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.


  1. Hi, I was just thinking today that you might be able to find a local doctor to do the initial evaluation. A female doctor recently opened her office in our neighborhood, and she does evaluations. This way it would be low key and the doctor could help you know where to go next. (so instead of going to a large hospital). Like you said, it takes some time from the evaluation, certification, to getting services. (just thinking that if it was a small, near-by office it would be less stress for your mother in law). I think that once you have the evaluation and certifcation, it is completely up to you how to use the services. Maybe the city office could give you a list of local doctors who do the evaluations... I hope you can figure something out.. Nancy in Tokyo

    1. Yes, a home evaluation would be better - much - Japan is waking up to the fact that dementia is a growing situation and every year there are better services.
      My first hurdle is to get Yujiro pro-assessment though.
      Summer Okaasan is fine. She doesn't need outside help.
      Winter Okaasan is very, very different - and of course, that is when he is away a lot and doesn't see much of her.