Sunday, 30 September 2012

Lost the memory...of Found.

Okaasan is still on the Aloe Yogurt Buying...

Aghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.    Pure dementia in action.

Came home Friday afternoon. After the morning lost-subway-card-found-in-Macdonald's saga.

Okaasan in her room looking very stressed.
"Dear Darling Oyomesan, can you tell me...can you tell me...earlier on you said something about that place?? that place??? that Doutor Coffee shop? What did you say about it???"
"Doutor coffee shop?"
"Yes! Yes! You know, that place, you said something about it....what did you say? That place, near Seiyu...that place?????"
"Oh - Macdonald's? This morning I went there and found your shopping bag, and inside was your subway card. Look, in this brown bag."
"In this bag? My subway card? Where was it?"
"In Macdonald's, the staff had it behind the counter. It was lucky to find it!"
"Where was it?"
"In Macdonald's, I brought it back this morning, didn't I? Now you have the subway card, you can go downtown's nice weather, you can go now..."
"Downtown....I don't know. Do I have a subway card?"
"Yes, in this side pocket of the"
"Oh, right. I haven't been downtown because I don't have a subway card."
"Yes, but now we found it. So you can go."
"We found it? Where?"
"In Macdonalds, this morning...."
"Really? Where is it? Do I have it?"
"Yes, look here is the subway card, in the side pocket of your!"
"Ahh. yes....I didn't go downtown recently because I have no card."
"It's ok. I found your card. So now you can go."
"You found my card? Where was it?"


Repeat 5 times more.
Yes, 5 times more.

So sad. I am often flippant in tone in this blog, because a) it's the only way I can keep my sanity here and b) it's a more entertaining read for you....but of course this is the tale of a nice old woman and her brain holes.
And seeing it in raw, full-on inaction is so awful. Just sad.

I knealt on the carpet, among the random socks and newspapers, alternatly showing Okaasan the subway card in her handbag and telling her she had it and how it had been found at Macdonald's. She couldn't keep any of those 3 pieces of info in her memory long enough to understand.
All day she had sat there worrying about "something about that coffee shop" - of course my 5 minute appearence in her room in the morning with the brown shopping bag and lost subway card hadn't lodged in her memory at all. For her there was just the vague memory of something about me and Macdonald's. And she'd stewed on it all day.

Just sad. Okaasan is usually ok - day to day. But something to break that routine - like looking for the card and us looking for the card, and conversations about the card - all threw her out of safe routine and her mind just imploded.

Finally she set out for her walk - with the card in her handbag.
And .....went to Macdonald's. Not downtown.

By the next day she seemed ok again, chatting to my friend and her baby about the trials of motherhood and coming out with us for a family dinner in a local restaurant. But, was a glimpse into the chaos of her mind.
Just a little break from routine and a bit of confusion/stress - major holes.

Roll on a rainy day on Dear Son's working day so he will go to the city office and get into action.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Lost the memory of...lost.

If you have short term memory holes - how do you remember when you've lost something?
The losing.
The thing.
The problem.
Vicious cycles. Or is it circles? Vicious anyway.

Last night at dinner I was chatting about the Autumn Food Festa in the city park - it's been running for 3 weeks and I've now been twice and stuffed myself on oysters, beef, cake and wine. I love Sapporo.
Okaasan said she hadn't gone. Typical really. But recently she seems to have been locked into the routine of local walks: Seiyu supermarket and the Macdonald's next door. Maybe a diversion to the convenience store.
So, we kind of knew that she hasn't been downtown recently...kinda...

"To go downtown I need the subway, don't I? I don't have a card for the subway, do I?"
Yes! You do! You have an old people's special card, in that little black wallet in your handbag. You always use it to go downtown!

