Saturday, 31 March 2012


He came home - and STAYED home!!!!


and if it snows like mad tomorrow, he will maybe be home again.


Thursday, 29 March 2012

Juggling balls.

Doin' it, doin' it.
Work, shopping, cats, mother - grab a few moments for myself.
He's supposedly home tomorrow - for a night - but I won't get my hopes up.

Yesterday, after work, I did Okaasan tofu and onions, left it in flasks on the table and I went off to see a documentary premiere in the evening.
A local film maker has traveled Fukushima letting ordinary people talk gently about their experiences, their lives, and what they think the future might be.
Really ordinary life, driving around in their cars, folding clothes, chatting over tea.
Very moving film by Taizo Yoshida.

Here's the link to a short preview of Ordinary Life.

It's in Japanese at the moment and I'm hoping to round up some of my interpreter/translator students to do the subtitles before it heads out on the film festival circuit.

Today was Okaasan and the hair salon trip.
She got herself ready ok, bit of a panic about wearing winter boots and having cat hairs and fluff all over her trouser legs...but I forced her out and into the car.
Delivered her to the hair salon, she had no idea where it was...
Paid in advance on my credit card and asked the salon staff to point Okaasan at a department store for lunch, after the cut and perm.

One of those days where you juggle it all.
Can do it. But.
One of those days.

Downtown in the car for the hair salon.
Teach downtown one class.
Back to my suburban classroom for another class (HI Yoko!!!, yes YOU!)
Then jump back in the car and go to do Part II of Narration from Hell.
Actually better than Saturday's version, someone had really edited it and the whole thing was smoother. The studio was booked for 3 hours, but I whipped thru it in two.
Back home via a supermarket to get sashimi for Okaasan's dinner.
Chat to her and marvel at the amazing transformation from Wild Woman to Classy Lady, big difference really - she didn't look nutty at all. :-)
Try to get the cats inside.
Serve Okaasan her food and give her some chat.
Back out again at 7 pm to an evening class.

Which has now finished.
I'm off home to collapse.
Been a long day. Long week.

Juggling the balls of responsible life.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Brought home by police car :-)

Okaasan was brought home by a police car tonight!

She's fine. But a bit angry at being the center of fuss.

"That high school boy I asked the way of - he must have telephoned the police! He shouldn't have done that! I'm not a senile old woman. I knew how to get home. I was just checking which road!"

She'd gone out at 6 pm to the local Macdonald's for a coffee. She hasn't been there in months because all winter she has gone to the Seicomart convenience store downtown by subway.
But today her subway card had ran out and while I was hunting around upstairs for the next Oldies Discount card she said she'd just go for a walk locally.
Fine by me. I set her off - with warnings "don't eat chicken nuggets because you'll spoil your dinner" (I have become a nagging mother to this old lady!!!).

Off she went at 6 pm.
7 pm came and went.
She'd forgotten her GPS-loaded mobile phone so I couldn't trace her.
By 7.30 I was hungry. So I ate my dinner.
By 8 pm I was thinking: "hmm, should I go and look for her?"

I heard a car pull up outside, voices....steps....

Two big cops were escorting Okaasan to the door. She was clutching a Macdonalds bag with a spilled coffee inside it. 
All apologetic to the police for causing them trouble etc

I managed to get her inside the kitchen, while I stood in the entrance hall and gave our details to the cops.
Yes, she does forget sometimes.
Yes, she usually has a cell phone with GPS.
Yes, she usually has the address written on a her subway card case that she DIDN'T have today.
Yes, we will look after her.

Unusual really. Okaasan's homing instinct has been pretty strong.
People are often surprised when I say she goes out alone, and comes home safely. The memory for streets and places seems strong - essential life information.

When she first moved to Sapporo she got lost several times - and once we called the police, and they quizzed us about whether there'd been a family row etc!
When we moved homes and came here she got lost a few times and she asked strangers to help her, or the police.
But she's been fine for 2 years or more.

I guess she hasn't been to Macdonald's for almost 6 months....even though it's only 15 mins. away from here - so she had just forgotten the street layout.

Anyway. She's home.


Monday, 26 March 2012

A day...of hamsters and Talk III

Okaasan not so great today.

