Friday, 14 December 2012

Taking matters into my own hands

The Day Care Manager has just left the house.
After an hour of sitting in the kitchen trying to get Okaasan to give Day Service one-more-go - but not hula.....


The Manager tried. He really tried. But I think he failed. I don't think she will go next Monday.
He will come again to sit in the kitchen when Dear Son is home late next week...and to talk all over it again.

So. I did it. Thanks to all your comments - specially Francesca who told me to take control of the chain of communications. And my Friday morning students who said too: "it's the Day Service Manager's job to help you and Yujiro persuade Okaasan to go, you shouldn't have to do the stressful Monday morning..."

Their class finished at 12.
I bought sandwiches from 7-11 and after a couple of gulps for energy. I mashalled my Japanese skills and called the Manager man.
He - they - were wonderful. Instantly understood what I was saying. Were obviously concerned that Dear Son hadn't told them the whole picture about the hula class....and asked if they could come round and talk to Okaasan right away!

I cancelled my last class of the day and went home by taxi at 3 pm to clear the snow for the manager's car and to alert Okaasan to the imminent arrival of the "culture center staff who want to know how you enjoyed your first visit this week...."

She got all active:" should I tell them the truth about the hula class????" She bustled around getting dressed and looking for tea to serve.

A nice young man in a suit arrived. The three of us sat in the kitchen. I was actually sitting at my first social services, public assistance meeting in Japan...

The manager asked polite gentle questions. Okaasan said the hula wasn't interesting and she  didn't want to go again. He gently - ever so gently - suggested other classes...and she whirled away on each gentle push ...into her own stories of a culture school in Saitama she used to go to, to the cooking school in Tokyo, to her husband who wouldn't let her work, to Korean restaurants, to New York, to Ishihara Yujiro's house near the cooking school in Tokyo, to Nishi-guru and his exercises, and round and round it went.
He...we...couldn't get her interested enough in another class: flower arranging? - NOT the right form, stained class making - NO, bag making - NO? singing...NO...on and on.

It was actually fascinating to see a professional at work with dementia. He let her talk on and on in her stories. And then when she reached a  natural stop, he waited a few seconds, leaned forward and brought her back to - so how about trying one more time next week, but not hula?"....
And Okaasan would alternately stare at the day service pictures with teeth sucking, or go off again on a complete tangent - the phrase "I know,I husband told me I shouldn't work when we got married, so I went to all these kind of classes, he wouldn't let me work...". She didn't actually say directly: I don't want to go. But the avoidance was there on every single try.

It was hopeless. God. I couldn't do that job!
I live with it. But I can escape upstairs. This poor guy has to sit there for an hour and listen to it all - the same stories round and round. And then try and push again.

I sat there most of the time. Letting Okaasan and Manager man talk. I escaped to fake "phone call from work" a few times. I stood listening outside the kitchen door. I listened to the poor guy trying. Bet he was thinking of his Friday night beer. I know I was!

Finally after an hour he left it that: well, I'll come again next week when your son is here and we'll talk again.
"Talk again? " Okaasan was surprised....she can't understand why there is so much interest in her, I guess.

And we saw him off at the door. And came inside. Okaasan busied about with a pot of yogurt and talk about the cats still outside and snow....and then went back to watching TV.

And I?
Now I have to tell my partner that I disobeyed his instructions regarding his mother. That I took it into my own hands to bring in the outsiders into his mother's situation. And that it probably failed.

So, THAT'S gonna be a bundle of couple trust laughs. On the telephone. Both in our second languages.
If he goes out tonight in the ski resort and drinks himself into the bed of a sexy young ski Japanese ski instructor I couldn't blame him.

I will be sitting here eating dinner with his mother and listening to all the same old stories again and again and again.

Tried and failed.

And that really is the last thing I am going to do about this.
She won't go. We'll have to order taxies to come and take her out twice a week, take her to the subway station so she can get downtown and exercise.

And wait until the dementia is more advanced and she isn't so fiesty. Wait another year or two until she doesn't know where she is and who these nice people are. Wait.

Oh. Tired.


  1. You have not failed. Repeat with me: "I have not failed". Repeat that 100 times every time you think about it. I don´t think you failed. Nobody that reads this blog thinks you failed.

    You did the right thing. And I am *very* impressed with the manager prompt reaction.

    The people in charge of the centre had to be aware of Okassan´s full emotional scenario to be able to do their work. They are professionals, they have been trained and have the skills to deal with this. I am sure the manager will come up with an alternative solution.

    I still can see the positive side in all this despite your frustration. I find it wonderful you managed to get her assessed. This assessment put her in the care system now, you are no longer alone, you have support.

    Hang in there.

  2. I forgot to sign the comment. It´s Francesca.

  3. I'm sorry. I wish it was all so much easier on you.

  4. Sorry to hear this. But from experience I know that it's not all going to smooth sailing from the start. You are going to have to be patient. Really, really patient. For every step you take forward expect to take 10 back. It will happen eventually but you must remember she has lived her life her way for decades. It's not easy for her either. It will take time. Too much pushing and you may be doing more harm than good. It will work, give it time though. She's adjusting too. Good Luck!

  5. I'm sorry it's been such a rough start to winter. Your partner can stick it up his you-know-where if he has an issue with you getting the manager to come in. You take care of her when he's working, in the toughest part of the year, you have to be allowed a say in how to deal with her. It was worth a shot, like you say, the manager is an expert in dementia, and I'm sure she's not the first lady to object to going, and I doubt she'll be the last. Until he gets back, focus on you and your own health needs. Cancel a class and go for a cheeky onsen, relax and put your feet up. You've done all you can, and much more than many could do even for their own mothers.

  6. Well, I am only a blog reader, but if he's not there for long chunks of time in the winter, not dealing with the part of Okaasan care that you are, then he has no right to tell you that you can't bring outside help into the situation.

    My two yen, anyways. I still hope that the day care manager can come back and have a talk with Dear Son that will fix everything, though. Fingers crossed.

  7. I don't know... I don't think you should give up. It's taken both you and Yujiro so long to get to this point, I'm afraid if you back down now the next time when this is 100% necessary, it'll be way more difficult than it has to be.

    I think there just has to be a time when you put your foot down and say you're going, and that's that. Or come up with some kind of excuse/lie that she'll accept. "I know you're not fond of the hula class, but remember when we took you to that doctor? well, he says you simply must go to this service once a week in the winter so your condition doesn't worsen. It's hard to stay active in the winter, isn't it? And Yujiro and I are much too busy, so you simply have to go."

    I just came up with that off the top of my head, but I really feel strongly that you shouldn't back down. I can't imagine how frustrating it must be when Yujiro won't help make her go. I think you need to stand up to Yujiro, too.

    "Listen, while you're living it up on the slopes, I'm here with your elderly mother every single day. I don't have to do this, you know. I can walk out at any time. So if you want me to stay here and continue washing your mother's soiled underwear and listen to her talk about Taiwan bananas, YOU WILL HELP ME WITH THIS AND YOU WILL MAKE HER GO."

    I wish you luck!!!