Cue: family hunt  for the subway card...hunting thru the FIVE little shopping bags Okaasan has scattered within reach; the stuff on the table; the coat pockets; the newspaper pile etc etc etc
Today I went to buy a temporary card and ask at the local station. Nothing. Gave the card to Okaasan - which stopped her hunting desperately round and round her room with piles of stuff mounting up on all sides.
On my way to work I dropped into Macdonald's. Described the little black wallet. The staff hunted under the counter...and then I caught sight of a familiar large brown shopping bag.
Yup - with 3 week old magazines inside, three little wallet things, receipts, tissues, towels...and the subway card.
Took it home and tried to stress to Okaasan that something important belongs IN the handbag, not amid the flotsam of her shopping bag. Tried.

But it really made me think. That was probably lost 3 weeks ago. Okaasan maybe went to the subway station many times since then, looked for her card and not finding it...walked on locally. And then forgot. So, she never looked for it. She never mentioned it. Went to the station the next day, looked for the card...and on and on.
We are at work most days and when we meet Okaasan in the evening she doesn't have the ability to tell us anything much about her we don't ask. Just chat about the weather and general things. No specifics. And she doesn't remember, so we don't know....and...and...

Yesterday I met a friend (and ate a huge oyster and deer curry in the Food Festa), and we chatted about dementia assessments.
Her late father had one. An interview in hospital...he scored 11.....and the doctor said: "It's not because of Alzheimer's, it's because of alcohol abuse..." - she and I chatted about memory and ability etc.
Anyway, the weather is still good - so Dear Son is working and not going to the ward office to get more information. I have to bide my time.....bide...bide...

* I slipped into Okaasan's room last night and left the new black trousers on a hanger among her clothes. I don't think she will think it is strange when she finds trousers are black trousers really...she always did have 2 pairs exactly the same. We bought one pair, very expensively, this spring and then within 2 months she'd fallen over and badly scuffed the knee material. After that she didn't wear them.This latest pair are quite a bit cheaper, but still ok. Hopefully she'll just find them and use them,

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Scoring dementia.

I've been hunting around the Internet wondering WHAT kind of assessment the city office might use with Okaasan....dreaming, dreaming of the day they come and do it.

There is something called the Hasegawa Dementia Scale, which has been used in Japan for years and revised. It seems to be 11 questions - some factual like "What's the date today?" and some ability tests "Can you count backwards/remember 5 items".

In quiet moments between lessons I've been looking at the questions and wondering how Okaasan would score. A total of 30 points, with anything under 15 being a stage of dementia and a score of 15-20 being an early sign of it.

This assuming she would agree to talk to a person doing this kind of test...
I can imagine her getting annoyed and leaving the room and shouting at all of us.

I HOPE they do it with some gentle, common-sense.

1. Dates - Okaasan is pretty bad at that.
2. Where are you? 2.5 points.
3. Age? 2 points.
4. How long since? Maybe bad.
5. Birthplace. No problem.2 points.
6. Dates of public events? Maybe ok. 3.5 points.
7. Days/Minutes. hmmmm
8. Prime Minister? Maybe ok, does ANYONE in Japan remember who it is right now? 3 points.
9. Subtractions. Maybe ok. Okaasan was a book keeper long ago. 6 points.
10. Repeat no.
11. Remember items...maybe no.

Well, that's a score of 18....maybe.
The thing is, Okaasan is pretty good on short conversations - I am really hoping that the fact of both Yujiro and I working full time, and him being away in winter - so she is alone with a foreigner speaking strange Japanese - I hope THOSE facts will get us into day care.
And this is bad....I was thinking of getting her to a hair salon soon....but I thought it could wait until after the assessment, because she looks so much worse with her long, straggly hair unbrushed and all a bit crazy.......
That's bad of me. But I stated that at the start of this Blog. I am no angel. Devious is my middle name.

Today I went shopping for Okaasan: bought some new underpants and a pair of black trousers to replace the damaged ones. And got the dry cleaning for her. Clothes duties.

And the Aloe yogurt frenzy continues. We have 4 packs of it in the fridge at the moment. Okaasan buys it every time she goes out....

Cross fingers that the assessment happens, that she scores badly enough to get into day care....and that it happens with a nice city office person persuading Okaasan that "wouldn't it be nice...?"

