Tuesday, 28 August 2012


Okaasan tried to borrow money from the neighbor - and was completely baffled when Yujiro told her this was totally out of order - apart from a real emergency.

We usually dole out about 1,000 yen ($10) a day, for her to buy magazines and yogurt and have a coffee somewhere. If she wants more we give it no problem.

I gave her 1,000 at 3.30 pm yesterday. She went out for a walk and shop.
I left later to go working and Yujiro got home about 6 pm. Okaasan was standing in the street chatting to the old neighbor. She hurriedly left off and came scuttling over to Dear Son: "Can you give me money? I want to buy a magazine! The shop is keeping it for me! I must go back now! I was asking Mrs H for money!"

Really, Mrs H is a sweet old lady. But borrowing money in Japan from anyone outside family is a no-no. It looks really bad and places all sorts of obligation feelings on people.
Okaasan once came home in a taxi and didn't have enough money, so she borrowed from Mrs H. That is just about ok - an emergency with an obvious, immediate need for cash.

But another time she borrowed money for something - again from poor Mrs H - and then forgot.
About a week later Mrs. H had to come asking us for it. Pretty embarrassing all round.

And now again. Nuts really. The magazine can wait till tomorrow, the shop would keep it until tomorrow. And Yujiro is usually home about 6 pm....both of those facts are pretty obvious. If Okaasan had the Wait Until Later function switched on.
She doesn't. Situations are right now.
I want to buy the magazine - NOW.
I need money - NOW.
There is Mrs. H - I will ask her NOW.

Yujiro was annoyed with Okaasan....and even more so because she seemed oblivious to why it wasn't appropriate to go asking the neighbor for money....

We decided we should make sure she has about 2,000 yen every day - that should be enough for coffee, snacks, magazine, yogurt etc. Should be.

* Cute cat picture? Well, ok then. Very hot here right now...on and on and on. We are all melting.
The cats have the right idea to get maximum air to all parts.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Can do, can't do.

Okaasan WENT to the hair salon all by herself :-)
We primed her for it from early morning with two notes - one on the table in front of her and one on the kitchen table: "Today at 12 you have a hair appointment, so you should leave home at 11.15. Call Yujiro's phone if you get lost downtown".
Left her some food to eat before going.
And we exited to our respective work days.

She did it. Got dressed and out of the house on time. Got downtown by subway and found the salon.
Great. A real success in her terms.
Yujiro went to the salon later to pay, because we try not to give Okaasan large amounts of money. However, it was a good normal thing to go and do by herself.
Her hair looked wonderful and she was perky about it all.

Dementia is strange like this. Somebody can do such normal life stuff, and then take a weird side-track, and then back to normal behaviour again. All depending which brain cells are functioning, I guess.

Recent, typical, weirds:

*  Yujiro took Okaasan to lunch at a local curry restauarnt, on the road that she uses almost every day to walk down to the supermarket and McDonald's. "Is this the road to the downtown shopping area?" she asked, peering down it. "No! This is the road to the supermarket, you come here almost every day!"
*  Okaasan set out at 7.15 pm for a walk, having slept all day. And came home at 9 pm. Why, why, why....a whole day of sunshine and nice weather. Why?
*  Three lots of "Goodmorning" greetings in the space of 20 mins.
* Sitting watching Sunday morning, kids' cartoons on Tv for over and hour.
*  The phantom doorbell ringer called again...however I was sitting right there on the doorstep reading a newspaper, so I KNOW nobody rang the doorbell....

I'm rereading a book called "And Still the Music Plays" by Graham Stokes, stories of dementia sufferers in family and care home situations. It's a good read, stories of people from family-confused early signs of dementia thru to the sad, don't-know-anyone later stages where toileting and feeding are impossible tasks.
Stokes writes about family/carers who too often jump to "well that's the dementia" assessments when the cared for does strange stuff, when it might be a sign of someone coping with non-dementia, failing abilities such as hearing or eyesight - just old age problems. I think I do that....not everything Okaasan does is because of dementia, sometimes it is just an old lady doing things slowly and without clarity.

He also writes very well I think about trying to interpret the world from the sufferer's perspective, the here and now reaction which might be influenced by emotions of a far back experience. A story I read yesterday was about a woman who got highly stressed and violent when care home assistants tried to get her to the toilet, but she was fine when visiting district nurses came to dress her leg ulcers.
Eventually they pieced together a possible reason: a victim of sexual abuse as a child, the poor woman of course became upset when people in ordinary clothes took her into a toilet and tried to remove her clothing. But nurses, in uniform, were ok because the experience was more clinical.

It made me wondere about Okaasan and her big fear of Visitors at the House. I Can't Go Home Yet.