Hamster-wheel conversations at lunch and dinner.
Lunchtime she told me round-and-round about the cooking school in Tokyo and how it was near movie star Ishihara Yujiro's house and how my husband came to look at the house. x 10
Dinnertime she told me about Nishi-sensei and how he was mysteriously cured from all of life's ailments by the magic of Not Eating. x8

Mid-afternoon I showed her the bowl of soiled pajamas and underpants and suggested lightly that THIS is why wearing pads may be a good idea.
But she just fingered the pajamas as if seeing them for the first time and kept saying "Really, is that so?"
I took her to her changing clothes space area and picked up the toilet pads and some of her clean pants and suggested it would be a nicer feeling in her clothes if she used a pad.
"It's not a bad feeling at all" she countered, clutching her nightdress.
Of course she is talking about NOW. Right now, it isn't a bad feeling. Because the memory of shit-filled pants has gone. Cartwheeling elephants.

And I called the hairsalon and agreed with the stylist that Thursday would be a good date and time, because I can take Okaasan to the salon before work.
Then I gave Okaasan the telephone - so she feels part of the appointment-making process - and watched as she confused the stylist with a whole Sunday?/Thursday?/daytime?/evening ?conversation and then where-is-the-salon?-wheel...until I took the phone back off her and ended it.
THIS is why she needs us to make appointments for her.
She can't keep track enough in a conversation to know what day or time was offered and agreed. And she still isn't sure where the salon is after 5 visits.
I'll take her Thursday before I work at 10.30 round the corner from the salon.

And me? Mid-afternoon I escaped in the car and went shopping. And...went to a department store massage salon and paid a vast amount of money-I-earned-in-the-hellish-narration to have a 40-minute whole body massage.

Bliss! :-)

Sunday, 25 March 2012


Dinner wasn't so bad after all.
Funny, that.
Maybe I was so tired and low-key that it matched Okaasan's mood.
We just ate fish, spinach, soup and rice together and chatted about this and that.
She wasn't in the hamster wheel of repeats. We just chatted about fish...and spinach...and winter..and cherry blossom...and spinach...and the cats getting health insurance...

It was...oh my...I am going to admit this...."okay" as an hour at the kitchen table.....

The cats have now wangled their way right INTO the kitchen at mealtimes, where, if they sit on the floor or quietly on a chair they are allowed to join the event.
They stay away from Okaasan's dangling legs, and don't swipe food off the plates - so they are a welcome conversation topic. Okaasan thinks they are cute.
And so.
After we finished eating we put the fish bones under the grill and made them all crispy and discussed how crispy is good for getting a calcium fix. Then Okaasan WASHED the dinner dishes for me. 

As I say, it was an okay evening.
After a looong, hard day.

I think there maybe a toilet accident results somewhere in Okaasan's room - I can see a bowl of wet pajama bottoms and a towel, and the toilet bowl is a bit dirty.

But that is a situation for another day.....
I might try to get her to the hairsalon today and then I can get into her room and check.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Alone. Again.

Hello blog,

thought I'd come here and whinge about my life.
Then I'll paste on that happy smile and go downstairs and cook dinner and chat brightly in a foreign language to an old lady who hasn't done anything interesting today, and who isn't much interested in what I've done.

He's gone. Again.
Finally came home Thursday. I was working until 9 pm, so didn't really see him...apart from the 20 mins he came to my classroom to fix the cable TV/telephone linkup. ;-)
Friday I was off out working all day. He cooked dinner. We ate a 3 person family. Then he and I watched American Idol on TV and went to bed.

This morning I had prepping for a tourism video narration-from-hell. A badly translated and badly proofed 20 plus pages of blah about attractive places that hopefully rich Chinese families in Hong Kong might like to come and see. The Hokkaido economy desperately needs cash-rich Chinese to come and buy all the lavender knickknacks and dried packets of fish.

My Care Assistant has left for another 7 days of ski instruction out in the middle of somewhere.
He ordered the lunch delivery service again for Okaasan - every day but Sundays.
He'll be home - maybe - on Friday night....and then away again for another millennium.

