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...

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Two's company...

"Love me tender!
"Love me true!"

As channelled my inner Elvis at the dinner table last night by serenading Okaasan across the dinner table last night, I thought: "God, I'm good at this!"

Another dinner, another day, another week with Okaasan.

Came home between classes to prep dinner and feed cats. Okaasan was heading out for a walk wearing a lively combination of house coat, 3 T-shirts, a scarf, a hat and a coat.
"Is this ok? Maybe in Tokyo no, but Sapporo isn't so formal, is it?".
Always, the asking for advice about clothing. I think Tokyo and Sapporo has the same standards of crazy-old-lady-combinations - but I just smiled and let her go. As long as she is warm it doesn't matter what she wears.
After she left I went into her room to tidy up a little and take out trash. Process more laundry.
Out to an evening class.
Home in a snow storm to get fish, rice, vegetables, soup on the table.

Cast around for a topic to chat about: did the Japanese Prime Minister speak English with President Obama? Few years ago Prime Minister Koizumi performed Elvis for Japan's old star Ishihara Yujiro...Ahh HA!
Ishihara Yujiro! BINGO!
I used to go to a healthy food cooking school in Tokyo and someone told me that Ishihara Yujiro's home was nearby, and I told my husband, and he wasn't interested in famous people, but even HE came to look at the house - because Ishihara was so famous!

Repeat for - oh...about 10 times.....and no, that isn't an exageration - she really  did repeat that story 10 times. Until I started clearing plates and muttering about "cats outside still" and "must prep tomorrow's classes".

Like the game 7 Degrees of Kevin Bacon, talking to Okaasan is much easier if you can find a way onto one of her fave topics. The cooking school and Ishihara's house, and the husband coming to look at it is a fave topic.
I am getting so good at getting her onto these hamster wheels.

These times alone with all the responsibility are a bit tough. I have to plan it all carefully and make sure there is time for all the must do stuff and the want to do stuff.
And then there is snow. Had 23 cm of it again yesterday. Endless snow clearing...endless.

Onwards. Endless.
Ishihara Yujiro had a home near my cooking school, and my husband came to look at it....

Repeat after me.


Friday, 22 February 2013

Alone again. Unnaturally.

He's gone again. 10 days.
Home alone with my Okaasan.
And cats.
And snow.
And working, shopping, cleaning, cooking, chatting, bathtimes blah....

This week (before he went), I actually escaped and flew down to Tokyo with friends to see Adam Lambert in concert - stay a night, do some tourist stuff, eat HUGE spare ribs on TGI Friday's in Shibuya. Another world. And not just the lack of snow.

Trouble with going away - it all mounts up and waits for you when you come back.
I was away last week for 3 days in east Hokkaido spreading my horrendous Japanese language skills far and wide. This week in Tokyo.
That schedule moved all my classes around, and an ongoing editing job...not to mention the impending end of year accounts and a dentist trip.

Just glad to have reached Friday at the moment.

Okaasan went to day care twice this week - Tuesday AND Thursday...hula and ballroom. I let Dear Son do the organising to get her out the door in respectable clothing and with the right accessories. It's good for him.
She resisted both times a little, but soon accepted the plan and set off happily.
We getting into a routine with this day care now. Maybe :-)
She is defeinatly MUCH brighter and conversationally engaged after day care, the experience is worthwhile. After ALL that struggle to get her set up and going!

One strange thing: yesterday she came home to an empty house cos he and I were out working...and the day care center driver gave Okaasan the Day Diary paper to bring inside. This is the paper that reports how times she peed, what she did, how she interacted with staff and other people etc.
The driver just gave it to her - no envelope, just the paper.
Isn't that a bit strange? I don't think that is really something SHE should be reading - it's the report to the family to reassure us she is ok....I don't think Okaasan should be so clearly shown that the staff there are noting what she does and writing it all down! If this was me I'd hate to think that they are spying on me and noting when I go to the toilet etc and whether I talk to people.
Or is that just me being over-sensitive?
Anyway, I swiped it from her table when she was in the toilet. Also swiped a Japan Pension letter before it vanished under the kotatsu trash mound...

Odd. They should really put it in an envelope and address it to her son. Not just give it to her. Strangely slack.

Finally..a culture quiz for you.
In a Tokyo youth hostel 3 women stayed the night. In the morning they had to return their bed sheets to front desk.
Which sheets belong to a) the Brit b) the American and c) the Japanese?
And for a bonus point: Who was such a lazy bugger they couldn't be bothered to go 4 floors down and rent a they used the bedsheets instead?

Monday, 18 February 2013

Home Alone - Success!

From this.....east Hokkaido..