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Glacial moving...

Stand back! Don't rush to see! Careful!
A Japanese man is taking action.

Today was raining - autumn has finally thought it should show up here - and Dear Son acted on my gentle reminder: Don't just sit and watch TV all day, use this non-working time to start finding out about Okaasan and assessment.

So he checked around the website for the ward office.
He thinks he understands that he has to go and make an application. And then someone will come to the house and assess. And then...and then? There are 75 points on which Okaasan may be assessed. Maybe.
He didn't actually GO to the ward office (had the car sitting outside the house all day, so he could have done it), but it is a step in the oh-so-right direction.
I may be extra nice to him tonight....

I know there are many hurdles to go until Okaasan is cheerfully climbing in the day care bus and going off to hula dance and lunch in the winter months. But...

I guess the assessment person will come and sit at the kitchen table and chat to Okaasan is a nice non-threatening way....while we make some white lie about Sapporo-city-is-assessing-all-old-people-for-free. Being Japan they probably hand out little gift towels or cookies after each assessment.
I hope it is an easy process, that doesn't get her all riled up and stressy with us. With me.

Meanwhile - a first for Okaasan and Me on the topic of incontinence. She actually told me she'd had an accident. Until now she tells Yujiro, or just ignores it.
But Sunday night I was trying to get her ready to go to our local sushi place, and she was wandering round her room in a T-shirt and underpants, looking for something to wear.
"You were wearing your black trousers 20 mins ago, when you came back from walking..." I reminded her.
"Ah, but I peed in those. I can't wear them."
"Ah, shall we look in the closet together.....what about this skirt?"
"That's a winter skirt. Is it winter now?"
"Well, it's October next almost"...

and so it went. Strange to be helping someone choose the clothes to wear. I remembered too that I'd taken some of her clothes to the dry cleaners...and that the pair of trousers we bought in the spring got damaged when she fell over. The knee area is scuffed badly, I doubt she'll wear them.
She probably has very few clothes to actually wear, poor woman, I have to put my brain into gear and take responsibility for her clothes more. Buy some more underpants, get her dry cleaning back....remind her what season it is....

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Lift off?

He's agreed.
Assessment for daycare.
We have lift off....maybe.
Japanese males can move at a glacial I'm not expecting instant action, the default setting for men in Japan seems to be Let's Leave It Until There is No Other Option.
He says: I never said "no"....which is true...I guess...but from my pro-active viewpoint: Inaction equals No Action.

Anyway. Came about Tuesday night at dinner.
"Okaasan! Tomorrow is that hula dance class locally, shall we go along and have a look? I can take you!"
"Hula? I don't want to go. It's troublesome. Different people. Levels. It's troublesome. It's better that I go walking myself in the park and downtown. That's better exercise...."
"Oh, oh oh....but in don't go out so much...that's the problem...."

Stopped myself just in time and we made vague agreeing sounds and then changed the topic.

I Amelie-wilted inside.
I was so pinning my hopes on the hula class. Get her along to that, at the very least, this winter and maybe I can do another winter caring for Okaasan while he is away ski teaching.
But no. Understandably after all the hassle we've had with hula classes and Okaasan's fading ability - she has a negative feeling about it now.
So. That option is out.
That means Okaasan would have no human contact apart from me for days and days.....she would stay home with the icy roads and take no exercise and wait for me to come home and mentally stimulate her. For weeks and weeks.

We finished dinner and he and I came upstairs.
He was saying: sorry, sorry, sorry even before we'd sat down. He could see how Amelie-wilted I was. We talked. I talked. He listened. He said he agreed.
He said he'll find out how to apply for an assessment.
He said so.

Now I have to wait and see if he actually does it.

