Monday, 31 March 2014

A little void?

Quiet weekend, home with Okaasan and the cats.
He was away. My friend with Cutest Baby has moved back to the mainland to start work again.
I had a quiet weekend to myself.

Took Okaasan to the subway station to release her downtown and she walked home on her own from the station, the snow has almost melted in the streets now. I hope we don't have lots of negative chat about "why do I go to day care in summer, I can exercise by walking now!" Dear Son says: You go because you enjoy it, so you go. You a bath and lunch there. I may have to gear myself up to sound convincing on that.

I left her lunches in flasks on the kitchen table and took myself off to the gym, and the other day to see a movie with a friend.
But did Oyomesan duty and had dinner with Okaasan 3 nights in a row.

Is it my imagination? Or are her long ago stories becoming less? Maybe I just don't give her enough key information to get her started on them?
The New York - Korean food - Australia - Ayre's Rock climbing - Wartime food shortages - Cookery School - Ishihara Yujiro house -Flower arrangement classes stories. They were so familiar - I haven't actually heard any of them for a while this winter.

This weekend I think we talked about rich Chinese people coming to Hokkaido on holiday (it's a daily topic now), weather, spring, cherry blossoms, food, cats. I talked, she responded. If I don't start a conversation, she says nothing.

Hmm. Will have to try and prompt her into those old stories. I can't believe they've actually gone. Have they?

#  The TV went blank again. I found Okaasan sitting there looking at it. Not sure how long she'd been doing that. Lots of jokes while I got it working again. The TV is on sooooo much, it's probably dieing.

April. New start time in Japan.

For me at work I have a new class, some new students.
And I have replaced Friend with Cutest Baby - with a kayak! I can see it under blue sheets at the side of the house as the snow melts. Kayak time will be here in late spring.....kayak...kayak...

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Nanny TV

Okaasan's TV went blank this morning.

As usual I was using our remote from where I was standing in the center of the kitchen making tea. I'd just changed her channel from the usual early morning shopping channel to slightly more mentally engaging (only slightly) Japanese news/variety show.

I do this every day now.

Okaasan would sit and watch shopping or weather news for hours unless we change the channels. Her short term memory doesn't tell her that she has watched the same information over and over, she is constantly sitting and waiting for the current image to change to something more interesting.
If we go in and change channels for her she makes an excuse about not being sure which remote button to press. But the reality is that she wasn't even trying to change the channel.

We can point our remote from the kitchen, through the glass doors and into her room. So we usually just change it from the kitchen.
One moment food blender sales for the umpteenth time - next moment a Japanese news anchor talking about North Korean missiles.
Okaasan doesn't react to the change in program at all. Zilch. In fact you can change the channels several times and she doesn't react.


So this morning I changed her from shopping onto missiles and went on making tea. Next moment I realise the TV has actually gone blank.

Okaasan is sitting looking at it.

I go in and fiddle around with her remote. Our remote, buttons on the Tv etc.
Okaasan kept commenting: "oh, but it's too early for any programs yet. There isn't anything on at the moment!"
After a few minutes I found the picture again and settled her back in with Malaysian Airplane stuff.

What if? OMG! what if the Tv is broken? What on earth will she DO? Not just today...but in the next hours or two until day care come at 8.50 am to collect her? Even that short time span - what would she do with no TV to engage her?
Dear Son had just left for 3 days...or might be 10 days, of ski work.

The thought of no reliable nanny TV to care for Okaasan.
It would be a nightmare.
She lives in front of the TV. Sleeps in front of it. Watches it constantly. Variety shows, cooking shows, dramas - she leans forward and laughs and enjoys. She still understands interesting programs. But a lot of the watching is just passive - hence the shopping and weather repeat screens.
She has newspaper and magazines on the table in front of her. She looks at them. She examines shopping receipts and underwear. She glances at the window. A few times a day she gets up and goes to the toilet, or goes into the other room to move clothes around.
But basically she is there with the Tv.

What did people with dementia do before TV?
I am trying to imagine. Because it is clearly a major part of her day. Of course real human contact is better. But failing that, and I imagine we are not the only working family too busy with our lives to engage in anything meaningful with our elderly relative, TV IS a great companion in the hours and hours of life she spends.