But hey - I got the car this week. So that's great isn't it!!!!

Off I went to the narration job. Scheduled for a ridiculous 2 hours of studio time. It took 4 hours. Me locked in a toilet cubical-size booth with headphones, a screen, a script and gibberish to read with a nice English voice.
The director and technician were patient beyond patience.
Exhausting. I don't think I want to work for this company again. The translation was badly done - hell, even the NAME of the region was after page after page...
But - bright spot - the organising company staff was one of my former students, so it was nice to see her again thru the hellfires.

Locked in the dry air of the studio was bad for my nose. I've recently had never-healing sores inside my nose, near the tip. I pick them, (because who doesn't???), and they bleed and then it's ok...and then 12 hours later I am bunged up again.
Dr Google has given me various bits of information and if I can get to a drugstore for some cream or spray or something I will. Nasal herpes? Virus from my finger nails? Something grim I am sure.

And so, my loudly protesting, gurgling stomach finally escaped the narration hell at 3 pm and took me straight downtown to a Starbucks for a sandwich, a blueberry and cream cheese muffin and a creamy latte.
Then supermarket for an easy dinner, home through more bloody snow and back to collapse before...
Dinner with Okaasan.

Joy. Pure joy.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Waiting for an accident to happen...

No, she isn't using any of it yet.

I doubt she will. Yet.

All hunkydory after Talk I and II. Hunkydory - where did THAT expression come from?

The weather slightly improved so I got her to go out two days in a row, she ate lunch, ate a bit of dinner. Staggered around.
Note to self: Must get her in for a hair cut. The wild woman of the mountain look is getting scary.

And me? Waiting for an accident of the toilet kind to happen.
Usually I'm hoping they DON'T happen.
Now I am hoping one might, so I can use it as a learning moment: "ahh, look what happened, if you used these handy little pad things it would be better, wouldn't it?"
But, when you are waiting for have to wait.

THIS is another sneaky idea.

This is an advertising leaflet/booklet I picked up for free in the drugstore (Oh gawd, a Brit using that Americanism ancestors are turning in their graves...). I was in the drugstore,  ambling through the pads and sanitary towel section, as you do when you are an Oyomesan obsessed.
Picked up this leaflet and thought: Early in the morning when I get Okaasan's newspaper in from the front door...I might slip this in among the advertising sheets in the is always stuffed with flyers for supermarkets and pickled plum growers etc. Why not a YouYou for Lady pad flyer too? Then she might read it and start thinking...."MeMe for Lady pads"...

Izumi - who is a blog reader and BAD lady - suggests I go back to the drugstore and get a whole bunch of these leaflets and keep putting them in Okaasan's newspaper once a week at least, so the idea keeps reappearing to her....week by week by week.....

Not a bad, bad idea at all really!

Anyway. Yujiro might come home today. He got an extra day of work and stayed one more night. And then claimed the roads were too icy to drive and stayed at the ski school another night...grrr...but maybe home today.

It's spring holidays in Japan now for schools - so he has another whole week of working away coming up. Oh joy, oh joy....

* :-)  Had to rescue Okaasan from the TV this morning, I realized she'd somehow pressed the channel selection button on the remote and ended up on the Weather Channel - which shows endlessly the same maps and charts of local weather forecasts....she was just sitting there looking at it, of course not remembering that she'd already seen the same maps and charts 10 times in the past 10 minutes.....

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Talk II

"You know those blue elephants that do cartwheels thru your living room? I think we should leave them out some frosted-cupcakes".

"Elephants? Cartwheels? Cupcakes.....???????"

It may as well have been all of the above, as Okaasan and I did The Talk II.

She had no idea what I was talking about: toilet problems/wet pants/using supports/accidents in your pajamas/ accidents on the toilet carpet/wearing two pairs of pants/cartwheeling elephants...

Me? Toilet problems? When? Now? But this nightdress is dry - look! I'm wearing one pair of pants - look! These are my pants? These pants came out of THIS box? My nightdress is dry. I have a problem? When?

All of this thru the always present fog of a foreigner's Japanese where I mixed up the words for "soft" with the word for "weak", as in "older ladies toilet control muscles get weaker, it happens to  everyone".