On one level it seems strange. She is/was? a sociable person. Always the skilled hostess, in fact. Her husband had his office staff round to the house for dinners. She cooked for them all. Now, our guests are Japanese people, or foreigners who speak Japanese - and the parties are outside in the garden, away from Okaasan's rooms. She only needs to walk through and say "Hello/Goodbye". But she has often stood out down the street, looking anxious and stressed.
I wonder if the stress goes back to emotions from an earlier experience?
Okaasan's father was a truck driver, who had two? or more trucks. He delivered valuable wooden chests to customers, he transported things all over the Tokyo area pre-war. The family home was the office. They were a well-to-do respected family in Kawagoe city. Okaasan was the eldest daughter, with a gaggle of younger siblings.
When visitors came to the family home I imagine she had to work by watching all the younger kids, keeping them away ? from the house and occupied until the visitors had gone. Her mother would be making and serving the tea etc

Is THAT the experience that now fuels her emotional reaction to Visitors at the Home? She is maybe a little nervous about strangers coming to this house, but the emotion she brings to that situation is back to when she was a small child with big responsibilities to take the small kids/babies and stay away from the family home until the visitors had finished talking business.
Is that why she stands out in the dusk, looking at the house and stressing about Can't Go Home Yet. People Are There???

Could be? Or maybe I am over-analysing it all.

But, could be. Who knows.
Those are thoughts in my mind, anyway.

And:  in MY here and now....have to tackle Yujiro about the getting-Okaasan-assessed-for-daycare-this-winter.
Never mind HIM not wanting to enter that battle, I don't want to enter that discussion with him either!!! Leaving it, leaving it....pushing it away. Delaying.
Even found myself thinking this week, ahh...she isn't so bad really. Maybe we can get thru another winter of just making sure she goes to a hula dance class by taxi once a week.
Must. Stop. That.
I need to hold firm to my resolve, because this winter her condition WILL get worse and I'll be here alone with her for weeks, while he is away skiing. I know it.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012


"Did I quit the hula class?"
"Yes, a long time ago...last year"
"No, the one in Hiragishi, that class. Did I quit it?"
"Err...no the teacher said it was too hard for you and wouldn't let you join."
"Really? She said that? So rude!"
"Well, she was very, very polite when she said it and sorry...but..."
"Well, it was hard for me....but there are other classes, for old people at the community center. Why didn't you recommend me to try one of those classes?"
"We did!!!!! YOU refused and chose that higher level class,yourself................."
"I did?"


Thankfully all of this was Yujiro and Okaasan the other morning. Not me.
The clouds of memory confusion cleared and in a gap in the fug she had clarity on recent events. She's got the hula dance dresses out again and has been looking at photographs of the old class.
And remembering.

Not sure we have the patience to start the hula class shall I/shan't I all over again.....maybe when the weather is cooler I will feel guilty about Okaasan's lack of social life and try again to get her into a hula class.

Sapporo is boiling this week. An unusual 30 degrees every day. Sweating ALL the stuff this week. My brain can't function.
The 82 year old mother of an acquaintance died in her apartment in Osaka recently - one son found her lying on the living room floor, maybe 2 or 3 days after she'd died. Wearing underwear. Hadn't used the air-con because the filter was supposedly dirty and the electric fan was faulty - so she died (probably, Japan doesn't do autopsies on most people who die).....heat.
I'm giving Okaasan water at every chance and making sure she is using the electric fan. Old people don't drink enough and tend to have an endure-mentality to discomfort...but Okaasan is lying there every day on the carpet with the TV....I worry.
Although....of course...IF she was a bit sick and ended up at a hospital...THEN she would get assessed for dementia and a whole chain of better events would unfold.

I'm evil for even wishing it.

Happier news: Okaasan made an appointment for a hair cut.
I told her that she wanted to have a haircut....rang the salon for her and handed her the phone...but she had the conversation...and I hovered listening to her end of it...and then wrote the day and time on the calender as soon as possible - while she was beginning to say: "was that the 12th? or 12 o'clock? or the 12th, what is the date today etc etc".
Now we have to see if she can remember how to go to the salon.....she thinks she knows the location.
Hmmm...not sure.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Room cleaning...and how.

A mammoth chance to clean Okaasan's room came upon us.
And boy, oh boy - did we clean.
And...SHE cleaned. In a way.....

Mid-week she was complaining about some pretty savage looking insect bites and swellings - her hands, arms, feet etc
Maybe mosquitoes, but also highly likely to be the untold beasties that live in the carpet and blanket Okaasan lives, sleeps, eats, pisses and sits on 19 hours a day and night.

Great! Let's clean your carpet and blanket!
hey - why don't we try and get rid of half the stuff on the table and actually SEE the table surface below for the first time this summer?
Shall we? Oh yes :-) Let's.