To THIS!!!! Home.

We are all home again - and the house is still standing. The pans are unburned. Okaasan isn't perched on the kitchen counter howling at the moon....

Our first real going-away-and-leaving Okaasan alone with outside help was a success. The day care people came and chatted and cooked. The cat sitters came and left food for invisable, terrified cats. Okaasan actually met ALL three people - so she probably had a more social time in those three days than she does normally :-)

Of course, she didn't clear away any lunch delivery boxes or dirty plates, or pick up laundry from the carpet...that is normal. But for 3 days it is ok.
She seems ok. A little tense maybe. Yesterday we took her downtown in the car, walked her around shoppings areas, took her for lunch etc. Family time.
Amazingly strange story about winter coat shopping: Okaasan thought she'd ordered a winter coat from a woman in Tokyo!
After lunch in a department store I tried again to get her interested in all the coats on sale, but she was so negative (cheap coats are no good, no - that color is bad etc etc) and surprised us by saying she was waiting for the coat she'd ordered.....
In her mind the coat shop woman in Tokyo (4 years ago) had said she was coming to Sapporo to visit, and Okaasan had asked her to bring a new winter coat....Yujiro told her that he'd been there with her at that conversation and that there was no such arrangement - the woman had just been making polite sounds about "oh, one day I must come and see Sapporo....".
But somehow in Okaasan's mind that polite bit of chat has transformed into a real promise of something going to happen...
Anyway. Coats on sale are all bad. We have to wait until autumn to take Okaasan shopping for a coat. east Hokkaido...a terrifying speech in Japanese -

with the Mayor of that town, all sorts of tourism association people in suits, all very formal - 2 hours of utter Japanese no good at all for this formal situation - my head was kept above water by the interpreter...and then....outside in beautiful east Hokkaido...all of this!!!!!!



Thursday, 14 February 2013

Home alone with sitters

Ok. About to go off for three days of fun in the snow, hotels, onsens....and oh my god - a SPEECH IN JAPANESE!

I just went in and told Okaasan that she is in charge of the house for 3 days.
Gave her the letter Dear Son wrote: it is the schedule every day for food deliveries and who is coming into the house to feed Okaasan or cats.
She was a bit surprised, of course, lots of looking back and forth at the letter paper and the calender..."what day is it now? when is this? What day is it now?" etc

But ok. I think. I left another of the letters on the kitchen table.
She said that lunchbox delivery is not necessary because "I can put rice and egg in a pan and cook it up for myself"...and I told her that the lunches were ordered for now, so talk to DS about that on Saturday....don't want to get into THAT topic for now...I have the burned pans in the garden shed trash box...

Gave her money for incidental shopping.

Ahhh. Hope she is ok.
Hope the cats are ok. After a few hours of nervous over-excitement they are now curled up (uncharacteristically) together on the bed...I have left all the notes and instructions for the cat sitter.

Classes are covered by another teacher.

Speech is printed out and here in my bag.

Wooly socks and warm gloves at the ready for cold east Hokkaido.

Ahhh......I AM looking forward to this really. I want to see east Hokkaido in winter and meet lots of interesting tourist business people. I've been doing Trip Advisor since 2004 and have loved it. Now is a wonderful chance to have some real enjoyment out of that effort.

Charisma is packed.
Okaasan - YOU are in charge!

(god help the kitchen pans.)

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Another day care day :-)

She went AGAIN.....and appeared to enjoy it.

I am almost happy here.

Actually very tired - busy weekend with snow festival and guests and social stuff and speech prepping.

So short blog. Can't be bothered to be witty. Or anything.

I marched in to Okaasan's room 45 mins before blast off and told her it was hula day again.
She put up a bit of a negative it? didn't I quit? is the teacher THAT teacher? Is it that place?
But I firmly told her that the care was coming soon, and you need your skirt, your face cream, the trousers they lent you last time etc etc

Repeated all of that at 10 minute intervals.

Then at 5 minutes.

And then a few 1 minute loops.

And got her dressed in a winter coat and socks and into the entrance hall by the time the car came.
Off she went.

Came home tonight, quite tired but peppy - her, not me.
I'm tired and my pep has vanished.

At dinner she was fine. We didn't talk directly about the hula or the day care...apart from Okaasan wondering if she'd HAD lunch there or at home...we chatted about all sorts of other stuff. ANd she washed up all the plates after dinner.

Excellent. This is why I wanted her to go to day care.

Onwards into: 3 days with no Dear Son and Dear care people coming in to check her. How will she cope?
How will I make a speech in Japanese for 45 mins?

Think I need to go to bed.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Start as we (don't) mean to go on?

