Saturday, 6 February 2016


This was meant to be a heart-warming blog about taking my Okaasan to the Sapporo Snow Festival. Oyomesan and Okaasan, hand in hand, strolling the park and enjoying good snacks and amazing snow statues.

It isn't.

This is me at the snow festival....not pictured are three large oysters I ate, and the Macau egg tart..or the roasted chestnuts.

Okaasan? In her favorite coffee shop with a coffee and her Mont Blanc pastry. Looking out the windows at the Snow Festival.

Both of us happy actually.

I took her downtown after lunch. Via car and a different subway. That threw her a bit. Going on an unfamiliar subway, different names. The festival site was packed of course and she gripped my hand as we set out to look at ice and snow statues. 
She was mildly interested. Kept saying: "this is where I always come!". And then got really fixated on the coffee shop that overlooks the park. I was trying to get her to walk a little more and then go for coffee - but it became a whinge: "there's my coffee shop! You can sit on the 2nd floor and look outside! My coffee shop! We should turn left here...we can see the park from the 2nd floor. That's where I always go..." on and on and on and on.

I snapped at her. Actually dropped her hand and let her shuffle across the ice and snow alone while I followed a few paces behind. Gave in and went to the coffee shop. Settled her on the 2nd floor with coffee and pastry. And went back out for an hour to enjoy the festival.

Here is some Sapporo Snow Festival :-)

I went back after an hour and she was happy enough looking out the window at the crowds. I sat for a few moments, then suggested we walk on...and she came willingly. Through the shopping mall, the subway, the supermarket...and home.
It wasn't the idealised trip to the festival together - but we both did what we wanted. And she had some mental and physical exercise.

This week she was fine. The cat wasn't. He bloody well went out and got a NEW injury! Ripped out his left thumb and damaged his right. Somehow. Needed 4 stitches in the wound. Is back in the collar and under house arrest. I'm back to barricading him into the 2nd floor of the house and dealing with two cats and medicines.....aghhh....

Okaasan didn't mention her brother's death at all. I didn't either. Just let that be....Dear Son is the person to talk about that, if she wants to again. She went out with day service ok to the supermarket on Wednesday.

One slightly strange thing: for the first time she asked me WHERE very familiar things are in the house.
"Where is the toilet? Where is the tea?"
Haven't noticed that before. Confusion about what is inside the house itself. We maybe need to put up Toilet signs...

Finally. Like everyone I get on YouTube and end up finding all sorts of random stuff. Cat videos. Adam Lambert as a high school boy. A guy snowboarding in New York recently.
Also things about Alzheimer's. Found this video. It's a very interesting and moving description by an American about her mother's stages of Alzheimer's. 7 stages she gives.
If you have time have a look. It IS VERY religious - be warned if that isn't your thing. It isn't mine. But if you can get thru the Bible quotes and the annoying guitar playing. Interesting. 
I thought Okaasan was at stage 5..6....but as the narrator says - dementia isn't linear. There are ups and downs of ability and outlook. Lovely photographs of this lady's mother. 

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

A timely visit.

Okaasan's younger brother has died.
The gentleman and his family who were the main focus of our visit to the hometown in November last year.
SO good that we went when we did.
That evening in the hotel he was well enough to be with us, talking and eating and drinking - meeting his older sister for what we and his family knew was probably the last time as he battled cancer.

So Dear Son - on a one day visit home in his crazy ski season - went into Okaasan's room to tell her yesterday.

She appeared to take the news well enough, looking many times at the party photograph she has by her sitting place. Mind you, she did comment: "I thought he'd got fat at that party, people shouldn't eat too too much, it's probably why he died, eating too much!".
Her answer for all of life's illness. If Dear Son dies in a bus crash in front of his mother, she will probably say: "ahh, he ate too much".

Anyway. All that work and stress to get Okaasan to go to Kawagoe with us in November. It was worth it. The family came together that evening and all met again. Kazuko and her brothers from those sooooo familiar stories I hear every evening at the kitchen table.

The stories are still there, although often mixed up. One evening this week Okaasan was gaily telling me that she herself didn't ski as a child, because she was always busy looking after the younger kids and helping with housework...but that her youngest sister Hiroko skied as a child near their home.

Hard to believe that in the early 1950s in the post-war Tokyo rural hinterland little Hiroko somehow had the family money and connections to go a usually no snowy place. LATER in life, when she married and her daughter married an Austrian there was skiing...but that must have been the 1980s.....

But on the other hand - at the kitchen table Okaasan on another night stunned me with a comment of such complete clarity I almost didn't understand it.
"This plastic tablecloth  comes from your family home, it's useful because you can wipe it clean".

At first I was confused. Japanese language doesn't have pronouns, so I thought she was talking about HER family home. But, no - she meant MY family home in England.

Just amazing. She remembered that I brought this back from the UK after my Dad died, and yes - this tablecloth has been part of my memories for years. We haven't talked about that at all recently, so this knowledge from six years ago is there and suddenly popped up - clear and correct.

Such is dementia.

Busy January is over. It was crazy. And the result was obvious when I ventured back to the gym after one month absence: I weigh 63 kg. Usually 60 something. 59 something If I am very good.
But 63 kg is waaaay too much.

Having to fight back on it. Have started a secret Facebook group of supportive friends to help me Get Back on Track by mid-March and my birthday.

So February. Got some new students. Got a narration job. Got editing jobs. Have just put my foot down over needing more pay for a particular job - got Couch Surfers coming for Sapporo Snow Festival.