She happily accepted us sweeping in and putting piles of stuff from the carpet to one side, then taking out the carpet and blanket and moving the table top to the floor...along with a mound of stuff.
I cleaned carpet and blanket. I vacumned. She hovered and basically let us do it. And...

...And Okaasan sorted thru the table stuff herself!
Mid-afternoon I saw table surface. Hurray!

Late-afternoon she went for a short walk. Then I realised.
.......Three piles of stuff had just been moved to the floor in the other room - the room Okaasan only uses for changing clothes. There are piles of stuff in there that have been the same since she arrived here 3 years ago.
But. But. Plus side is: she won't remember what was what and where.

So today, I slipped into the other room and skimmed off the bottom third of each pile :=)

It's the usual stuff: little squares of old supermarket flyers cut into squares for notepads, endless little notebooks and purses, recipes from Tv written on bits of paper, cuttings of recipes and clothes from newspapers and magazines, handouts of shampoo samples, shopping receipts, bits of random English from TV programs on notelets, screwed up balls of newspapers to stuff into bags and shoes as shape-keepers - the debris of careful old lady life. Times 10, cos she thinks about keeping these things every single day.

Aghhhh. Her room looks much better. Two boxes of old magazines have gone too.

Had a jump into it week of Oyomesanning as Yujiro's blind lady customer was in town and he was working late. Had a dinner or two with Okaasan a deux. Usual mindless stuff - weather, cats, food, wartime.
A week ago I was still in the UK. Bye bye holiday....

Had a dinner out with a friend and her family. Got an overload of advice about: are you sure Okaasan HAS dementia, why don't you get her tested and then outside help etc etc. They are kind people and I know they meant well, but it gets me all defensive. I get on my soap box and shout on the topic a bit.
Must stop that. Otherwise I won't get invited anywhere.

Oh, and took MY body along for the health service annual check up. Was too badly organised (well okay, a bit scared actually) to do it last year. Thanks to a Japanese friend explaining what was on offer and where, I took my body to the community center on Saturday afternoon  and paid for all the fun extras I could. So I had pee tests, heart scans, chest and eye X-rays, touchy feely all over by semi-retired doctors and gave a lot of blood.
Now I wait about 3 weeks for the results. The Japanese health service costs me lots, so I want to get my value out of it. But X-rays in this country, honestly - doctors here give them to any human form that flits briefly through their office, I reckon. Short-sighted docs probably X-ray passing shadows.
Aren't too many X-rays meant to be bad for you? I've had a whole whack in the past few years: for the knee, the melon monster, the thigh spasms...and now my lungs.
If all is clear in 3 weeks time I think that's enough X-rays for a few years.
Darkly ironic in a country with a big throbbing blob of radiation in the center since March 11th last year.

And so....tomorrow is back to full schedule work for me....

We have other, meaningless stuff ongoing -
* one of the cats is sick and we are doing vet visits and mopping up of little piles of cat vomit.
 *The garden looks great now I've weeded it.
* Adam Lambert is Japan doing promotion for the second album and looking good on TV.
 *The forgotten potatoes in the garden grew and multiplied and today we harvested 20 more.
*Ordinary Lives, the Fukushima people documentary is nearing completion with the English sub-titles.
*I'm fighting to get rid of 3 kg of British carrot cake. (Surely I ate MORE than 3 kg??!! Where did it go?)
* Oh deary me...I've been asked to give a talk IN JAPANESE about going-to-the-Olympics to the ladies of Rotary. But it's in October, so no need to panic just yet.

Life ongoing.

@ Google have totally mucked up Applications and now Blogger doesn't seem to recognised 100% of the time - so I am fighting to get into this blog sometimes. If there is a long silence it's probably for that reason.
Computers, doncha just love 'em.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Going to the Olympics

So. A moment of peace.
Time to try and tell you about Going to the Olympics.

FUN! Glad I went, would recommend it to anyone - however much money you have to spend.

Just being in my birth country at the time of the Olympics was great.
British people, with their classic moan-about-something-till-it-starts genes were refusing to get excited until 9 pm on July 27th when the Opening Ceremony burst the pose to smithereens.

I sat on the pavement of Newcastle city center, in front of a big screen and we all cheered and laughed and applauded the Queen parachuting out of a helicopter with James Bond.
Proud to be British at the crazy, stupid moment. No other country in the world would have the Head of State and a fictional character parachuting into the Olympic Stadium.
After that...
Britain got very, very excited, captivated and into the Olympics in every single way.

Watching it by TVs everywhere, at home and in the office and on giant screens in public places such as parks and shopping centers. Getting addicted to watching sports you have never watched before, and going crazy every time Team GB won yet another gold medal. BBC commentators losing it and shouting and jumping up and down for Team GB, radio DJ's screaming "GOLD! GOLD!" in the middle of playing a song as news of yet another medal came in and then the Post Office painting a post box gold in the hometown of gold medalists....
I reckon the sports of cycling and rowing with have booms in Britain after this, because those two sports in particular were really in the spotlight after amazing medal rushes.

