Saturday, 9 November 2019

Winter carer


Almost forgotten HOW to blog....which part of the website do I click on....

Hopefully this one...

Winter is here. First snow in Sapporo yesterday. Mostly gone from downtown, but out in the countryside it's all looking white.

Okaasan. How is she?
The latest meeting of care workers/nurses/doctors etc decided that her Care Service level has gone up to Level 5. I think there are 7 levels.
Level 5 means that she needs a nurse visit once a week to check on her overall health, and that the care home staff are doing much more support for toilet/walking and even feeding.

We have noticed a decline in her mental and physical abilities. She needs to be guided to do simple actions like sitting upright in a chair, or grasping onto a support bar. Not many full sentences now; inarticulate sounds like a small animal....laughs, grunts of agreement. A full exchange of communication is rare.

But she knows us...mostly. And is happy to see us.
We took her in the wheelchair for a car-ride downtown to see a flower festival. She just slumped and looked...not always at the flowers themselves...sometimes just at the wheelchair side bar.
But when we took her back to the familiar surroundings of the 10th floor of the care home...she actually said:
"Oh, I live here, this is my curtain!"

Mostly we go and try to get her to walk a little with the walking frame (above). Actually, once in it she is a fast walker...but tires quickly. And she needs major guidance on how to stand and reach into the frame from her wheelchair.

Lots of sleeping now. Staring at the TV.
But smiles and laughs.
Dear Son is away this week on the annual Trip South for Drinking. So I am stepping into my winter care role. I told Okaasan he was busy at a ski work meeting because he is an important person who will teach rich foreigners in English etc
She loves that story and laughed out loud: my son speaks English well enough to work and get paid extra. Ha ha!

We've replaced her black trousers, taken the red cardigan to the sewing shop for more is trickling on.
I will go and see her once a week this winter. But, I don't feel confident enough to take her out in the car now on my own. Just getting her in and out of the car is hard, and toilets while out. It'll be care home visits - 10th floor and little trips to the lobby. 

A friend who reads this blog says I should include update here on Dear Son, me and cats....
Dear Son. Another summer of bike taxi work. He is about to start the ski season.
Cats - aged 10 now...fatter and fatter. But beginning to enjoy the fact that my English students come to the house for classes now. Moving the classroom here in the spring was a good of the cats even sits on my knee during classes.
Me: a summer of teaching and tour guide work. Very enjoyed the tour work - mainly day trips with guests from Asian countries. family groups to local beauty spots, some easy hikes. Steep learning curve in trying to do the social media for the tour company and writing a blog.
Next week I go off on holiday to central Japan, to hike with friends from the UK and enjoy temples and ancient forests. In a tiny camping car!

That's us.....thankyou for dropping by :-)

Thursday, 10 October 2019

A mentor's news...

Long-time readers of this blog (who are obviously reading not much at all now...) may remember the Japanese documentary "Everyday is Alzheimer's/Mainichi ga Alzheimer's", and its director Yuka Sekiguichi and her mum Hiroko.

I learned a lot about this disease and how to care and stay positive from Yuka. Even organised a Sapporo screening of the first two films and she came to do a Q and A. All a few years back. She was definitely one of my mentors in this new route of life.

Sad to report that Hiroko, the lady who "starred" in these documentaries has died, just a few days after her 89th birthday. She celebrated her birth at home with family and cake...and then a few days later became weaker, needed breathing support and finally slipped away.
In the documentaries she was a feisty, funny and strong lady - and thru allowing her film maker daughter to film their family life helped many, many people face up to the realities of living with memory loss and emotional confusion. I always felt their message was: get on with family life and let yourself laugh at it all. Accept that there will be hard days and move on, with lots of love.

So. Thank you to Hiroko and Yuka, and their family, friends, helpers, doctors and film making team for sharing their story.

Our family?
Yes, we are still pottering along. Go to see Okaasan every week at the care home. She says less and less now. Smiles and noises more. Walks a little with the walking frame. Trips out in the wheelchair. Eating a lot. Onwards, onwards...

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Quiet August...and changes

Okaasan IS ok...we actually saw her sitting upright yesterday...first time for me in about a month.

We visited the care home before lunch, to make sure we got her in the vertical position and awake. She was watching TV in the main room and we did a quick wheelchair trip outside in the local streets to enjoy fresh air.
Then a toilet stop inside.
Her standing in the toilet was very weak...and she was pretty confused about what to do with the toilet paper etc. AND not quite sure of her son's name...

Generally a decline cognitively this summer...and physically.

We will try and do a car trip to a lunch one day. But the staff say that she doesn't eat so much and often needs feeding to get her to take a little more nutrition. They have a stock of nutrition-in-a-can drinks to boost her, too.
Maybe a coffee shop trip is better. A whole lunch thing is unnecessary.

Ho hum. 89 years old....

Yesterday was a memory of our lives 10 years ago because it was the 10th anniversary of my dad's death (thank you "On this Day" Facebook). At that time we'd moved into this house with Okaasan and she was trotting out for a walk every afternoon. Often taking the subway downtown to her fave coffee shop and meeting another old lady.

MY life is much better now. Freedom from caring and cooking, and cross-cultural mis-understandings. Hopefully Okaasan's life is good too? Familiar and routine. Caring people bringing her food and drink, helping her exercise? A kind word, a laugh?
I hope so. Every time we go to the care home I feel the Leaver's we wave and smile and bow...heading for the elevator and our freedom. She doesn't strongly complain, but looks a little sad...and if we go back for a forgotten something she is soon engrossed in the TV or a drink cup, or food.

But still. A bit of guilt.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Not so happy birthday...

Okaasan was 89 years old last week.
In past years we've had trips out to crab restaurants etc - this year was very different, for planned and unplanned reasons.

I was not free at all - 3 days of tour guiding back to back - fun and challenging for me to show Hokkaido off to a lovely family group from Canada and the Philippines. But bang on the weekend that we hoped to celebrate with Okaasan.

Dear Son went in to the care home with a pudding and some decorated cookies, which Okaasan enjoyed with him. She knew he was him, she knew it was here birthday. All well.
Hokkaido has had a crazy 10 days straight of sizzling temperatures - about 30 C. Unbelievable here. We moved downstairs to sleep, leaving the front door open etc. Most homes here, and many businesses, don't actually have air con. So prolonged heat is hard.
But also hard to take Okaasan in her wheelchair outside...

But next day the care home called.
Okaasan had a fever, the doctor had visited...which of course is the main reason we chose this particularl care home. It is attached to a hospital and a doctor is never far away.

Dear Son went in again...Okaasan was so so.

Then yesterday we went together. The heat had broken and we hoped to do a wheelchair walk. Took in 3 pink T shirts I'd bought for her.

But fever again. In bed. Quiet. Not eating so much.

"What food does she really like, if we can tempt her with something?" asked the staff.

!!!! crab...gyoza...aloe

We stayed for a short time to chat to her a little. But then left her to sleep some more. The doctor will check again. Recently they've been giving her regular IV supplement make sure she is taking in enough.

So. Not the planned birthday celebrations. Hopefully she will feel better later this week and we can go out together. BUt now is Obon time in Japan - when families all over return to hometowns and visit graveyards to remember the ancestors. Restaurants tend to be packed.

We'll see.