Years ago old people with dementia lived with multi-generational families and sat watching the coming and going of family life? That was the entertainment? They wandered around the local area randomly. They pottered around their home looking at things?

I actually don't know what Okaasan (and we!) would do if the TV in her room broke down.
It would be interesting to see. But I don't plan on trying that experiment. I think the change and stress would be bad for her. I think she'd get pretty agitated very soon.

Anyone reading this - is TV the constant nanny for your dementia-suffering relative? Or do they actually DO other stuff in their day?

Friday, 21 March 2014

On duty

Back on duty for a few days...a week...10 days...whatever.
Such is ski instructor work. They never know how long it'll be.

So he left this morning for at least 3 days work away.
I'm home nursing a head cold AND a damaged thumb. The cold almost left me voiceless mid-week, I had to start cancelling classes cos I couldn't actually talk anymore.
And the thumb ligaments have started healing - but I can't open screw caps, small paper or plastic packets....switch on the car with my right hand etc.

But now is a 3 day weekend in Japan. First day of spring. But not here: 10 cm of snow fell today.
I managed to clear a bit, but was careful with the thumb.

A weekend to stay home and watch TV and doze. Catch up on home stuff.

Okaasan, bless her, showed lots of sympathy about my cold. She noticed my voice was strange and sent me to bed as soon as I'd finished eating!!!!! I didn't have to sit there and make conversation at all tonight.

I think this coldy voice will continue all weekend....

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Older, wiser, fatter.

Why, hello there!
Yes, occasionally I write this blog.
Dropping off the duties here.

Does that mean I've just got used to living with his demented mother in a bi-cultural nabe pot of confusion?
Got nothing to blog about now?

Yes. A little.
Inevitable really. It's been, like...what...FIVE whole years now!
Five years ago we were desperately house hunting for somewhere to move into with Okaasan, and we came here in March? April?

Updateing on the past week.
I had a birthday, we went away for the weekend and I injured my hand. Oh, and my dear friend with cutest baby has left Sapporo and gone back to mainland Japan to start work again. :-(

Okaasan? Doing fine.
Her son has been home shopping and cooking and chatting. He even took her to the subway station by car, so she could go downtown a few times for a walk. Day care visits all ok too.

It was my birthday - which means I could stretch it out over a whole week....dinners, chocolates, cards, a trip away to ski.
We went away for a night to the big ski areas.

He arranged care worker to come in and feed and chat to Okaasan. He also booked the cats into the animal clinic for 3 nights stay.
We escaped to couple time, snow and a gorgeous self-catering apartment where we cooked up a cheese fondue and drank a lot. Cheese fondue is the symbolic food of L.B.O. Life Before Okaasan. What we used to love eating at home. Don't now, cos she doesn't like cheese...

Okaasan seemed accepting of our absence: Dear Son going ski working, me going to "an English teaching lecture" - both away at the same time...
Her lunches were 7-11 lunch boxes as usual. Saturday's delivery was buggered up by forgetful staff and Okaasan called Yujiro at the ski area to ask what to do about her lunch - good that she knows she didn't eat lunch yet, and knows how to call her son.
Thank goodness for cell phones, so her life can be supervised  from a distance....

So - there I am. 53 years old and lapping it up in the lap of luxury in a HUGE apartment! He found it on Groupon. Y12,000 a night for a place that usually costs Y37,000!!!! It was a world away from the kitchen with tofu and nabe and washing OKaasan's underpants.
A world away. A very good birthday present.

But. On the Sunday morning I fell on a tricky slope and caught my thumb in my ski stocks. Instant pain. Pain all day. Couldn't hold the's a "skier's thumb", or stretched/torn Ulnar Collateral Ligament Tear....pain killers, cold compress...wait 3 weeks and be careful...

Dr. Wikipedia says the symptoms include pain when tearing paper or doing up shoelaces. Since I don't do those I can helpfully add: zipping up boots, taking tickets out of vending machines, picking up coffee cups, turning the key to start the car, opening screw caps on a bottle...chopsticks....

