Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Hey! hey! Hey! Baaaaack!

On the 12th Day of Silence my blogger gave to me....

ONE uncleaned room.......

...and a partridge in a ko-tatsu. Maybe.....
Can you see it? Probably choking on old-lady smell if there's one in there somewhere...

So. Yes - I haven't blogged in a while, and I haven't much entered Okaasan's room for about 12 days...maybe only to give her a hair-dryer, or haul out a cat.

Passive-aggressive/Benign Neglect/Can't Give a Fuck.
Call it what you will. I decided to give myself a break from the day to day hassle of Okaasan and her world. Gave myself a break in MY world: English teaching, watching TV, cats, looking for cherry blossom and screening a wonderful documentary called HAFU for a total audience of over 100 people on two different screening days at the weekend!

Look! That's me in the green blouse, giving a truely baaad speech in Japanese on the first screening. Nerves got to me totally. Lost it. The carefully crafted, polite phrases (produced with the help of my Japanese teacher) danced in front of my eyes and I couldn't find my place. 2nd day was much better. I even smiled. I think. And remembered to say the same thing in English and Japanese - introductions to the film, encouragement to others to hold community screenings etc.
47 people on Saturday and 63 people on Sunday. Amazing.
Here are details of the film and how to arrange your own screening. I promise you: a wonderful film about identity and community. Who are we? What our passport shows? What our parents were? What others see?

So. Back in my real life. How has it been with my....shall we call it: H.O.O. Approach.

Hands Off Okaasan Approach.
(better than the C. G. F. Approach. see above)

Hands off doing anything really - I just worked and came home and ate dinner. Made a bit of polite chat. Went about my life. Like a Japanese husband calling in on family life really. Without the buddy drinking after work and pachinko-habit.
Dear Son was on his final seasonal-break before starting the summer job of bike taxi driver. So he was home every day and doing all the shopping, cooking and stuff. He's a great little wife.

Okaasan didn't go to day care now for two weeks. DS told her to go and have a bath twice or so a week. He gave her lunch and dinner. Nobody went into her room to clean.

"She's happier, seems more relaxed!" Dear Son says. I can't dispute it, since I have hardly seen her really. 
The weather has been much better, and Okaasan has gone out for a walk almost every day. Sometimes downtown alone, but usually round the local shops.

Is she happier not going to day care? Or is it just the season change and the chance to go out more? Don't know.
She seems fine - looks disheveled, hair all over the place - we think she's stopped managing to actually wash her own hair clean...and she kept declining offers to go to a hair salon (too cold now!! but more on THAT topic later).

And me?
My break has been great. I've chilled out and enjoyed a minimal-Okaasan contact time. I'm an over-manager I think. Every single time she left the building I jumped into action and went into her room to clean and to wash clothes, fold papers, put away clothes.

I haven't done it.
She is ok. The room is a mess. I hate to think what is inside some of the plastic bags and the smell is bad. 
Finally today Okaasan washed a few pairs of pants on her own accord. She has folded up newspapers a little. But I know there is nasty-stuff lurking in there.

I'm going to suggest to Dear Son that we take it in turns to go into her room on Saturdays and clean up. (and I'll give him the 1st Saturday so he can get an idea of why we have to go in there :-))

So. I'm baaaack. :-)

I think I need to chill out. Enjoy my life a bit more and not try to make everything SO perfect for Okaasan. She has a basically safe environment with us. Food, shelter, daily chat and almost daily walks. It's much MUCH more than many elderly get. My anger at her 2 weeks ago was all to do with her quitting day care - and really I felt it best for her and for me to create some distance.
Now I feel calmer about her. 

More later on: hair salon.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Officially out.

The city office care manager came yesterday and had the official meeting to agree that Okaasan can stop attending day center until winter.
Well, he and DS agreed that. I wonder how much Okaasan agreed to it.
He left DS some brochures for two more places to check out.
And come autumn we'll stir up the whole subject again and hope she is in  a positive mind about it.