I'd decided that I needed to go in quickly for The Talk II, because Talk I had only got the box of pads into the living room, where it was lurking round the corner of the sofa in case Okaasan needed it.
But I came home from work to find she'd been up and eaten the lunch I'd left on the kitchen table and was sitting upright watching TV. So, obviously the leg problems were better.
Better get in quick, while she had a possibility of remembering yesterday's Talk I and I still had some courage left.
The cutesy trash box for used toilet pads was still waiting to be revealed. IIt was the missing element of the whole Time to Use Pads in Your Pants conversation.

I took it in.

Aghhhhhhhhhh.   :-()

This time she wasn't all sad and sorrowful on the carpet in the dark, she was alert and incredulous.
"I don't need any of this. I don't have toilet problems. When? Look, this nightdress in dry and clean".

I took her thru to her clothes changing room and put the box of pads and the trash box strategically between where her clean pants are strewn over the futon and the laundry box is sitting, overflowing with dirty pants and pajamas.

I don't go to the toilet here!  
Yes, but this is where you change pants isn't it, so this is a convenient place, isn't it?

I picked up the overflowing laundry box and took her with me to the washing machine, tried to SHOW her the evidence of what I was saying: the many, many pairs of pants in the box inside eachother - all soaked with urine. 
You know you have a problem, because you are wearing two pairs of pants aren't you, and they are all very wet inside this box......(repeat till the elephants do cartwheels)..

So, Okaasan and I are standing by the washing machine picking through her dirty underpants, separating them out from their doubles, squeezing them with our hands to see if they are wet and sniffing them.

Oh gawd!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ladies, when you meet a cute Japanese guy be warned: this is what it will end up like!

The old newspaper at the bottom of the laundry box is wet with urine too, I throw that away.

I show her the newspaper under the carpet where she sits.

I talk about how Yujiro often comments on "that funny smell" or asks why the toilet carpet is being washed again.
It's a little embarrassing for him to talk to you about this, so this is woman to woman.

My parents had the same problem. English people, American people, African people, Japanese people. Many seniors have this problem, so it's ok, it's just our body muscles get a bit weaker as we get older. I'm middle-aged and it's starting, when I come home from the cold outside I have to rush to the toilet quickly because MY muscles down-here are getting weaker too....(repeat till elephants do handstands...)

Unfortunately the laundry box pants were just wet, not shitty; also the under-carpet floor was dry and yet again my Frozen Panties were outside in the shed.
But 20 pairs of double pants, soaked with pee were my evidence.

And Okaasan was amazed.
She has no memory of any of this.
She looked thru the pants with me as if seeing them for the first time. Almost with an air of are-these-mine?, and was incredulous about it all.

I tried to keep it light, but firm. I used the Yujiro-knows-but-is-embarrassed-to-talk card.

After 15 minutes of this I left her to think about it all/forget it totally.

I worry that all she'll remember is: Oyomesan was upset with me about something and doesn't like me.

And THEN she'll descend a few notches on the happiness scale. And then we'll be in trouble.

A little while later I gave her the rice cake covered with redbeans that a student had made for me (traditional on the First Day of Spring festival today), and I told her about the delicious sushi dinner that was all ready for her on the kitchen table.

Then I went "to work"...although actually with a friend to see the movie My Week with Marilyn, which the cable TV company had given us free tickets for.
I stepped onto the subway with lots of other normal people and left cartwheeling elephants behind.

And so.

Will Okaasan remember ANY of the above conversation and pants checking?
I doubt it.
Will she notice the pads and trash box when she puts on clean pants next time?
I hope so.
Will she try using one of the pads in her pants?

I doubt it.

For now.

But I have crossed the line from polite mealtime companion to personal topic adviser.
It's a strange place to be.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

And so.....

We had The Talk.

Just now, in the half dark of her living room, both of us kneeling on the carpet among the newspapers and socks.

No big drama. Just a quiet, gentle woman-to-woman conversation.

I've given her the pink box full of pads and diapers.

I doubt she'll use them. Yet.
I guess it'll be the start of a never-ending by day..Chinese torture style. For me, and for her.
Stepping over the personal border of polite Oyomesan into nagging about toilet pads nurse.