But typing is ok. :-)
Will find more dynamic, dementia/cultural things to write about soon.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Patches of memory

Until I lived with dementia I thought that sufferers saw a wall of blankness where recent memory should be.
But 40 years ago...60 years ago....clear as clear.

Not true.
One of the strange, interesting, and sometimes disconcerting things is that the memory is in patches - at least at the stage that Okaasan is at for now.
You can never be sure what she will know, and what she won't.

Take this week:

"Did you go downtown  today, Okaasan?"
"Me? Downtown? No...I didn't..."
3 hours after returning from a subway trip, walk round the shops and a coffee downtown.
A blank.

But, next morning.

"Oh, sweet darling, kind woman-who-lives-with-my-son - yesterday I used your gloves by mistake, here they are. Thankyou so much!"

Clear as clear.

So odd. Why?
Is it because the gloves involves a feeling of obligation to another (scary) person, and a social situation that must be put right? The trip alone downtown - although a longer experience - had nothing special in it, has just as a memory faded now?
I expect there have been academic studies on this - why parts of the brain for one function break down earlier etc. 

We all remember different kinds of experience or information - some areas are stronger and weaker. I can't remember numbers at all - have to check my own post code on a piece of paper in my purse every single time I am asked for it.
But I can go back to a friend's apartment that I visited once 10 years ago - no problem.
 Numbers vs Place memory.

Dear Son knows all the  different prices of tofu in different supermarkets - Numbers and Shopping Memory.
I know random bits of information about my students and their families...years later I can meet someone and say:"and how is your brother, who has two fried eggs for breakfast on Tuesdays?". It blows them away. And covers up nicely for the fact that actually I have no idea what the old student's name IS! People Details Memory. Names? A blank.

It is interesting. And confusing for us. What will Okaasan remember? It makes us seem over-managing sometimes I guess, because we generally assume she won't remember and  are constantly helping her along in life.

Cute cat picture. Every blog needs one.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

This blog is...just about alive!

It's fluttering its wings and waving feebly....

Still here.
Just nothing much to blog about.
Because HE has been home and is doing all the household duties. A wonderful man...even if he does go off and work for weeks on end.
But this year the ski work has hit a dry patch. Or an ice patch. Or whatever image works for that idea. No work.
He's been home for a month now.

Great for me (no shopping, cooking, cleaning, chatting - and got a man to share life with).
Great for Okaasan (lots and lots of chat at meal times).
Great for the cats (all day heating and TV and a feeder-on-miaow).

Not so great for him.

So. Not much blogging.

Okaasaan's been fine.
There was one more toilet accident...but I let my house husband deal with it. He was standing outside the toilet door and gently persuaded Okaasan to come out and handover the soiled clothes and go and have a shower etc 
MUCH better that such an embarrassing topic is dealt with by a family member. That's what I said.....but I did learn the correct Japanese to say to her the next time it happens and it is me outside the toilet door :-)

Okaasan has a slight cold at the moment. Got the sniffles, but went to day care and ate dinner. Seems ok.

All pretty boring. This blog is also a kind of diary for me - so that's why I am just catching up on it.
At the moment we are on the once or twice a week toilet-accident stage. So that's why I write.

I've also been busy with starting promotion work on the documentary film "HAFU", which will have two showings in Sapporo in April. So busy making tickets, making flyers, starting to get the word out etc.
I booked a room that can sit 60 people, but I think with the small screen less is better. I wasn't brave enough to book a big 90-people auditorium. Maybe I should have.

If you haven't seen it - check it out! There are showings around the world now at different film festivals, universities etc. Great film about how Japan is changing as the population of Japanese with mixed-heritage increases year by year.

I first heard about the film via a friend in Tokyo. He knows the directors and they were looking for seed money for the project. I donated a bit.
Then I finally got to see the film last year at a university in Sapporo. I tried to get a local art house theater interested in showing it for a wider audience...but they didn't pick up the idea.

So I am doing a community screening myself.

Here is the link to the film's website - you too can organise a community screening!