Monday, 20 October 2014

Shhh.....she likes it!

It's a winner: the Nishi-sensei health book!!!

She started reading it immediately. Uses an old supermarket flyer as a bookmark...and is reading it avidly.

Deep back into her all-time favorite subject, with a real book in her hands. I wonder how many years it has been since she has actually read about the subject and not just talked about it?

I presented it to her on Saturday morning. In the book shop bag. "a present from your dear son and I, because we know you love Nishi-sensei. He is so popular they have new editions of the book!"
At first she said: "I don't need a book because I've studied that already. I know it all".

But I laid it on thick with a shovel about how important it is is to study one's health at all ages etc etc and she took the book and....started reading it!

So. We'll let that stew a bit.
I would really love to get her a video player and get the video set up for regular exercises.
Even if I have to get own on the smelly carpet myself with her and act like a goldfish by rippling my midriff.
Probably there would be some resistance at first - I can exercise on my own later! - but if the whole TV screen is full of the Nishi-exercises with a voice urging her onwards I think she would eventually join in.
Hell, we can control her Tv with a remote thru the glass of the kitchen doors. We could just flip the switch and the shopping channel would change to Nishi-exercises!
We'll see. But we could be onto something here...

Saturday, 18 October 2014

If you can't beat 'em...

Francesca - it's all your fault!
Francesca - you are our saviour!

Which will it be?

Acting on blog reader Francesca's suggestions in the comments on my last post...I found myself midweek in a bookshop clutching a printout from Amazon Japan of books by or about the Nishi Katsuzo system of health and happiness.

Okaasan's health guru.

40 years ago a school teacher told Okaasan about this man Nishi-sensei, who was popular in the 1920s and 30s in Japan for his ideas about health.
Okaasan went to a training school for lectures about this health system in the 1950s/60s and absolutely believes this is the secret to health.
Her huge negativity towards Western medicine are due to this. Part of his story is that he was a sick child and doctors came and looked at him and couldn't make him healthy. By his own study and methods he became stronger and lived a long life.
Much of what Nishi recommended is now widely accepted as beneficial - drinking 2 liters of water, the exercises etc - at the time it was unusual.

I've been pretty negative about Nishi's ideas.
Well, because Okaasan has boiled his beliefs down to an aggressive: I can exercise myself in my room; I don't need anyone's help; I don't need a doctor/hospital; I won't eat: I know best mantra.
And then she stays on the carpet for days moaning and peeing.
It is hard NOT to feel negative about Mr. Nishi.

But. But.
As Francesca points out - if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Or at least, show some interest and use it to help.
If I show an interest in Mr Nishi and get Okaasan to think about it all and show more active involvement in her body and health - just maybe we may avoid the moaning and peeing...more.

So. I'm in the bookshop.
Where - to my surprise - there is a Nishi System section on the health shelves! A section of 5 books, written by him or his followers. There was even a manga :-) AND a DVD of the exercises!
With the staff help I decided to get this book.

I'll give it to Okaasan as a present and encourage her to do the exercises. She tells day care people etc that she does these exercises every day - but the reality is that she  doesn't. About once a month we see she is on the carpet with her feet and arms in the air, shaking her hands etc - but it isn't a daily exercise.
Could we even get a DVD player set up and set her a regular Exercise Time every day? A Japanese, old lady version of a Jane Fonda workout? Headband and leotard?

Let's make a start...Francesca...your idea is going into action :-)
This blog has just gone Reader Interactive.


Ellie, the Patron Saint of Foreign Women in Japan.

The daily TV drama about the Scottish woman who married the founder of Japanese whisky in the 1920s. She is blonde, she is cute, ever-ever loving and she struggles so beautifully with the rice cooking, the language and the nuttiness of Japanese life.
All of us foreign women in Japan are in awe of Ellie's strength and overall cuteness.
Heavy sarcasm intended.
It's a Japanese makeover of a real person into an idealized foreigner. Cute and harmless.

Last week Okaasan was watching the drama while I cooked her lunch.
She came into the kitchen.
"That's an interesting drama, isn't it" I commented.
"Yes. You know, in those days it was very hard to be a foreign daughter-in-law..."

"Yes, it's pretty hard now too! "I replied.

Okaasan laughed and laughed and laughed. Me too.

"Now when I have stress from cooking Japanese food for you and DS, I can go to Susukino and meet foreign friends and drink alcohol and complain. Poor Ellie couldn't, there were so few foreigners in Japan at that time. It was harder!"

Okaasan laughed. She loved it.

Oh Ellie. All she needed was a computer and a blog. Her life would have been so much easier.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Pasting on some happiness

The legs are slightly better.
She is getting up off the carpet fairly easily and getting around the house ok.
Only went out twice on her own.

Outside the front door I moved the garden bench nearer the steps so she can use it for support. It used to be there, but as I was drying lavender on it recently and there was heavy rain I'd moved it back against the wall. Maybe she really does need that as physical and visual support.

And I bought a book about rheumatism. For Okaasan.

