Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Dementia and writing

Been thinking about Okaasan and the winter coat story.

She firmly believed that the Tokyo department store staff was going to come to Sapporo and bring a new coat. Believed the woman had made a promise and was coming soon.
A polite conversation 4 years ago while buying a coat about an imminent move to Sapporo had transformed into a promise from a shop assistant to personally bring a coat hundreds of miles away to a customer.

Really odd.

But, now I realise that Okaasan thinks she had actually been in written communication with this woman. And if you write something, it seems to have more reality.

Okaasan's table is always covered with scraps of paper covered with her writing: recipe ideas from TV shows, telephone numbers of TV shopping, notes about English words (!!!!) and other scribblings.
A month ago I gave a Japanese friend one of the longer scribblings to translate - just interested to know WHAT Okaasan was writing about.
And yes - I know I'm invading Okaasan's privacy etc etc. But hell, I'm writing a public blog about this lady, without her I'm way beyond any privacy lines here. And you are reading this blog, so we are all in this together :-)

The friend said it appeared to be a practice writing for a letter to someone: something about "now it is September and if you come to Sapporo I will show you around, and I don't have a winter coat, so please being one with you..."
Now it makes sense. She was writing - or practicing to write - to the Tokyo department store staff. 99% sure that the writing never became a real letter. Okaasan doesn't know the name of the staff, or the address of the shop etc And I don't think, even in Japan, shop staff do personal deliveries of coats, unless you are a superstar customer.

But it's made me think: do/can dementia sufferers communicate more in writing, than in speech? What we say is such a fleeting thing, and for dementia that is bad - you don't know if you said it or not, or to the right person, or if they heard. You can't remember.
But writing something on paper is safer: it is there for you and someone else to read and understand.

Okaasan often says:" did I tell Yujiro this? I said this before, didn't I?" - and often it is something we've never heard before. She thinks she has told us. In her mind she had the thought, but is uncertain whether she expressed that.
Writing is a better way.

But, of course...not for Okaasan. She is living with an Oyomesan who can't read her notes without outside help. And her son hardly looks at the stuff on her table. So the thoughts go unnoticed.

Maybe I should start prying around the table scribblings more...

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