A part of me feels guilty for putting Okaasan into this.
When she says the place is boring and there is nobody to talk to. I kind of worry that it is maybe true. Is she in a living room of gaga old ladies, who don't have any conversations at all?
The staff reports talked about Okaasan joking around with X-san and enjoying card games and singing - how much was true? Or just writing a nice report for the money paying family?
Okaasan is good and bright with conversation and strangers, when someone leads the way. She isn't gaga yet - although in winter she is starts to decline in conversation ability.
Was it too early to send her twice a week to this kind of facility? The fact that in winter our family becomes on-foreigner-plus-old-lady - did that get us more points in the system? Plus my students' husband's introduction to the mental health clinic and assessment.

Anyway. We'll see how she goes thru the summer.

This morning on TV NHK had a report about people with dementia going missing. Happening more and more. One man went out for his morning walk and vanished. A week later he was found sleeping on a park bench 10 km from his home, hungry and tired.
A doctor said families should look out for the signs of dementia: repeated stories, lack of housework/personal care/cooking; buying the same things repeatedly; wandering; uneven sleep patterns. Yup. Check most of those!
Okaasan is still ok going out and coming home again. Mainly. Or asking for help from a friendly stranger/police officer.

After watching the report on TV I went downstairs to the kitchen. Okaasan was was watching the same program. It is bizarre: I guess she watches it like me, as an outside observer on that issue, with no awareness that SHE has most of those problems? I guess so.
I worry about when we go to Brazil for a week and day care worker will come in and cook and chat. I worry that Okaasan will wander somewhere - just the fact of the longer change in routine will shift her into a different phase. So far we've left her for 2 nights with once a day care.
A week will be very different.

Anyway. Onwards. Spring!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Accepting Defeat.Ungraciously.


All of the above and more.
Okaasan won't go to day care. This summer. Ever?

God help us.

Dear Son tried this morning. He really did.
But Okaasan came back at him with clear-headed logical and debate.
It's summer.  I can go walking for exercise. The people at that place are not intelligent. There is nobody to talk to. I don't like going there. There is nothing wrong with my brain - just normal aging. It can't be helped. Stop fussing.

The day care driver and manager came. DS took them out on the front door step to talk it over. Okaasan peered thru her curtains at the car in the street, I  tried to listen from an open window upstairs. They talked and talked.
They went away. He came inside in tears......"they are good people...". He hugged me and said "thankyou for what you are trying to do....".

And so Okaasan stops day care for now.

We'll try again in autumn. Try to find a different place maybe?
Or, if she won't go - arrange a care worker to come into the house twice a week in winter and take Okaasan out by car or taxi for a walk and a chat.
Something. Anything. As long as she goes somewhere and meets someone apart from me in those long winter months when DS is away.

The rest we'll just accept the defeat for now. She's ok. We'll shop for and feed her. She won't die. Just have less mental stimulation.

I am disappointed. But also losing interest. We try to help this woman. If she doesn't want the help...just let her slip more and more into dementia. It's ok. She is 84 years old. Had a good life. There's only so much helping you can try to do. Just let her be.
I want to focus on my work and life and friends. On my Japanese studies. On my cats and garden. On kayaking. On going to Brazil in July. On going to see Queen and Adam Lambert at a mammoth rock festival in Tokyo in August.
On life.

I feel pissed off at Okaasan. And I don't do defeat graciously.
I can't express that directly.
So I have stopped cleaning, tidying, washing, TV channel changing.
Can't be bothered.
Let her stew in it all.

I know this is a really immature reaction. 
But it's the way of righting my emotions.
After a while the guilt and inbuilt do-goodyness will come out again and I'll be back collecting her underpants for washing, removing rotting food, washing trousers, arranging hair salon appointments and generally helping.

But for now I'm not.

Just let her be. She has almost daily conversation with us at dinner time. We do some family activity outing about once a week. Just let her brain surf thru until the next dementia check in October.
For two years the day care people really helped, and Okaasan mostly enjoyed it.
They were great.

Originally, I wanted Okaasan to go to day care for winter care. I thought once a week. I was surprised when they offered twice a week. 

Just hope she'll go back next winter into something.

Bugger her.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Home weekend

Spring kind of came to Sapporo.

March 29th the garden looked like this....

April 13th it looked like this.

And I found this.

And Popo celebrated almost full, noisy health by doing this.