Just a start, to try and get her thinking about her condition and how to help it. I discussed with DS about the book - "she won't read it" he commented and I share that worry. She firmly believes she knows everything about health because of the health-guru Dr Nishi 40 years ago.
So she rejects any other advice or suggestion.
In my mind I have rehearsed some possibly persuasive conversations: Yes, I know Nishi-sensei was a genius, but that was 40 years ago. You were a young woman then. He didn't need to teach you about rheumatism. But of course study about health is important at any age! You can never stop learning about health can you? Maybe this book has some ideas! Have a look!

I've had that conversation with myself while sitting on the train, vacuuming, feeding cats. Replayed that scene many times.
But at the end of it Okaasan is always dismissive of the book: I don't need a book. I know about health. I studied health with Nishi-genius, I don't need a book. I know about my body. 
and on an on and on and on.
I can see me. Like Ellie in the NHK drama, standing all dewy-eyed and lip trembling. My hopes crushed.

I sneaked the book into her room and onto her table. Put it under some newspapers and bits of paper. Left it for her to find.
This way she can think that maybe she bought the book. That it's her book already. Can glance at it. Get used to the  sight of it on the table. And eventually maybe open it and look at the exercises and recipe ideas inside.
If she mentions it we'll just say: "oh, you bought it didn't you..recently?" Her dementia is advanced enough that she isn't 100% sure what she bought recently.
Okaasan  deep into a program about dinosaurs...with the rheumatism book among her clutter.
 (and yes, I should clean the windows in the door!)

Sneaky. But maybe the best way to introduce the book and any good ideas it has.

* Other news.
* A local convenience store telephoned the house and said they were still holding the magazine that Okaasan bought recently. She bought it and asked the staff in the shop to keep it for her - because it was too heavy to carry. And then forgot it.
* Sorting out thru Okaasan's handbag (I periodically throw out old receipts and forgotten bits of food wrapped in tissue paper)...I came across... Okaasan's TOOTH! The one that dropped out last month. Nearly wrapped in a bit of paper and in a side pocket of the handbag.

This week has been okay. About Thursday Okaasan suddenly had a very swollen top lip. She looked like a chimpanzee. But no bruising. No idea, of course, how it happened.
She ate a little food and said it was tender to touch. But not a toothache. We don't know. She fell on the day I found her sitting on the step? She has some other problem?
Don't know. It's faded again now.

Yesterday we took her out for a Family Outing.
Lunchtime trip to a department store downtown. Car ride, walk round two floors of the store looking at clothes and shoes. Then Japanese lunch in an old fashioned restaurant.
She loved it. Trotted round the shop behind us, touching the things we touched. Commenting on the sale items in loud whispers: "That is too flashy, no ordinary woman wants THAT! Only nightclub staff, that's why they couldn't sell it!". Loving being in a shop.
She ate the largest amount of food she's eaten all week and responded to chat about fish names and shopping. A good time.

When Okaasan first came to live in Sapporo, 5 years ago, she used to go to this department store culture school for hula dance class. That's amazing in fact: she used to get dressed, on schedule go downtown and join the class and its events. Chat to the other members. Enjoy. Until the alleged "bullying".
Now she can't. The whole getting ready to go out on schedule and join a group event thing. Can't get herself on target for that.
Made me think what has changed in 5 years.

And so.
Winter cometh. DS says he'll get the day care manager to come in for a meeting with Okaasan and we'll try to get her interested in going once a week to a hula dance class and lunch. And if a wall of negativity defeats  that, we'll arrange for the local taxi to come once a week and take her out.

Thankyou for your comments:
I hear you. I really do. He IS passive about her medical care. I know. He takes the easy way out.
I am sure it is frustrating to read about this. This inaction with an elderly woman who may benefit from medical intervention.
I feel frustrated writing it.

But. A few points by way of explanation/excuse.

a) It's not my mother. I'm not even married to this guy. 14 years of co-habitation. So until he is away working in winter and she is my total responsibility - he has to be the primary carer. In any society, and definitely in Japan.
In winter, when he is away - if she falls down or can't get up to the toilet etc - I am going to be on the phone to an ambulance SO QUICK she won't know what's hit her. Some nice friendly paramedics will carry her out of the house and into a local hospital. And I will sit back with a glass of wine and a big satisfied smile on my face. I'm hoping that will happen this winter. I really do. :-)

b) I think there is a different attitude to crawling on the floor in Japan. The floor is not an alien place, as it is to adult Western people. Japanese people sit and sleep on the floor. Live their lives on the floor. Okaasan certainly does.
So, when her legs were so bad that she couldn't stand - and she crawled into the house from the front door steps. I think MY reaction is more shocked than her, or her son's reaction. 
If my mother or father had only been able to crawl into the house, they and I would have been shocked: "My god, it's reached this terrible level! Like a baby or an animal!"
But for a Japanese person? I think that position is just more normal. Not 100% normal, of course, but not a degrading, unbelievable level to have reached. Just a practical adaptation to a physical change. I can't stand, so I will crawl.

c) The whole No Medical Intervention is HER choice. Yes, made thru the murky prism of dementia. But still a conscious, reasoned choice. A large slab of traditional thinking. Pain is to be endured with stoicism. It will pass. Stay calm and eat a little. Sleep a lot. Let the body right itself. What will be, will be. I am old. The old body needs time to recover. 
And you know - it does.
She goes from a screaming, flinching mess on the carpet to tottering around her room peering at shopping receipts in the space of a few days. Sometimes a week. Sometimes 2 weeks.
But she does. It is amazing.
There is something to be said - and OH MY GOD THIS IS HARD TO WRITE! - to her method. Not rushing off for medical intervention at a sign that the body is under stress. But just accepting it, living quietly with the pain and waiting for it to pass.

