Saturday, 13 September 2014

Onward truckin'

Friends and students ask: How's Okaasan?
And I say: Doing ok. Life goes on in her routines. No big dramas. Luckily. Summer is easier, because he and I are home and looking after her. We fill in the gaps of stuff that she can't/won't do...and life goes on. Almost 5 years now?

And so it is. Not exciting bloggable dramas...just general calm and routines.

Here she is a week or two ago - engrossed in picking the soy beans off a plant that a neighbor gave us. Had to find her special, flower arranging scissors to do it and enjoyed arranging the newspapers and towels on the carpet etc. Sorted out the good beans.
I started doing the job myself in the kitchen, but suddenly realised it was exactly the kind of job Okaasan should be doing - good for her brain and hands, and giving her a feeling of contribution to family life, an opportunity to do something she knows - and to show a British woman what to do with this most Japanese of foods.

We've had a few family meals out to local restaurants. Had a few toilet accidents. Found more than a few old food packages with rotting food inside. Baths and laundry. Dole out the money.

Slightly interesting...but only slightly!!...she has several times mixed up the TV remote and the cell phone. Waves the cell phone at the TV and wonders why it isn't changing channels or turning off.
And when we ate soba noodles at home recently, she twice tried to drink the noodle dipping soup - mistaking it for a glass of wheat tea? Even though we were talking about noodles, and 1 meter away her son was standing at the kitchen counter and dishing out noodles.
She still picked up the brown liquid to drink.

A little sign of beginning to mix up objects that should be familiar.

But really nothing else to report on the Okaasan front. We are enjoying the end of summer, with food festivals, friends and working events.

Have to start thinking about Okaasan and winter activity soon. Whether to try and get her interested in day care and hula dance. Or just to give up on that and go directly to arranging a taxi once or twice a week for her.
The taxi driver could come and get her and drop her off at the local subway station, so she could take herself downtown for a walk. Then some system to get her home again.
She needs to be going out at least once a week to see more than her room and the TV.

Anyway. All calm.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

And so...5 years.

Beautiful late summer day.
Sunshine. High blue skies.
Same then. Same now.
When I got the phone call: your dad has been found dead at home, by the postman...with his dog by his side.

5 years ago. A lot of life - and another death since then. I always feel this late summer is the time when I lost family - my Dad in August, and one year later, in early September my step-mum.

Seems a long time 5 years - years of living with Okaasan and getting used to it. Work, Friends going and coming. Holidays in Australia, England and Brazil. Knee damage and treatment. A friend's baby boy in my life. A new car. A new hobby.

But sometimes not so long.

Japan has a whole season of remembering the dead, in mid-August people go back to hometowns and visit graves. Light lanterns and candles. Pray and remember.

In a way I think it is a good idea. Of course I remember, but it's just me. I sent my step-aunt a "thankyou for your help 5 years ago" e mail. And that is it. Maybe dad's friends/neighbors in the village remember? Or maybe not so much. They remember the person and his joy - in most Western cultures that is considered important. More than the date.
But I do still remember. That he was found on August 26 and had probably died on the 24th. Came back home from his daily visit to his wife in hospital. Drove the cleaning lady home. Came home to his house to cook sausages for dinner. Maybe he had the TV on. And then he fell on the living room carpet, hit his head and - hopefully - died.
He wasn't wearing the emergency call button. His dog stayed with him. People telephoned but no answer. The postman delivered onto the front door mat the next day. But on the 2nd day realized it had been untouched and pushed the door open a little more. And had a terrible shock.

I feel my England family life unraveled from that moment. My had mum died 15 years ago in hospital, as expected - from cancer.

Dad was a shock.
Sorry. Just sad. My blog. Somewhere to be sad.
Got lessons in 2 hours. Got to cook dinner before I go. Cats to feed. Life to live.

So. Just that.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Tooth fairy for seniors?