Spent the weekend close to home doing stuff that needed doing.
Okaasan looked a bit rough and sad this weekend. Ate lunch silently on Saturday. Then was getting ready to go for a walk, but had a toilet accident and PUT the soiled pants down the toilet bowl :-((  Ignored the trash box near the toilet.
By the time she'd had a bath to clean up etc the walking chance had gone. 

Sunday she didn't want to eat lunch with us. Ate about an hour later. She didn't really know why.
Went for a walk locally late afternoon.
Had dinner with us in the evening. But pretty quiet.
I haven't been into her room for almost a week now....

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Plan A.

The spirit of compromise is in the air.
Or, at least, the city office and day care manager aren't going to give up a paying customer without a fight.
Dear Son and they have agreed that:

Okaasan should go to day care on Tuesdays when the noisy woman isn't there.
The kitchen staff won't bring their baby to work.
When dance classes are on a Thursday they will send a car to get Okaasan and take her to the center just for that, so she can enjoy the dancing and avoid the noisy woman. (Did I mention that this woman is also a member of one of the Buddhist sects-bordering-on-cult?).

All sounds excellent to the care people.
To Dear Son.
To me.
To the cats.

Nobody has run this past Okaasan yet.
Until  next Tuesday morning...then we'll see how well Plan A goes.

Meanwhile she has been walking downtown several times. Random shopping etc. DS organising her daily life.

And I have passively-aggressively withdrawn my services.
No not THOSE services.
The room cleaning/laundry washing/TV channel changing services. Not doing them now. Waiting to see how long Okaasan and DS will let the stuff mount up. How long the wet knickers will be in the bowl in the bathroom. How long the hidden, rotting food will rot.

:-) Happy news: the cat is getting better....I was so happy to have him 10 cm from my head at 5 am miaowing loudly.

:-) And....DS and I did a "job" last week.....we appeared on stage with a folk singer, the Mayor of Sapporo and glasses of Sapporo beer - singing a drinking song for a TV program that will be broadcast next month.
It's a hard job. The "pay" was beer and lamb BBQ.
It was rent-a-gaijin-to-make-this-event-look-cool time. I AM a gaijin. DS isn't, but he can pretend.

Mayor and foreign females....and beer.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Evil enjoyment

Thankyou oh god of evil Oyomesans!
Just when I needed it.
A good, little evil laugh.

DS released Okaasan downtown yesterday afternoon.
Later he got a phone call on her cell phone....from the city center police station...

Sir, we have your mother here. She seems very confused and says she doesn't have enough money to get the subway home. She is asking us for money.
????????????? She has a prepaid subway card in her handbag! She went downtown 2 hours ago with that card. Look in her bag. She always has the card.


10 minutes...

Sir, sorry to bother you, yes you are right. We've showed your mother the card and sent her to the subway station....


Need a LOT more of those kind of situations.....to make day center seem a good idea.

I am just bad.

In the aftermath of yesterday, calls to and from the day center manager etc. Will have see what happens. I'm not hopeful.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Day care - refusenik

Want to quit day care.
Don't need to go.
It's spring now, I can walking myself every day to exercise. So I don't need to go to that place twice a week.
And : I don't like one of the noisy, rude people there.
And : last week one of the kitchen staff was carrying her BABY on her back. It's unhygienic.

So. I don't want to go.

Cue small family crisis.
Just when you (and I) thought this blog was gonna curl up and die of boredom.


And even worse: Dear Son agrees with her and thinks she can quit for spring and summer and go again next winter.
Can she? I don't know. I worry she won't want to go and we'll have the whole getting-Okaasan-to-daycare saga again.

If you are new to this blog, or just need reminding - check out the September to December 2012 postings. Oh, the agony of me pushing him to push her into the mental health assessment and the day care search.
When Okaasan first came to live with us she joined several different Hawaiian dance classes at community centers. But they were all geared towards practicing for performance days and, while she is actually quite good at hula dance, she can't of course learn and remember new dance routines. So she was getting stressed and three? four? dance classes asked us to get her to leave the class because she couldn't keep up. She thought she was being bullied in the classes...
Which is when we realized she needed to move from community dance classes to gentler, same-every-week classes with teachers who didn't pressure.....and that classes at day care would be ideal.
Gentle, fun exercise AND the whole bathtime/care/mental stimulation of going somewhere and meeting people.