Today Okaasan says her leg feels bad again. She's having problems standing up. Didn't eat dinner. Feeling low and sorry for herself. I couldn't make my conversation Tough Love as planned, it was just a quiet conversation.

"Maybe you could use these if you can't get to the toilet tonight, sometimes recently you have problems at night don't you? Yujiro can't talk to you about this, so just between us, my parents had the same problems, when people get into their 80s your toilet control muscles are weaker aren't they....etc etc"

She said: I can stand up if I start thinking about it soon enough. I don't need pads and things yet. I don't have a problem. 
But she looked so sad, and lay her head against the side of the sofa.

It IS sad. I dread being like this. I saw my mother brought down and dependent by cancer, I saw my step-mum losing all control over her toilet functions as she stood is a sad point of life to get to.

Okaasan stayed home all weekend: that's probably why her leg muscles are feeling bad. She should have gone out yesterday in the semi-warm - but she slept thru the afternoon and by the time she was awake the day had turned icy again. Today was just cold and snowy.

I've stayed home all weekend to and buttered her up in preparation for The Talk.
I cooked, I chatted, I made her cocoa, I even found an old photograph of her husband's memorial ceremony lunch 10 years ago (when I got introduced to the family)...predictably, in an almost textbook dementia conversation, she talked about people in the picture as if it were 50 years ago...saying it was her FATHER'S memorial ceremony and not recognising the grey-haired woman in the picture as herself.

And the Frozen Panties? They are still outside in the garden shed because tonight's "chance" for The Talk suddenly presented itself.
I think there'll be a wet stained floor under the carpet again tomorrow.
No need for defrosting the panties.


Saturday, 17 March 2012

Operation Panties

It WILL happen.
This weekend maybe.
Early next week?

Operation defrost the panties and use them in evidence to tackle Okaasan about the need for her to start using pads or diapers.

He's gone away ski teaching for 4 days, so it's my bonding girl time with Okaasan.
I'll cook her up a few nice meals, and let her chat and chat.
Get her all warm and fuzzy about me - and then go in for......... The Talk.
Armed with: 
1) Nice pink box containing pads and diapers.
2) Nice pink top trash box - marked in pink with the word "Napkin".

Presentation and wrapping is everything in Japan. The country lives and breathes Presentation.
So, I hope my presentation of these things and topic is adequate!

This week I didn't have much to do with Okaasan - work and out a lot - so I think I need a few days to soften her up and get her all friendly with me.

But I'm armed and ready for action :-)
Wish me luck.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Away! Away!

We went AWAY for the weekend!
And Okaasan coped!
Oh total bliss - 48 hours of escape as a couple, without Okaasan.
WE ordered in delivery food for her, we left her food in hot flasks on the table. We left her notes and a photograph explaining about a strange woman coming into the house to care for the cats...and we telephoned many, many times to check she was understanding it all and not in a depressed fug.

Came home Sunday afternoon to find all the empty delivery food packets etc still around the kitchen and a terrible stench of urine in Okaasan's room with half washed pants and trousers in the bathroom.

But the house was standing. And Okaasan was safely by the TV.

It was ok.
Shall be trying THAT again :-)

And the weekend? Wonderful.
As Japan sadly remembered the horrors of a year ago, we drove away from the somber TV memorial programs into the spring sunshine, over the mountains to Niseko ski resort.

My birthday will always be on the anniversary of Japan's Great East Earthquake and last year for my 50th it was a surreal weekend of sorrow and selfish happiness. So this year I wanted to get AWAY and be in a bubble of happiness.
Niseko is one of Japan's big ski resorts, about 2 hours from where we live. I haven't skied here for about 5 years, and I haven't stayed here for more than 10 years. It was where Yujiro had HIS ski accident 4 years ago, where he was in hospital for 2 months. I used to drive out and see him twice a week.
Niseko's changed and I wanted to see that for a weekend. 15 years ago it was a sleepy Japanese resort, whose glory days had been in the ski boom of the 70s and 80s.