He'd better start the process soon, because everyone tells me it takes about 2 months from first assessment to approval - and it's the end of September.
Of course he is nervous. He isn't a naturally deceptive person, like me. I'd get her along to the much-despised hospital with some big white porky pie about "Sapporo city free health checks for all old ladies"....he won't do that I think. He'll be too honest and she will resist.

aghhhh......but we are onto the topic at least. :-)

Friday, 14 September 2012

Sneaking in repairs

This is Okaasan's favorite cardigan.
She's had it for years and the multicolored, silk lining was getting more and more ripped and ragged.
Every winter she holds up the lining and says: Oh this looks bad, but I like this cardigan, I've had it for years. It's warm.

Last week in the latest cleaning blitz I took some cold-weather clothes from Okaasan's room for cleaning. They were all jumbled up on the sofa amid pants and T shirts and towels and stuff.

Most of the stuff went to dry cleaning. This one I hand washed...and then.
What to do with the ratty old hanging off in strips?
Really it was at the point where anyone putting their arms inside would probably strangle themselves in the strips of silk hanging from the seams.

I cut it off.
Then cos the lining was still obvious at the seams...
I sat and unpicked all the lining seams and removed any trace of bright red lining material.

Sitting there on a work morning doing this I DID think : WHY am I doing this? Okaasan could and should be doing this.
But, to be honest I was afraid to show her what I'd already done.
I was afraid she would be upset, and then all of a stressy dither about the unpicking of the remaining lining.
So, I did it.

Then I kept the cardigan upstairs and wondered how to give it back to her....clean and much better. But minus the lining.

Should I go to a material shop and buy MORE red silk lining and pay the sewing shop to put back the lining??? How long will that take? What happens if Okaasan notices the cardigan has gone in the meantime? What to do?

Yesterday, when I heard Okaasan go to the toilet, I grabbed the cardigan, rushed downstairs and flung it back on the sofa on top of all the other stuff. Draped a random towel on top for appearences.

And fled back upstairs.
I don't know if she has noticed it yet. Maybe not, cos we are still having crazy summer temperatures here...but there it sits on the sofa behind her...waiting.
My guess is that she'll notice the lining has gone, but think she did it herself sometime - and that HOPEFULLY she will never ask us about it. Hopefully.

Yet again, this going into someone's personal space/possessions to make changes to help them - it's a minefield of deceit and privacy invasion. But sometimes...well okay - for me many times!! - it is just easier all round to go in quietly and do it and get out. No discussion. No stress. Just do it.
But it gives ME stress :-)

* Between classes at my school I ran into the community center to check the Oldies Hula class the other day - looks very suitable, big group of friendly ladies and a teacher - all swaying to the island beat. Next week I'll take Okaasan.

Finally. We all need a cute cat picture.

Please select the sentence which best describes this scene:

a) Cat is in the basket.
b) Cat is on the basket.
c) Basket is on the cat.
d) Cat has removed basket lining and is wearing it as a hat.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

How not to talk

I really need lessons in Negotiating a Tricky Topic.
Instead of calmly sitting Dear Son down and discussing about Okaasan and daycare assessment etc...

what did I do?

Got all riled up and stroppy after a night of bad sleep. and almost shouted at Dear Son on his lazy day off in front of the TV: get off your ass and call up the latest hula dance organiser! We MUST get Okaasan set up with something to do! I'm not going to have her here all winter - while you are off skiing - and I'm going to be her sole source of entertainment for weeks and weeks. I know you don't want to get her assessed, because it'll be a fight etc...but...but...we MUST get her into something!!

And then I stormed out and went to work.

Not the way to do it.

Later I apologised for the outburst. But said we will TALK about this, won't we....

And he failed to get hold of the hula dance person, and I tried the next day...but I'm it'll have to be next week that I take Okaasan to try the oldies class...

and so the whole thing goes on and on.
Must. Do. This. Talk.

Okaasan is wandering on thru her days ok - alternatively surprising us and doing-things-as-normal.
She met my friend and her baby two days running in a local street - and amazed me by actually remembering those meetings and even what they had talked about. That really is surprising. She doesn't usually remember anything she did during the day...but she remembered those encounters and the chat topic.

And then...