But now. No go.

I'm gutted, to be honest.
With her thinking AND his. I have no hope to fight against that.

I accept that Okaasan probably doesn't need day care so much in summer. She lives with family and gets daily interaction with us. She can and does go walking round the local shops and downtown on the subway. She can chat to random shop staff and occasionally the "friend" who she meets in the coffee shop by chance.

Physically it's enough. Mentally it is enough. Really. She has some kind of interaction with people every day. It's great too that she could clearly remember why she doesn't like the current day care place, and could tell her son her opinion and needs.

But I do worry that she'll get out of the routine of going. And that in October we'll have a big fight again about getting her to agree to go again.

Dear Son says she often asks :"Do I go in summer too?" and that this shows she enjoys it, and will go happily in winter. 

For me there is a huge reassurance that someone beyond him and me are involved in the care of Okaasan. That professionals are meeting her regularly and checking that she is doing ok. Having fought hard to get us into the system of support, I don't want to slip out of it.
In winter it is absolutely essential that she goes. He is away for weeks at a time working, and for days and days on end she sits and watches TV and has only me for company for a dinner time 3 times a week.

So. Bad day.
Dear Son will have to meet with the city office day manager for sure, and I guess the day center manager with have to explain why one of her kitchen staff had a baby at work....obviously bad...but..but...
Dear Son thinks she doesn't need it. He wants her to be happy. And she wants to stop going. So, it's a done deal.

I just have to go along with it. 
A little evil voice inside me is saying: maybe her dementia will worsen after a few months of day center absence and THEN he'll see the value of her going. But, in reality I don't think it will. Unless we have a crisis with her legs or teeth again and then it's only he and I struggling to get Okaasan to do stuff.

Anyway. Such is my day.

Oh. And the cat is sick. Vomiting for 72 hours. Spent all day at the vets. Had a barium shot. Poor little bugger. He is home again now. We've had a hard time....the vet isn't really sure why he is throwing up so much. Once - Popo was on top of the book case and was spectacularly sick from a great height.
But this morning - luckily - he felt well enough to go outside and sit in the sunshine.

Spring fever.     Both of them.   Cat and Okaasan.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Obstacle course

With the lack of anything else interesting to blog about - I'm reduced to creating obstacle courses for Okaasan to entertain us.

Yup. Had her out in the garden clambering over giant foam walls and thru plastic sheet tunnels....

She did pretty well, even caught the frisbee in her teeth.


Tuesday was day care. No dance or anything, just go and have a bath and lunch and gentle activities like card games, karaoke etc.
At 8.35 am she was half dressed and up off the carpet getting ready to go.
So I took the chance to see how well she could do getting herself ready and out.
I hid up stairs.
At 8.50 the day care staff came and Okaasan came out to do greetings.
And then the driver lady stood in our entrance hall...as the minutes went by...and Okaasan came in...and out...and in and out...going back to get stuff, check stuff, return stuff...on and on.

Usually, after telling Okaasan that it is day care day - I leave her to get up and start dressing, then by 8.45 I am in the room with her helping to put necessary stuff in the bags and chivy her along in dressing.

So, it WAS interesting to listen to how she fared on her own. The staff didn't actually come in and help her until the very end. I guess they have a rule about that - at what point to step in and physically help the client.
So the staff stood in the entrance hall and Okaasan shuffled around getting stuff together.
It took her almost 20 mins....the staff have soooo much patience!

Funny thing was hearing them talk about "where is everyone? The car is here? Are they out?".

Okaasan's suggestion:"Maybe they went out to eat?".

At 9 am in the morning?? I guess the usual reason we give her for being out is that we are a) working or b) have to go out and eat with a foreign, non-Japanese speaking guest. So her thinking in our absence goes to those possible explanations! :-)

Anyway. Finally the staff and Okaasan left and I came out of hiding to do the usual room-tidying.

Interesting. Well, for me anyway. Cos I have no life to speak of.
She CAN get dressed and get stuff together still, but it all takes time. The constant checking of necessary things....stuffing the bags with the same things over and over again.

Next stage: prepping the foam wall and tunnel now. I'll post video of THAT.

Random cute cat picture...cos.....well...just....why not?

Snow has melted....