I don't subscribe to this myself. After my stomach melon situation 4 years ago - I now happily take my problems to hospitals. It's my body and I decide.

She is 84 years old and she is deciding to do a different thing.
In spring this year - when she announced she was going to quit day care - I reached a new stage in my attitude to Okaasan. After my fury about her decision subsided, I decided:

Let her be. Just accept more of her choices about how she wants to live her life at the end of 84 years. Don't let HER choices give you stress. You don't need the stress.
If she wants to endure the pain and pee on the carpet. 
Just let her.

If she REALLY needs outside help. Or you do. Then get it. In an emergency.
But if she (and her son) want to end her days like this. It is her choice. I am a bystander to her life. A recent part of her life. I have an overwhelming desire to jump in and help and make it better. It's my nature. But she is not a person without mind yet. 
Her choice. My life and stress levels need to be my concern.

I am trying to think like that.
Trying to let it all just wash around me.
Sometimes I can. Sometimes I want to jump in and try to change the water flow.

But thankyou for all your thoughts and support! Nice to know there are real people out there reading this and along for the journey with me. I know I am not alone.

Finally. A cat picture. Cos we all need one.
A new cat tower. Thanks to Amazon Japan. The boys are unsure at the moment. But like the TV cat whisperer Jackson Gallaxy: I am tempting them with snacks into their new playland and hoping that it'll keep them entertained in the winter months ahead.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Crawling home.... :-(

I sometimes get home for an hour or two in the afternoon, between classes.
Time to feed cats, take in laundry, prep an evening class.
Send Okaasan out for a walk. Maybe.
She is always watching TV. So when I say: "You aren't going for a walk today?" she always says: "Oh of course! I am just going" - and starts busying around to get ready.
The weather was iffy and it was already almost 4 pm. But off she went. I tried to get her to wear a coat and take the walking stick. An uphill struggle. Gave up.

90 mins later I was gathering my stuff together to head out for a 6 pm class. 
Walked into the entrance hall and to the front door - jumped a mile! Okaasan was sitting on the front door steps in the cold dusk. Sitting on a neatly arranged handkerchief on the cold cement.

"I can't stand up. Is DS here? I can't get up..."

How long she'd been sitting there I don't know. Not so long I think - this time, because I'd been cutting down tomato vines until about 5 pm

Of course she refused any physical intervention from me. Instead she ordered me to bring old newspapers and spread them down on the door step area, into the hallway make the floor cleaner...

So she could crawl on her hands and knees into the house.

I felt helpless. Stood there while this old lady crawled at my feet. Really pathetic.

She could see my work bags and kept brushing me away - telling me to go. I stayed until I made sure she into the house - with only two hallways and a kitchen to crawl across. Then I had to go. Called DS on his cell phone and told him what to expect when he got home in the next 15 mins.

Apparently he got home and she'd crawled as far as the kitchen door. Then she got into her room. Didn't want any dinner.
But an hour or two later she stood up from the carpet nest - and walked so she could close the room curtains herself. All the pain forgotten and gone again.

Is rheumatism such a come and go condition? I have to check up on this. Although knowing anything won't be much help - because she won't allow any action to be taken to ease the situation.

It's a worrying situation. She doesn't remember her own, recent condition at all - and off she goes for a walk. Goes too far. Doesn't wear a coat. Doesn't take a stick. Gets tired. Gets immobile. Needs help.

Mostly either he or I come home about 6 pm - at the moment.
Winter is coming. 
He will be away for a week next month on his annual Old Mates' eating and drinking tour.
Then he will start ski work.
I'm hoping Okaasan won't go out walking so much anyway, because 20 mins sitting on a cold step in October is not great, but won't harm her. A month or two from now it will be very different.

TV Drama
There's a TV drama in Japan now called "Massan", it's a very fictionalized telling of a true story about the Japanese man who started whisky production, and how he came back from Scotland with a Scottish wife.
They made their whisky fortunes here in Hokkaido where Nikka Whisky is still a famous company.
The drama is big in Japan now. Okaasan sits and watches it every morning and lunchtime.
But when we talk about it she has no knowledge/memory of the drama and the story.
The information is all too recent I guess - she sits and watches it and understands what is happening. But the same day at dinner - there is no recall about it.
But I'm hoping - just hoping - that the whole foreign-kind-helpful-wife image will lodge in Okaasan's mind and make her think at some level: "ahh I have a nice daughter in law myself, she tries so hard....even if her miso soup isn a bit watery..."