Yujiro spent a rainy morning at home, and left for work late. 
"I'm off to work" he told Okaasan.
"Oh? What work is that?" she asked.


She knows exactly what he does. Bike taxi driver. We often sit at dinner and talk about his day and his customers. Okaasan sometimes comes and says "Hello" to Yujiro if she sees he and his taxi downtown.
But..."what work?" - where the hell did THAT question come from?

Dementia, all very strange - clarity and fog. Often on the same day.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Cake Cholestorol.

So, if you eat English cake every single day for 3 weeks.
What will happen?
Your blood test results at the annual health check will show SKY high bad cholestorol - instead of 120 something blood is trying to fight it's way through the cholestorol armies of 170 something technical. It's amazing I am able to sit at a computer. Or raise a chocolate to my lips.
170. That's High.

And, being Japan - this happy (though not amazingly surprising) news is brought to you by a cute cartoon figure.
He is probably called Health Boy or Get Your Body in Shape Boy.
There he is: just to the right of the health chart showing I scored A in all sorts of things, but a risky D in cholestorol.
"Get thee to a detailed blood check and STOP eating whole boxes of chocolates in 1 hour!"
Have to go and do something about that. Soon. First will get my friend who is a public health nurse to explain it all to me. But I this level set for skinny little Asian people? Is a great big padded north European allowed a higher cholestorol level?
But relef that it isn't anything more serious. One of my students had a health check and has been told to go in for tests on a possible tumor.
So. Relief really.
And weather relief too : the fury of summer has gone and almost normal temperatures for September are here. Chilly in the monring! I closed windows! I wore clothes!
Okaasan okaaayish. She was stressy in the heat. Not very good at judging the temperature and how best to make her living space comfortable.
I found her yesterday complaining about the heat in her room. But all the windows were closed, the electric fan wasn't switched on and the door was closed. :-(
She'd heard the sound of the trash truck engine and that usually sends her scuttling to close the windows against the garbage smell. But, the truck was at the back of the house - out on the city land - collecting cut grass from under the subway line.
I told her several times it wasn't trash. But she couldn't hold that thought...and fussed about the windows endlessly.
Then she fussed about going OUT to a cool coffee shop, and after SEVEN attempts to get her shit together and get out of the front door - she finally had everything and could go.
I blitz cleaned her room.
She came back 2 hours later. Slept a bit. Then at 6.15 pm (normal time for her walks) was all ready to go out again....we thought we'd stopped her by pointing out that dinner was a-coming. But...5 minutes later we saw her leaving the house without bag or phone or anything - setting off for a walk in the dusk as usual.
Sigh. Put dinner plans on hold til she reappeared.
Rest of it is fairly our-kind-of-normal....Okaasan not aware of hours and hours of rain, phantom doorbell ringers etc All in a Dementia Day's work.
If the weather really IS cooler, I will try and get her along to the old people's Hula class next week and see if that is something we can get her into.
The other day I saw a Day Care service minibus waiting for a client outside an apartment. The door was open and two wispy old ladies looked out. However much I want Okaasan to go to day care this winter - I can't actually see her getting into a minibus with these type of people and going somewhere with them.
I am pinning a lot of hope on the Oldies Hula Club as the potential for lots of physical and mental stimulation for Okaasan this winter. Even if we have to book a taxi to come and take her there every week thru winter - so that she will go, even on snowy, icy days.
But first. I have to talk the talk to Dear Son and see what he thinks about trying to get Okaasan assessed for day care.
Have to find the moment to do this. I am a coward.
Need chocolate to help me.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The Stopping Channel

8.10 am.......Okaasan deeply into Shoes on the Shopping Channel.

9 am....Okaasan deeply into Shoes on the Shopping Channel.

This is happening more and more, Okaasan getting stuck on either the Shopping Channel or the Weather Channel on TV. Sitting and looking...and looking...and looking. 30 mins...1 hour....thankfully she doesn't pick up the telephone and order anything...thankfully, thankfully....

