closely with the Adult Changes in Thought (ACT) study, which is examining dementia and healthy aging in Caucasian adults in King County, and also with research collaborators in Honolulu, Hawaii, and Hiroshima and Tokyo, Japan. The purpose of these studies is to find out how much culture, environment, and genetics influence the risk factors and rates of dementia in older adults.
Patti and Masaru have been working with the KAME Project for nearly 10 years, since shortly after the study first began in 1991. Masaru is a bilingual interviewer for the study, and does both the English and Japanese speaking interviews with the study participants. He interviews in community (home) and nursing home settings. Patti does English speaking interviews, and is responsible for supervising the other interviewers and scheduling the study assessments. She also assists project coordinator Nancy Zee, and research study assistant Madeline Rice, with various projects and helps troubleshoot any problems that may arise.
Masaru and Patti both feel a deep connection with the Japanese community in King County, and take a lot of pride in their work. Patti was born and raised in Seattle, and her parents and grandparents are also from the Seattle area. Masaru worked as a social worker at the Keiro Nursing Home for several years. Thus, both are close to the community and its members. Patti states "I think that just knowing the culture - what is appropriate, and what's not appropriate, and how to approach the community in a sensitive way - has really helped the study be as successful as it is."
What Patti and Masaru enjoy most about their work, is meeting and helping the people in the Japanese community. The KAME Project is well known among the Japanese population in King County, so people often contact the KAME office when they have a question about dementia, even if it is unrelated to the study. Masaru and Patti do their best to answer the questions they can, and give useful referrals for questions they cannot answer. Masaru remarks, "It's good that we are seen as a resource. I feel that it is a comfort to people to know that they' ve got someplace to go, and that there are other people around in similar situations. It makes them feel that they're not the only one dealing with these issues."
When not at work, Masaru and Patti are very busy with their family lives. Masaru has two daughters, and Patti has two sons. Their evenings and weekends are filled with trips to soccer, tennis, basketball and piano lessons. Masaru also enjoys cooking, and growing Japanese vegetables. When harvesting season comes, he loves to share his crops with friends and co-workers. Patti's parents, who are in their 80's, recently moved in with her and her family. When asked if she has any advice for others caring for their parents, Patti's response was, " just remember that they're not always going to be with us, so spend as much time with them as you can; appreciate it." Both Patti & Masaru are happy to be able to honor and appreciate the elders in their community by spending time with them in the KAME Project.