Then an Australian skier came to work there and open an adventure tours business - now it's a happening international resort, with Chinese investment companies fighting eachother to buy up land for ritzy apartment complexes and fresh-faced young foreigners working a season in restaurants and bars.
And we celebrated my 51 the birthday.
Sunshine, okay-enough snow conditions, a hot spring in the hotel, foooood, views...and then MORE skiing.

The best thing?
My knee stayed good for over 8 hours of skiing.!!!!! Yeah. I feel I am coming back to a normal life!!!!
And he and I recaptured a little of what we once were - before Okaasan came to live with us - just a couple who enjoyed skiing.
We spend so much time having "who's doing dinner/lunch box/shopping?" conversations and locked into the weekly routines of home and work and care....just being the two of us for a whole 48 hours.
Very precious.

NOT a tofu dinner....

Meat...oh my..meeeeaaaaaaat.

No time for a pre-birthday haircut.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Frozen panties....

THAT title will probably get this blog a deluge of hits by many locked-in-their-rooms Japanese perverts....

I got 'em. Frozen panties. My visual cue to open negotiations with Okaasan about the need for her to start using STs or diapers.

Frozen? I hear you ask.....

Well, I found two pairs of very soiled pants when she went out for a walk on Wednesday. She'd obviously tried to wash them, but only succeeded in washing out of the material...the stained pants themselves were screwed up and wet, then left at the bottom of the laundry box.
So I grabbed them (and other bits of laundry and trash).
But then: how and where to store the pants till needed?
Pretty ridiculous situation really.
No time to HAVE the conversation now!
Yujiro back Wednesday night, then Thursday and Friday are packed busy working days for me, both days I am out early morning and back late.
Then Saturday morning we are GOING AWAY FOR A NIGHT skiing. Back on Sunday sometime. Then Monday I am out early working again....and then...and then...
I need a quiet, relaxed time when Yujiro isn't rattling around the kitchen, when Okaasan is awake and alert and I am calm and determined. Can't see that kind of time in my schedule at the moment.

So. I dropped the pants in a plastic trash bag. And hid the bag in the garden shed under some tomato netting.
Hence... probably frozen pants by now.

They are on ice till I have the time to defreeze them, and use them to show Okaasan and start THE conversation. Probably next month at this rate....

And yes. He and I are actually going AWAY from all of this to ski and spend a night away together, with no old lady downstairs and no cats in the bed - whoooHoooo! Better get MY sexy underpants out of cold-storage at the back of the closet.

Going away for a night isn't easy:

I've got a cat sitter who will come and do food and toilet boxes for cats, I showed her a picture of what they look like because I am 100% sure she won't see them at all - they will hide in the bedroom closet when she comes.
And we will do a mixture of left food and ordered delivery for Okaasan. And hope she doesn't attempt any dangerous egg and rice in a pan cooking while we're gone 48 hours.
I took a photograph of the cat sitter lady and me together and we'll print that out on the information paper for Okaasan so that she knows THIS person is coming into the house twice over the weekend - although our home design means she should be able to get in and upstairs without Okaasan ever knowing.

Ahhhh...busy at the moment...the students....the promise of a narration job next cat went missing for 24 hours again....this and that and more of the other....

and Japan.
1 year ago the unthinkable happened in Tohoku.
It was a Friday, like now.
Friday afternoon.
I was sitting here at my classroom with a student. The room started shaking and hundreds of miles south of Sapporo horrors were happening.
And it was my 50th birthday weekend with a surprise white limo ride, roses and champagne....

There are so many memorial films and programs and songs at the moment, but this BBC  documentary is especially touching. 

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

I keep forgetting things...

Okaasan IS aware of her mental condition, for sure - but not to the extent of it.

"I keep forgetting things" she said last night, as she was reading about an exercise class for oldies in the community newsletter.
The class info listed lots of good reasons why joining the class is good for you: and one of them was of course "to delay the onset of dementia".
I'd got Okaasan to help me read it over KFC dinner - hoping of course that SHE might feel interested enough to go to the community center and give it a go.

But seconds after commenting on her own forgetfullness, she counter-acted it swiftly with:
"...but I'm not that bad, I don't need this kind of class because I go walking downtown every day!".

