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.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Mine? All mine?

She loved them - the cotton, flowery-pattern pajamas.

We presented them after dinner last night.
It had been a mysteriously stressy, tiring evening. Okaasan had gone downtown by subway in the afternoon, but when we called her to remind her to come home for dinner - she didn't get ON the train to come. We kept calling, and checking on the GPS - and she remained somewhere in the subway station area - always there and talking about "getting on the train now"...but not actually doing it.
Finally at 7.45 pm she came home. DS went out to meet her in the local streets and bring her back - looking exhausted.

So, after a quiet dinner the Birthday Present II.
She opened the bags so carefully, looking at the wrapping paper and the bow, and the name. Finally opening the bag to take out the jim-jams.
Then stroking them, and unfolding them, and commenting on them,...and stroking them, and checking the labels many times.
"Flowers! Pink! It's cotton...it's a French name! It's stylish....an old lady like me having stylish clothes...oh...pink!...flowers...French".

Job well done.

But she didn't wear them. She slept in an old blouse and her trousers.
The new pajamas left on the sofa among other clothes.
Maybe I should scrunch them up a bit, so they look worn - I fear she may keep them "for a special time/never".

But it's good: she liked the present. She was happy.
An she knew what a present was. There are videos on the Internet of people with dementia receiving presents and not understanding what to do with them: so just sitting holding the parcel and things around them, having lost the concept of "present/open/happy".

Okaasan still knows a good present and (almost) what to do with it.