Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Why don't you take Okaasan to a doctor?

I get this question a lot.
From readers on this blog, from friends, from students.
Yes - Okaasan hates doctors and hospitals - but why don't you force her to go, for her own good. She won't be happy, but it's a necessity.

I get it. I DO understand.


This old lady is not a slim person. She probably weighs about 50 kg?
HOW do we physically get her into a hospital?
A child you can pick up, screaming and kicking and you put them in the car, and at the other end you carry them into the building.
Can't do that with an adult.

If we said: "Today you are going to a hospital for your leg pain", she would stay in a ball on the carpet, moaning and crying and holding onto the furniture with her fingernails. If we try to touch her, she would hit us.
If we tricked her into going "somewhere" and then she looked out of the car window and saw a hospital - she would refuse to get out of the car, cry and hold onto the door frames with superhuman strength. And hit us.

It really is that level of reaction. Very strong determination.

We got her to a mental health clinic because it is a small office on a street corner, and the entrance area doesn't have a clear sign - once she is in the reception area she couldn't escape out of politeness to the nurse.
We got her to a dentist because she had terrible pain and couldn't eat anything, and Dear Son finally said "I think you must go".

A hospital with a waiting area  and forms to be filled in, and hours of waiting...would be a whole different ball game.

I think she should go.
Dear Son probably thinks it's easier to wait and see. He is Japanese, it's a great wait-and-see national trait.
I kind of wonder if the day care manager will eventually tell Dear Son that the day care staff think she MUST go to a hospital.

Certainly this morning Okaasan took an age to get out of her room, into the kitchen, into the hallway and down the steps and into the waiting day center car. Ages. All the time getting angry with the staff who was making "hospital is a good idea Kazuko-san" noises.
Kazuko doesn't think so.

To be honest - I get exhausted thinking about it. Why should it be ME who has to push Dear Son and Okaasan into doing the sensible thing? If she is determined to do nothing, and he is prepared to let her do nothing - then good luck to 'em. She can get sicker and weaker and end her life sadly...her choice.
This time last year I fretted myself into action on getting her assessed at a clinic for day care joining. Because they ultimately makes MY life easier in winter. 
If her legs continue to be bad, it will be my problem this winter - but before that Dear Son will have to be cancelling his ski work and staying home to care for his mother.
So - although I am boiling inside about the total lack of action on this leg problem - I am also thinking "bugger it, your stupid choice, you can live with the consequences".

Mentally Okaasan seems ok. Last night at dinner we chatted about public holidays and working people, she told us how she'd worked all days etc etc and she was bright and down memory lane.

Tomorrow - mental health clinic annual check up. That'll be interesting.


  1. I'm shocked that people ask you why you don't take her to a doctor since it is obvious that she is an adult and can't be coerced into doing things she absolutely does not want to do.

    One thing that people who haven't dealt with older relatives do not realize is that, even though they make act like children, they cannot be managed like them. You can't make them do things for their own good, even when they are rational and not afflicted with dementia. They often are like 4-year-olds with adult bodies and do what they want while you have no recourse. My parents and my husband's father are the same way and they aren't even as ill as Okaasan!

    You simply cannot control them and ultimately, it is up to them. My sister-in-law has been manipulated into being at her father's beck and call because he's so irresponsible and lazy about doing things he should do and she's full of fear that he'll have some incident and, if she doesn't answer the phone, he'll die and she'll feel bad. I have told her again and again that this is not her issue. He has to choose and he can't force the consequences of his choice (not to call for emergency help, taking medicine as he feels is best or taking other people's medicine because he thinks he knows best, etc.) onto her. The consequences of Okaasan's choices aren't on you. They are on her.

  2. What a horribly frustrating situation. I know it has been said before but you really do have the endurance of a saint.

    I know exactly what you mean about how impossible it is to *force* someone - who, despite the dementia, remains an autonomous adult with their own strong convictions - to get medical help when they don't want to. I have a similar, though much less extreme, battle with my father-in-law who refuses to tackle a particular health issue in any way whatsoever. It makes us bang our heads against the wall but we can't force him to care about his own life, to put it bluntly. So I very much understand your occasional feelings of "fine, let yourself suffer if that's what you want"...
    Presumably you would have already tried this if it were the case, but just wondering.. does the daycare center have any option for on-site visits by doctors? It would be ideal if one unthreatening doc could ambush her in the familiar setting of the daycare where she couldn't run away, and check out the leg pain once and for all. Do you think the staff could help you organize something like that? I realize it isn't a residential place so maybe it's not possible... well, best of luck with the mental health check up anyway.

  3. I'm usually just a lurker, and I have nothing constructive to say here, but I just wanted to say: I'm sorry.

    Dealing with dementia with one's own parents must be a different kind of horrible, but at least it's something where you are, ideally, working together. Dealing with it in a partner's parent is an entirely different matter of being the outsider.

    Wishing you all the strength in the world, and I hope that Okaasan's mental health check went not too horribly today.

  4. What about something like this http://www.spmed.jp/z/page/Top.aspx ? I found it by googling 札幌 往診 which I think is Sapporo house call. The page is beyond my Japanese ability but I think the top orange button opens a page with a list of clinics in Sapporo that do house calls? There were many other google results so maybe Dear Son would be willing to find a good one. Probably once the doctor is in the door her basic politeness would take over. I hope there is a good medicine that will take the pain away enough to get her walking again, I think if she stops moving her health may deteriorate quickly. Good luck.
    T in Tokyo