I gently commented that the "every day" was more like "3 times a week" in winter....between long spells of sitting in front of the TV...but...but...

Complete Truthfulness is never going to happen in this family. It's a Japanese family and brushing stuff under the carpet is in the DNA. I sometimes read the blogs of dementia sufferers - usually Americans, who in a far more direct and pro-active society are fully aware of their own condition and doing what they can to counter-act it.

Here, just the gentle comment stage....

Okaasan wasn't mentally great at dinner last night: rambling on and on in a hamster wheel story - it started out as I-don't-eat-breakfast-Nishi-guru-told-me...and somehow got stuck on the school teacher who had first introduced her to Nishi-Guru - and then she couldn't escape the story - told me about 10 times about how he'd come to the house to discuss which university the older son should apply for, and the difference between the universities, and how the teacher didn't know, and how he'd come to the house to discuss.......and how...and how...

on and on and on.

Rambling meant not eating too, so finally I had to stand up and clear my plates and start washing up to get her to stop talking and finish her dinner.

My students and friends who occasionally meet Okaasan say: "Oh she's sweet, she seems ok!"...because Okaasan is able to do polite chit-chat for 5 or 10 mins. I wish people could see her real conversation ability...this endless story hamster wheels, how a sentence loops back on the one before - with no recollection that she used the exact same words 30 seconds or 50 seconds earlier.

Yu and I are in this together, we can suffer thru these conversations and insert the required responses. Carers who are alone with dementia sufferers have NO escape.

*  Cup of Water or Not? Haven't decided yet. Thankyou to everyone for comments on blog and off it. 
I do kind of agree that deception isn't a healthy thing. But, having the real world example of WHY she needs to start using incontinent supports would be so, SO useful.
This morning the toilet mat was soiled I shall try and get into her room and find the soiled pajamas/pants etc and maybe use that as my lead-in.
I've got the pink trash box with it's trash bag, I've got the ST pads, and I've got the diapers.
All I need is the lead-in and a VAST amount of courage to go in and have the conversation......

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Ethical ...or not?

It's gone.
The stained wooden floor under Okaasan's sitting,, sleeping, living place.
Not the floor - the stain.

So she WAS just peeing on the carpet when she had the neck ache a few weeks ago and lay there for 5 days doing nothing.
That's good to know. The stain was just from that week, not a regular nighttime incontinence.
She still HAS incontinence of course, the double-pants and the wet pajamas and newspaper balls show that...and the smell.
But it isn't a 100% of the time thing. That's good.

But. I am disappointed.
That stain was going to be my nice visual cue into talking to her about the problem: why-don't-you-use sanitary pads or maybe even these old people night at least.
Now it's gone.

Ethical advice please.
If I go into her room while she is out with a little cup of water and pour it on the floor under the carpet.
Is that bad?

This is on a level with a wildlife camera crew putting out food to attract a rare bird that has been seen in this tree, isn't it?
The bird WAS here at some point. But not actually right now.
A little "help" will put it here again for showing.

Hmmmmm......votes please. Cup of water? Or not?

Meanwhile, I am on duty for 2 days as he's away ski teaching.
We left a sign on the kitchen table to tell Okaasan that dinner would be a little later, giving me time to rush home from work about 7.30 pm.
Last night was easy oden, tonight might be KFC and salad.
Okaasan all ok with that. I just sat and chatted about wartime stuff and the cats and the weather last night.

I've found my birthday present: Unazaki Kabo-chan (nodding pumpkin boy).

It was in the newspaper this week. Designed by Osaka City University. It costs Y21,000 and it is a robot boy. He is a companion for the elderly :-) In research, old women who live alone were given nodding pumpkin boy for 2 months and showed improved cognitive skills!
He has a vocabulary of 400 words (probably better than mine) and responds to sound and light and hand movements by nodding.
JUST what the carer needs! I could put him at the kitchen table with Okaasan, program him to say "wartime food shortages" and then Okaasan and pumpkin boy would be happy together - she would ramble on and on and he would nod and say "Great!" and "Really?" many times.

I wonder if they have a knicker-searching and washing application as an add-on function?

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Okaasan Duty.

Got my name on it - must be mine!

