Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Fear of the guilty.

Sorry. Been busy. TRYING to get Xmas presents and cards done and sent this year, before the post office has to charge me special prices for a personal jet to deliver each and every single one.

Almost done. Spent some sweaty hours in the shops at the weekend remembering why I hate shopping so much, came home and wrapped it all with the help of cats, and then surprised a rural post office yesterday by telling them there are places - oh wow! - outside Japan to send stuff too....got the counter lady, the manager and their trusty manual to process that transaction...

All quiet at home.
Almost too quiet.
I managed to sneak out laundry from Okaasan's room: the usual 30-40 pairs of urine soaked and smelly pants, some wooly tights, some pajamas, a blouse and a little summer sweater.
Recently at dinner she turned up the cuffs of the sweater and I almost gagged - inside was a murky area of grey/black dirt. Gross. She hasn't washed this for ages...a year maybe? 
She used to wash some clothes, occasionally, or take them to the dry cleaners - HAD to be the cleaning shop way across town near the old apartment.

But recently? I think she hasn't done much laundry this summer. Occasionally a few pants.

It doesn't matter so much. She spends all day in her pajamas and a sweater. She only gets dressed to go out. Doesn't meet anyone anymore. It doesn't matter really if she is a smelly old lady for shop staff and subway passangers.

But...I feel I should try to do some clothes washing. Of course...this is hard ...if I suggest it to her she'll say: "no, no leave it - I'll do it myself later"...and then forget for another 6 months.
Hence: Sneaking Laundry.

But, Sunday night as Yujiro was making dinner, Okaasan shuffled across the kitchen to get a cup of water wearing The Mask. That strange, blank look that she gets. 
Don't want any dinner.


Had she found the missing clothes? Or rather, not found them?
I was in a tizz....had I over-sneaked clothes from her room and now she was angry with me...had I tipped her over into a dark mood?
After our dinner we talked about it safely upstairs. He thought maybe she'd had a toilet accident and was blue, but couldn't tell us. Or had eaten too many snacks by the TV all day and just wasn't hungry.
I wasn't so sure. Nervous that we were heading into scary Okaasan time, with accusations and finger pointing and paranoia. 
Except, it isn't paranoia is it when people ARE coming into your room and sneaking out your clothes!

I wondered how I could shift the laundry-doing  into another mode. Ideally we'd go and offer to do some laundry for her about once a week and take the stuff with her blessing...but I really don't think she will let us do that...yet.
Okaasan is still too aware of herself, thinks she is in control to allow us to "help"...it is a hard topic - how do you "help"/"encourage" the life of someone who thinks they don't need you?
I'm sure she thinks she does laundry - but the boxes of smelly underpants in her room and the soiled, greasy sweaters tell a different story.

But. By Monday morning. The black mood had passed. The Mask was replaced by a polite, smiling Okaasan again. I continued drying laundry upstairs in our apartment and while Okaasan was out yesterday Yujiro managed to put it all back in her room - spreading the clean stuff around on the bed and sofa and floor so she thinks it was always there.

I feel deceitful doing laundry this way...but I can't see an alternative yet.


  1. I'm new to your blog, but have read through your entire archives. My husband's mother recently passed away from Lewy Body dementia, but I have only second-hand experience with it. I certainly have none of your knowledge from reading books, but I have a few questions based on having read your entire blog from past to present.

    First, Okaasan can't remember so many things, yet she remembers if the piles of laundry and garbage in her room are moved/altered. How is it that something so unremarkable can be remembered and she becomes angry? Surely the composition and height of the piles is something even people who don't suffer from dementia would not remember well. Also, she has been angry with you for long spans of time for cleaning her room, but how is it that she remembers what she is angry about for such a long period of time? Why does she remember her paranoid beliefs that you stole a magazine when she can't keep many other memories at hand for a minute?

    Is dementia highly selective in this way? Is she storing new memories with an emotional component (those that make her angry or anxious) differently than those which have a neutral component? If so, can that be used to make sure she remembers things of importance which are positive?

    I've studied neurobiology a tiny bit, and I know that memories are stored such that both the details and the emotions are locked in together. It is impossible for one to be elicited without the other, and ironically, when a memory is jogged by external stimuli, sometimes the details of the memory are not brought forth but the feeling is. This is why people have anxiety and don't know why in certain situations. The emotion stored with the memory of a similar experience comes out, but the memory itself doesn't make it. I don't know if this relates to dementia, but if your reading has revealed any answers about this selective memory situation, I'd be very curious to know.

    As a final note, I'd like to say that you give yourself far too little credit for what you do. Your attitude and dedication to looking after a woman who you have no strong feeling for (and often dislike) is impressive. You probably do it grudgingly at times and rate your thinking about doing it ('I'm not so good because I have negative thoughts') over the fact that you actually do what needs to be done, but it is the actions that count and you do a lot.

  2. Hi!

    Thankyou for joining us here...and wow...reading all the way through..I do that occasionally when I want to remember how-bad-it-was and WHY I shouldn't get the idea to cook/shop with Okaasan!
    If you don't mind I'm going to copy and paste your thoughts/question into the main body of the blog - because I think others might like to read and comment too....I can't get the "Comments" to show up under postings and i think maybe some people skip the comments...so let's take it into the blog main section.