Shitty start.
Cleared that up....pants left on top of the trash box in the toilet, leggings and trousers left on top of the heater in the kitchen (which was mercifully NOT switched on)....cleaned the toilet carpet tile.

Thought it was just an accident.
But come the 5 min. warning to dishing up dinner and Okaasan says: No, don't feel like eating, hmm, not sure why, better not to eat.....

Actually. That was a joyful moment. Bit of a hassle with the almost ready food, but VERY happy I could sit and eat dinner alone with the newspaper for company.

Yesterday she was all fine again.
I had lunch with her and then walked her down to the subway station and sent her off to enjoy downtown.
It was sunny, it was NOT was a perfect day.
I came home and cleared snow, cleaned Okaasan's room - rescued from the table trash mountain the letter from the council about old people's travel cards...and the latest card.

Mid-afternoon I set out Okaasan's dinner in flasks, settled the cats and left for hours and hours of Sapporo Snow Festival. A whole Saturday night out!!! Yippeeeee!!!!
I called Okaasan late afternoon and happily heard that she'd got home ok and found dinner.
It meant I could relax and enjoy..enjoy....

First with Cute Baby and his mum....

Sapporo's Official Guest House in snow - with polars bears light show.

And then a walk thru a city park to a friend's apartment for sushi rolls and apple crumble dinner...
and an ice candle magical place...

And finally?
My Couch Surfers arrived at 9 pm. We walked the festival site, eating and drinking and looking at snow. And finally I took them to the classroom to start their Couch Surfing debut.....and I got home at 11 pm.....Okaasan and cats all ok.
An excellent Saturday night out.

* Wish I could post the short video of the polar bears light up show, but I can't workout video posting on Blogger.....plenty of examples on YouTube though, just look for Sapporo Snow Festival 2013 Hoheikan /Mapping show


Friday, 8 February 2013

Another stretch begins...

10 days and he's gone.
I'm gone for 3 of those days.
So it's only 7 days with Okaasan.
And cats.
And snow..................oh my GOD! The snow, the snow....19 cm of it yesterday in Sapporo. More coming today.....

And a snow festival.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Planning for "away"

Next week Dear Son and Dear Oyomesan will be away working.
Okaasan (and cats) will be alone for two nights and a long day.

Since I haven't yet managed to train Chichi-cat in the art of cooking tofu and miso soup we have to get in help to feed Okaasan and check on her mental condition.

Yesterday the day care manager came to talk to Dear Son and Okaasan about that. I wasn't there, but DS reported later that Okaasan was a little surprised, but accepting, of the fact that a stranger will come into the house and cook her dinner. Lunches will be the usual food delivery service.

We - well I probably - will leave out the instant food mixes and the tofu/vegetables and rice boxes, it'll be easy for the carer to come in and put it together late afternoon....and give Okaasan some chat.

The longest we've both been away until now was a night and a long day....Okaasan was ok, but we kept checking by phone and she survived by leaving everything scattered all over the kitchen and not washing anything up. And sounded a bit sad. But survived.

All the stuff on dementia says that sufferers don't do well on change of routine, so we hope that these food delivery and 2 carer-visits will be ok for keeping Okaasan in a good frame of mind.
I remember a student's story about her mother a year or two back. The sister was the main carer in the family home, but when sister was away on holiday my student when into the house every day with dinner.
On the second or third night she found her mother very distressed and confused and crawling around the floor in a mess etc....

SO hope we don't end up with THAT!

Now to get Chichi to focus on the tofu and soup recipe...I'm sure I can train him up enough for next time.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Order and chaos

Feb. 3 in Japan and it's the day when people throw beans around the house to drive away evil spirits and buy sushi rolls and eat them for luck...silently and facing a designated direction (designated by a sushi making business in Osaka I think...).

Okaasan had been showing me a supermarket flyer at the weekend with its pictures of the sushi rolls and talking about "tanonda"...which I finally realised meant "ordered".
I'd ordered? As in a question? No...she'd ordered????
Some very confused story about the lunchbox delivery person last week and ordering a sushi roll?
Gyaaaaaa!!! A box of sushi rolls was heading our way? Or not?
Nothing came. There is no lunch delivery at weekends, so I'm guessing that she had a conversation with the lunch delivery person ABOUT sushi rolls last week...and in her mind that gelled as "I have ordered sushi rolls" by the weekend.
It would be strange for them to be delivered today, after the festival.

Quiet Sunday....I was working on my tourism seminar speech...trying to marshall my supposed knowledge about foreign visitors in Hokkaido into a 45 minute, scintillating performance.