We did Okaasan Duty yesterday: the family shopping trip and lunch.
This used to give me so much stress, I hated drifting round a shop and then sitting in a restaurant with mindless conversation.
I guess because it was my new, awful reality out in public.
Happy-go-lucky ski bum/teacher couple changed into Not-at-ease family group.
Now? I just go with the flow....

Weather here of melting and then refreezing, so the roads are icerinks. Okaasan hasn't been out for 3 days.
So after I'd been to the gym yesterday, we all piled in the car and went out for a few hours of Family Time.

All the little things we do to make it go smoothly are becoming second nature:

Making sure Okaasan has the right combination of clothes for the outing: "Yes" to a coat, "no" to a muffler".
Giving her the shopping trolley and letting her follow us aimlessly around the store. We did bits of shopping and she pushed the trolley like a child, as we located all the spots around the store with free food samples.
She homed in on the fish counter for a while.
She homed in on the gloves counter: has lost another pair of gloves...luckily last time I bought two pairs and the gloves-in-waiting are safely back home.
Enjoyed all the flurry of shopping activity round the Doll's Festival food items.
Bought pink rice cakes wrapped in leaves.
Forgot that and then bought another girly-style cake too.
Bought the little citrus fruits she really loves.
Avoided bananas....
ALMOST headed into the donuts shop and was 2 cm away from picking up a donut - before Yujiro headed her off and we went on to the ramen restaurant.
Ate ramen - ideal for Family Trips because it comes soon after ordering and you can eat without talking.
Drive home.
100 meters  from the ramen shop was another a ramen shop: "Is that the ramen shop we went to?"......"Err, no....that ramen shop is in FRONT of the car now, so how is that possible?"
Get home.
Take the cakes out of the bags so she will see them and eat them.

Spend the rest of the day sprawled in front of movies on TV.
Okaasan didn't need dinner cos she said she'd "had a big lunch, what was it?".

Nice ordinary day. She really doesn't need a bi complicated outing  (and neither do our stress levels), just an hour or two in a local shopping mall and lunch. It's entertaining enough for her. We have learned that now!

Today was Doll's Festival in Japan.
March 3 1992 I came to Japan as a backpacker from Thailand and 10 days later got a job teaching kids in the Tokyo suburbs. Only planned to stay a year - really to earn enough money to go back and travel more in Indonesia.
But somehow...Japan got me.

Here we are...a young, sweet, slim Oyomesan....Loooooong before Oyomesan duties.....

Thursday, 1 March 2012

FU%$#"ING Taiwan Bananas!

Had ourselves some nice, expensive Taiwan bananas for breakfast today.
Nice. Not that special.
Think I'll stick to Philippine or Mexican bananas in future.

Okaasan refusing to eat the FU#$%&ING Taiwan bananas.
And I lost my temper with her which is NOT in the Dementia Carers 101 Manual.

After ripening them for a few days upstairs I'd reintroduced them to the kitchen fruit bowl and asked Yujiro to try at lunchtime to get Okaasan interested.
He tried and failed.
I tried again last night: LOOK! They are almost 100% yellow now, in fact this one is going black they MUST be ripe enough to eat. They were a present, very rare, expensive, I bought them for you...and on and on and on and on....

She just wasn't having it.
Wouldn't even consider trying a taste to see if it was ok.
Absolutely certain that they had been picked too early and thus were inedible.
NOT the same as the Taiwan bananas she ate 70 years ago.
No way.

I got stroppy with her, which of course is stupid. She got more adamant. She didn't even have a level of politeness in her refusal: oh it's a present, but maybe they are not quite ready yet, maybe I will try them tomorrow or later this week. 
It was just: No. Not good. Don't want to try.

Yujiro silently heated up the curry for dinner and put it on plates...then sat patting my back gently behind our calm me down. Silent dinner apart from a few "delicious" comments on the curry.

I swiped the bananas off the table and took them back upstairs again.

It's pointless getting angry though: she is remembering and talking about a banana-eating experience 70 years ago, a happy memory - and THESE yellow/green things on the table now are not the same. Even if they were 100% yellow they would not be equal to her memory.
I lost the battle. Ate my own present and won't be buying any more...