When kids lose their teeth the tooth fairy comes.
When an 84 year old cheerfully shows you a gap in their gums - what's the protocol as a carer?
Book them into the dentist and drag them off to make sure there isn't anything worse happening in their mouth :-)

This time ok.
DS took his mum along yesterday morning and luckily the dentist replaced the tooth in one visit. Okaasan had minimal stress.
Last summer she was going once or twice  week for dental work - and we were trying to get her to brush more often. Finally her mystery leg pains halted that, because we couldn't get her out of the house, let alone into the car and downtown for a dental appointment.
I kind of think the leg pains were a physical response to the stress of endless dental work. So we gave up.
This time all done in one visit.
Mind you, Okaasan didn't remember the visit herself a few hours later. Late afternoon she was checking her handbag and getting dressed. I advised her to stay home as the rain clouds were trundling in - "and you went out this morning downtown and walked, didn't you..."
"Did I? Today?" . No memory of that.
It still amazes me, this blank. She and her son rode the subway together, then walked to the dental office, she had the treatment, then walked alone downtown and maybe had some lunch in a coffee shop, came home and probably slept in front of the TV. 
At 5 pm - no memory of any of that.

Summer is ending here, back to work with a full schedule.
Apologies for not blogging much. We have a cat with a war wound, I am trying to diet, helping a friend with clinic visits etc etc
But here.

* Read a wonderful short story recently about dementia.
Canadian writer Alice Munro's book "Dear Life" contains a story called "In Sight of the Lake", which appears to be a tale of a woman going to a doctor's appointment in a strange town. But, by the ending we realize she is a resident of a care community in the town. An inside view. Read it if you can.
* Also trying to track a new documentary film called "Everyday is Alzheimer's" by the Japanese director Yuka Sekiguchi. A follow up to her film about life with her mum. I follow Sekiguchi-san of Facebook and now her latest film is out. Not yet in my area, but showing in mainland Japan. Catch it if you can!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Mid-summer truckin' along.

Obon holiday here in Japan now - a kind of quiet week when work takes a back seat and people (both the living and the spirits) go back to hometowns and families.

The dead have easier journeys. They just up and leave the graveyards, find the lantern guiding them into the family home and chill out on the snacks left on the home altar for a few nights.

The living awake at dawn and cram into trains and highway queues to trek home. Then spend time with crowds of other people, waiting for theme park rides and restaurant tables, then chilling in front of TV programs while the family bicker gently around them.

Our family glides along ok.
Okaasan's family - alive and dead - are all in Saitama, near Tokyo. She is spending calm, routine days in Sapporo.

We had another - much smaller - BBQ. With the guests informed that the event would end by 5 pm. As soon as Okaasan heard there was going to be a BBQ she gobbled down her lunch and 20 mins later was out the door and gone. ;-(

But when she came back a few hours later she actually JOINED us, kind of in the garden and ate some corn and drank a little beer!
First time for that.
The seating arrangement wasn't great. All the guests were at a garden table in the center of the grass, and Okaasan plomped herself down in a chair a few meters away in the parking area....but near the BBQ set and the just cooked corn. She loves corn.
She sat there chomping on corn and sipping the small glass of beer. Didn't/couldn't join in the chat at the table. But at least she was there and showing some sociability. She stayed about 20 mins and then went inside to switch on the Tv.
The BBQ ended at 6 pm and we cleaned up and got her dinner on the table at 7 pm, in an almost cleaned kitchen. Her stress levels were lower.

Apart from that:

* she is wearing the pajamas :-)
* she came home one night and actually told us she didn't need dinner: "I just ate ramen!" Usually she eats something and doesn't say anything until we have cooked and she is at the table saying: "oh, not so hungry..."
* she snoozes by the TV all morning and after lunch, and heads out for walks late afternoon.
* I'm going in every morning now to change her TV channels...her control of the remote is getting worse and she can really sit for hours with TV shopping or circular weather reports.
* caught her watching a TV report about Alzheimer's.....what DOES she think when she watches that topic??? "Oh, poor people. I'm glad I am not like that?"

And so. Summer.
I have a half schedule.
Enjoying the garden, some kayaking, lunches and dinners with friends, a beer festival, movies, TV....sleeping.