Mid-afternoon I went downtown to meet Cutest Baby in the World and his mum, and took Okaasan with me to the subway station. It was SO scarily icy we held hands and picked our way carefully over the frozen streets and giggled with joint relief when we reached the safety of the subway area.

Okaasan's choice of clothes is getting stranger and stranger.
Before going out I found her in two T-shirts, a long sleeved jacket...and then a toweling house-dress...put on back to front....and again not so keen on a coat.
Got her OUT of the housedress and INTO the winter coat.

If dementia sufferers go back in time and abilities...why is choosing clothes and dressing one of the abilities which gets messed up?
Okaasan can feed herself. Go to the toilet herself. Put on shoes. Order cups of coffee in a cafe.
Why is choosing season-suitable clothes and putting them on in a good combination hard? Cutest Baby is only 1 year old and he can choose the coat and shoes for going out already.

And just in case I come over as too much of a saint in this blog...wouldn't want that...when Dear Son gave me some hassle  for not telling him his mother was likely to call him for a pick up in the car after he got back from skiing and had consumed a beer....I told him "I look after you fucking mother for days  and weeks and I think it's time you did something"......

Felt so much better after that.
Ready to smile again and assume saintliness.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Hello, blog....How are you feeling?

Ignored? Abandoned? Slothfull.

It's Oyomesan here, your sometime-creator and general old lady's dog's body. (Is it - dog's body? dogs body? dogs' body??? or maybe dogsbody?? strange phrase anyway...)

Apart from weekly updates on the will she/won't she go to day center saga, I've been a bit slack here. That sadly means I have accepted my fate as a captive of this man and his mother, and I have resigned myself to years and years in the jungles of Japanese daughter-in-lawing. I will soon start spouting political messages supporting their cause - Don't Eat for 5 Days and Cure Everything! Don't Go to Hospitals! Don't Eat Before 11 am! Red Apples are Bad! Taiwan Bananas Rule the World!

And other such nonsense.

He is away skiing for another weekend. I am here in Sapporo. I shop. I cook. I put lunches in flasks on the kitchen table. I chat about boring stuff. I smile.

I apologise: yesterday's made-in-a-panic lunch (NOTHING in the fridge), wasn't a success. While I was at the gym and out to curry lunch with the newspaper for company...Okaasan tried to heat up the cabbage rolls again, and maybe added salt to the sauce? Too many times? She told me later it was inedible...I just smiled and apologised. Threw the rolls away.

Last night had a biggie earthquake, 6.4 magnitude, which is big for this part of Japan. So dramatic that even my cell phone Earthquake Alarm rang. But our house shakes every few minutes when the subway train passes, so at first I thought it was that. Got up to check TV, then went downstairs to check Okaasan's heater. She was half awake....kind of knew it had happened. All ok.

Oh...and THIS is mildly entertaining....I volunteered Dear Son for Residents' Association duties for the coming mistake :-)
Sometime recently a R.A. woman came to the door and babbled on about something, I think I was busy cooking another over-salted dinner, so I just nodded and said "yes, yes" to whatever it was.

One week ago Dear Son gets a phone call from the Residents' Association thanking him for volunteering for the coming year to be a committee member...clear trash stations, rescue old ladies from burning homes and whatever.
Volunteer? Me? When????
He was pretty stunned.
But, accepted his duty like a trooper. Oh, the fun of having a gaijin-in-the-house-who-has-language-failings :-)

February is here.
This day, Feb. 3 is the Setsubun Festival - toss beans around the house and drive out evil spirits. And eat a long sushi roll. Okaasan found the rolls in the supermarket flyer and told me many, many times at dinner last night that I needn't cook dinner tomorrow - because the roll will be enough. Luckily for me and Dear Son, I've bought and started marinating spare she can have a roll of rice and we'll chow down on meat.

Feb. 3. Three years ago I brought home these two little cuties....

and they found more and more cans of cat food, and ate and ate...and became these stove-hogging lords...


Sapporo Snow Festival next week. Got Couch Surfing guests for that.
Okaasan will go to hula three times this month?
Dear Son will work all over Snow Festival time and Chinese New Year holidays.
I am away for a 3 day work-junket to east Hokkaido to give a speech in Japanese about foreign tourists and what they want, because I am a Trip Advisor charismatic expert...
I will go to Tokyo with some crazy friends to see American Idol's REAL superstar Adam Lambert in concert - better get out the glitter and feathers...

oh...and...7-11 Japan is now stocking British chocolate. Cadbury's Dairy Milk. In a country where popstars shave their head to apologise for being sexually-active, where judo champs rape college students and where judo coaches beat their team in training....7-11 has a ray of hope.

Once a week...only once a the convenience store near the station...