Of course a lot of Japanese TV entertainment shows are no different from the Shopping Channel - a male and female presenter in the studio, showing off some necessary item while the audience oohs and ahhs - but after about 5 mins. of that there is a change of scene to a male and female presenter showing off some cooking, while the audience oohs and ahhs...and then 5 mins later it will change to a presenter walking round a shop, showing off items, while the male and female presenter in the studio ooh and ahh......

But, poor Okaasan...stuck on the Shopping/Weather Channel.....when I go to Hell for being a bad Oyomesan, it will be like that.

Last night that clothes stand thingy in Okaasan's room collapsed under the weight of T-shirts, scarfs, towels, underpants, bags and God-knows-what. Gave me a chance to try and put two thirds of it away in drawers and cupboards. It's actually only a flimsy laundry drying stand, but Okaasan's compulsion to have all her clothes OUT where she can see them means it gets very weighed down.
I think I'll buy her a stronger stand and take out the flimsy one.

Still hot here. Had an amazing storm last night. Went on for ages. Rainy and thunder and lightening. The cats were nervous. We had little sleep. Okaasan's windows were still open from the afternoon and she was sitting there at 3 am staring at the billowing curtains...but not getting up to close the windows....

And our Popo-chan cat is fighting back to health - we hope. He is an insectholic, and the undigested insects bits are scratching his insides as he vomits them up everywhere (you're not eating while reading this blog, are you??!!) then he stops eating...and gets weak....and we go to the vets, and he gets shots of water and stomach-calming medicine...and we try all over again.
Poor little bugger. I wish he'd stay home and watch the Shopping Channel.

9.30 am......

Okaasan deeply into Grey Suits on the Shopping Channel....
time for me to go and get a life....


Sunday, 2 September 2012

Jungle fever

Shit. It was hot yesterday.

Can't do much more of this.
And, nor can Okaasan.

About 2.30 pm her room gets steamy. She isn't helping much because she tries to keep the insect screens closed, and the door to the kitchen closed, and there are clothes hanging in the door between her two rooms...and she is wearing long-johns and two shirts.

I have a strong image of my friend's mother-in-law dieing in her underwear on the living room floor of her Osaka apartment a month ago. For all my whingeing about Okaasan, I of course don't wish that end on her.

The jungle of suburban Sapporo. At 2.30 yesterday I was throwing open doors and windows, giving Okaasan iced water in the kitchen and hosing down the concrete steps outside her windows - steps which probably concentrate the sun's heat even more.

And we went to see the musical Lion King! I bought the tickets ages ago, as a post-Olympic something-to-look-forward-to AND as a Happy Family Trip Out. Tickets cost me Y9,000 each. Bit of a  splurge. It is the final week of the show's 2-year run In Sapporo. Both Okaasan and I had seen it before, but Yujiro never.

Thought it would be nice.

At 2.45 pm Okaasan is trying to back out of going: I don't feel like going out, I've seen it before, it's hot......
I ran around like a nutter trying to cool her surroundings down and get her in a positive frame of mind. But it WAS hot. Hard to think about getting ready to go out at 4 pm for us too. At 9,000 a ticket I wasn't going to let her get out of it and I knew once we got her to a cool place, with fun music and songs - she would enjoy it all.

Going out with Okaasan in public, to something that involves a lot of sitting...with a long time to the next toilet break. Bit stressful really.
Overall she enjoyed the show. We enjoyed it, from our seats just 5 rows from the stage - the elephant walked right next to us!!!
But I never really relaxed, always on Care Duty. Rushing Okaasan to the toilet in the intermission, pushing aside other people to get her to the head of the queue etc...trying to be reassuring to her about the embarrassing wet patch on the theater seat....taking her off to the toilet again....grasping her hands through the crowds....sitting chatting while Yujiro got the car.
All a lot of work really.

A 3 hour show isn't very suitable for an old lady with bladder control issues. I should learn this.
Next time, I'll just get tickets for us and leave her quietly at home with some takeout sushi.