It was so strange to see familiar places on TV as Olympic places - the cycling road race was all over Box Hill in Surrey, where I used to go hiking; and the marathon course was where I cycled to college. Although pretty London-centered, the Olympics did spread out to other parts of the country with football games and the rowing and sailing spreading Olympic fever far and wide.

The festival atmosphere in London and surrounding towns was great: like a never - ending weekend. Office workers, scared off by dire warnings of transport chaos, stayed away (probably watching it all on Tv at home while pretending to work-from-home), so the city was full of Olympic visitors wearing their country colors and flags and pulling little wheelie suitcases everywhere.
Olympic volunteers, in purple uniform, were visible at all public places and I never, EVER met one who was grumpy or tired. They seemed to be having the time of their lives along with everyone else.

I went to 2 Olympic Events: Women's Gymnastics at the O2 Arena in North Greenwich, and Athletics (discus throw, sprint, hurdles, shot put) in the Olympic Stadium. I also went to Victoria Park, Hackney, which was a public live viewing event with big screens and entertainment and food.
O2 Arena

Getting near to the venue with lots of other excited people, everyone taking photographs to commemorate their personal journey, the security checks, purple Olympic decorations everywhere, all flowing smoothly and then - INTO the venue....

Olympic Stadium gates.

Big excitement. "We are really here!! AT the London 2012 Olympics! Us!!!!"
And more exciting in the knowledge that all around you, everyone else was having the same feeling: here I am.

Actually inside: well, yes - the sport is a long way away. Specially with my cheap seats which were almost in the back row of the building. You watch most of the action on the big screens and we couldn't see the score board for gymnastics at all. You start thinking about eye tests and glasses upgrade, but this isn't normal life - it's a vast sports venue.
I discovered how far my camera's zoom would go...

We watched about 2.5 hours of sport each time, and at this great distance: that was enough. Then time to get out and enjoy the location with the Olympic atmosphere: shopping and food.
The Olympic Park in east London is vast and beautiful. Landscaped with trees and rivers and flowers. Thousands of flowers. Really beautiful.
Hard to believe this is AT the Olympics!

My knee? It survived. But the thigh muscles were swollen and throbbing by the end of most days and I feel the whole trip has probably strengthened my muscles by default.

I was really impressed with how visitors to the games were helped along the way to having a good day out. At the start there were problems for sure: the empty, wasted seats, the ticketing fiasco at the soccer in Newcastle and in Weymouth attempts to charge people to sit on public ground and watch the sailing.
And I don't think shops and businesses near Olympic areas got the business boom they hoped for: inevitably when you go to the Olympics you GO directly to the venue, stay and eat and shop there, and then go home exhausted..you don't wander nearby areas shopping and eating at all.

And now?
Rio 2016? I can't go there....but....Yujiro's a huge Brazilian soccer fan, and a soccer fan...I am kinda...and well..2014 the FIFA World Cup is in Brazil.
Hmm.....I am seriously thinking now....seeing top level soccer IN Brazil.....At the World Cup....ahhhh.....time to start planning :-))

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Olympics and Me!

I'm baaaaaaaaack!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Gymnastics, athletics, friends I haven't seen for years, carrot cake, English cool summer, more carrot cake, trip to Dad and Jane's old home and village, carrot cake....

Arrivals at Newcastle Airport.

English beach!

Olympic Opening ceremony live viewing in Newcastle.

02 Arena Greenwich for gymnastios.

Team USA and the VERY close cameramen.

You are never too old for merry-go-rounds!

Public viewing park at sunset.

2nd trip, this time athletics.

Fantastic gardens around the park.

Cotswold calm...the road to Dad's old home.

Rambling rose tree where Dad and Jane's ashes are scattered.

Spied on from the footpath, new people live there now...

My favorite walk...I want MY ashes scattered here.

Danny Boyle's opening ceremony - the real world.

And after all that, I came home to this...
(I had a photo, but seem to have deleted it from my camera) Okaasan's room uncleaned for 3 weeks.....kitchen, bathroom, ..bugger it ALL rooms - uncleaned.
But she had been shopped for and fed and talked to...so that's ok.
She is ok - long straggly, unwashed hair and usual confused self. Maybe aware I'd been away, showed no interest in where or to what. Vaguely interested in the tea souvenir I brought her. Yujiro had used the lunch delivery service for 3 weeks to help him.
Okaasan's room was overflowing with half dried pants, papers, old food, trash. That is only 3 weeks. 

Oyomesan is back on duty.