The cat's ear has recovered. But it is bent back at the tip. Like a boxer's ear. He is back outside getting into trouble. He and his brother sometimes fight because they are bored with inside life.
They came to live with us six years ago today. I found them on a poster in a convenience store and couldn't chose which one - so brought home both...

Love them. Despite all the noise, fights, stress, vets bills....

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Drifting on....

The days drift by ....for Okaasan.
While he and I spin around in circles in our busy lives. She nestles by the TV and (usually) gets food when she expects it, has a bath sometimes, goes for a walk. 

January was horrendously busy for both of us.
He was out at the ski areas with day after day of work, driving between the ski areas and home for the odd night...change of clothes and gone again. This year is amazing. And Chinese New Year will coincide with the Sapporo Snow Festival, so it will continue into February. Lots of middle class Chinese now getting into winter sports in Japan.

I was barely hanging on to the home front.
The injured cat with his ear. Endless broken sleep and stress. For both cats and me. Most days I operated on about 3 hours sleep a night. I ate rubbish. Have got fat. Drunk quite a lot too. Didn't go to the gym all month. Didn't ski.

It is always a fine balance in winter with DS away. Me doing the Work/Home/Self balance act. This month the whole cat situation just pushed me right up to hanging on to management of it all by finger nails.

So Okaasan just drifted thru it all.

A few more complaints about going to the supermarket with the day helper in a taxi....fussing about the signs in the hall about "Don't Let the Cats Out" and fussing about the bath heater system. For years she has had baths and never mentioned the temperature setting device by the bath - now it is a major topic every time she has a bath - the noises it makes, the temperature - really endless fussing about it.
But at least no bath accidents. DS didn't order any bath assist equipment, and I just get into the bathroom with her and make comments about lunch is ready to get her out.

Last Saturday I took Okaasan downtown for a walk. We went by subway and walked the underground shopping mall. She clutched walls and displays, peering at the bustle of shoppers. I walked her to the favorite coffee shop and left her there with magazine, coffee and cake for 30 mins...then brought her home. She was exhausted.

February next week.
Must be better.
The cat has managed to go 4 days of outside life without fresh injury. DS is away until next week.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Could she? Breaking it down.

Okaasan whinged at Dear Son the other day: "I don't need  that woman, I can go out on my own in a taxi shopping.

"That woman" would be the wonderful, patient care helper from the local authority. Who comes for two hours every week to get Okaasan dressed and out to a local supermarket by taxi.

Dear Son told his mother bluntly - NO, your mental condition is far worse than you know. You need help in going out and in winter is safer with a helper.

I thought about it afterwards.
Could she do it alone?
What could she do? Couldn't she do?

Order a taxi, get dressed, get handbag/phone/gloves/key/money - go shopping. 
After shopping get another taxi and come home. Pay the taxi.

Well, to be honest it isn't that hard. 
What areas would be difficult for her? End in confusion.

Ordering a taxi.

Would she just sleep the afternoon away? After lunch fall asleep and only when we come home at 5 or 6 pm, wake up? So, too late to go out? Probably. Usually her days are spent dozing with the TV, hour after hour blending into the same time. The actual decision "Now I will order a taxi and go out in 30/45 mins" - the ability to make that decision and act on it. Gone.

Even with a taxi company number and her telephone - I don't think she could do it. Have the conversation to tell the taxi company where and what time. And then be ready for the taxi when it arrives.

Get ready for going out - don't think she could do it alone. I think the taxi driver would be hovering in the hallway, with the car parked in a narrow snowy street while Okaasan fussed about gloves, or heater, or key, or phone...impossible for a middle-aged Japanese male taxi driver to come into the house and assist Okaasan.

After shopping - coming home by taxi. Maybe she could get a taxi, give them the address to come home. Would she have enough money to pay each time, or would she have used it all for shopping?
And then if there was no taxi outside the supermarket at the moment when she emerged, would she try and walk home in the snowy, icy streets...

Yes - we could arrange it ourselves. Pre-book a taxi to come every Wednesday at 3 pm.
But we'd have to telephone her at 2.30 pm ...and 2.45 pm to make sure she was getting ready.
And still I worry about the poor driver having to hover while she fussed.

Mainly the problem is Okaasan WANTING to go out or not.
I can easily imagine a pre-booked driver arriving at the front door - and Okaasan peering out at the snow and saying: "Oh, a bit cold today, I don't feel like it, thankyou....I don't want to spend that money".

Part of the day helper reason is the cheerful conversation and interaction she gives Okaasan. Monday to Friday in front of the TV alone isn't good. If I am working nights, the amount of conversation with me is limited to a few sentences about the weather or the heater as I rush in and out.

So. We use a day helper.

That is the breakdown of why we don't think Okaasan could order a taxi and go shopping herself. Impossible to explain that all to her, of course. 
And in fact, we are VERY lucky that - until now - she hasn't tried to do any of this. She has a phone, she usually has some money, there is probably a taxi company number on a city public service newsletter - she could decide to head out independently. But she doesn't. Usually sleeping with the TV.

* And in happier news today.
I managed to get her into a bath, then she climbed out of the bath alone and I got the timing precisely right for me to go into the bathroom and start washing her hair. While she was sitting on the edge of the bath.
Just marched in, took the shampoo and set about it with what I hoped was a day service helper kind of brisk, friendly efficiency.

Now I've given her lunch.

And I am going out to a local cheapo steak place to gorge on steak. I have a cold coming on and my European body-in-the-land-of-tofu is craving MEAT. That will make a difference.

Head cold. Injured cat. Old lady and her bath.
Happy Saturday.

Will just have to open up yet another Adam Lambert video on YouTube and make myself happy.