Sunday, 25 May 2014

Legs again

Pain in the legs is back.
When Okaasan remembers it. Feels it. Remembers it.

Last year this went into a 5? week saga of her and Dear Son refusing to do anything about it, while I harassed them to DO SOMETHING! Okaasan stopped going out completely. Had problems even getting to the kitchen and toilet, or  bath.
It's arthritis or rheumatism I expect. However, in this hospitals-do-no-good family we'll never know what it is for sure, so the not-eating, and not standing-up method of treatment will prevail.
Finally last year she agreed to go to a kind of chiropractic - which helped. Finally.

Last week Okaasan went out for a late walk after DS had got home. An hour later the 90 plus years old neighbor came to say that Okaasan was stuck on a footpath about 100 m from the house and couldn't get home by herself!
DS went and rescued her, gently took her hand and walked her home.
Why hadn't she called him? Why hadn't she asked anyone to help? For an hour....she'd probably stood there, clutching onto the fence....until the 90 year old plus neighbor found her.

And so. Some days she remembers the pain. And doesn't eat much, doesn't do much. Creeps around the kitchen.
Other days - or actually even 1 hour later !! - the pain has gone and she is prepping to go out for a walk downtown.....
We are monitoring and trying to make sure she doesn't head out too far again.

It was a bit of a week really....Okaasan and her legs. Lots of work. New students. New class. All good. But a run around.
Then one of the cats appeared sick, and then vanished for 14 hours, and came home with a screechy voice.
I took him to the vet to be checked out and as the last, but one customer on Friday night my vet was just as knackered as me.
He took an X ray of Popo's throat and chest area to see if there was anything inside causing the screechy noises.
Called me back into the consulting room 15 mins later. Two X-rays were up on the screen.
WHAT IS THAT????? And THAT????
Two strange lines were at the lower throat level. On their own, not connected to any other bones. About 2 cm long!!!!
My head was a-whirl with needles? Awful boys torturing my cat? Broken fence parts???
The vet and I peered at the X-rays in shock....

Then he looked flustered, ran into a back room to check something.....and came back with embarrassment to tell me: "um sorry, those are bones! Entirely natural! All cats have them there. Dogs  don't. I got mixed up!!!!"

So relieved. Laughed a bit manically. Me too.
I thought MY week was a long one....his was obviously worse.

Finally came away with nose drops to try and get down - or anywhere at all near - a squirming cat's tiny nostrils.

And it is the weekend. Gardening. TV. Sleeping. Eating out. 
Very necessary.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Coconut oil

Two cans of coconut milk.
Soon to be boiled down into coconut oil.
Which will make me smart and lively, and give me glossy hair and a shiny nose.

Sooner or later in talk about dementia the topic of coconut oil comes up.
It's one of those Amazing, But True, Dementia Preventing/Fighting cures.
If you read the Internet and listen to enough old wives.
(I guess that's where old wives' tales live cyberspace, with YouTube videos of earnest people telling you that they have the secret to something, and not to believe everything you see/hear on the Internet).

So. Coconut oil is meant to stop the bits of the brain decaying and help you keep it together.
I am giving it a try.
I give my cats little packs of water with extra oxygen or something, I've dabble in tarot cards, bio rhythms...I'm up for a little alternative/wacko.

I like coconut. I have a brain. Recently been feeling a bit tired and fighting through life's daily decisions.
Why not?
Give it a go. Can't harm me.

And how will I know it is making a difference?
The blog writing will improve. I will become an all-round livelier teacher, girlfriend, feline-mum, gardener and kayaker?

I'm the guinea pig. Squeak.
If I think it is really doing me good, I would of course try and think I would get some down Okaasan's throat.
Not sure if she likes coconut or not. Not sure I could add it to miso soup, because the oil does taste of coconut. But that's something in the future - if I notice my own brain clicking into a higher gear.

So I bought me some canned coconut milk and following the advice of a friendly Indian lady on YouTube, I boiled it down into a tiny cup of oil. The kitchen smelled wonderful. Like a beach full of British tourists all slathering on sunscreen.

And now I am adding some oil to my morning coffee or chai. Or just spooning it into me. And waiting to see if my teaching/editing/writing/cat mothering skills get sharper.

I hardly dare label this post "dementia" and "coconut oil", cos the number of blog visitors will shoot up and I'll get all sorts of people dropping by.
Think I'll just leave it unlabeled....

That's a smart decision. The oil. Obviously. It's already working....

* Slightly strange thing with Okaasan last night. She was out when we both came home...him at 6 pm...and me at 8 pm. DS totally failed to check where his mother was at dinner time as he was watching TV instead.
She was sitting at the resting counter in the local convenience store with a can of tea. I went to get her in the car. She said she'd hit her leg while taking in the laundry from the garden...and it hurt, so she couldn't walk back. 
But she hadn't called us. Or got in a taxi. Or anything. Just sat in the Seicomart for 2 hours. Her leg looks a little swollen. Not visible cut. Maybe a shin bump? Bruising tomorrow?
Didn't want dinner, of course. Just went to sleep by the TV.

But. This is exactly the kind of evening which worries me about Okaasan and when we go to Brazil in July.
The carer will HAVE to make sure she is home safely in the evening, using the phone and GPS. It isn't enough to come in an cook and leave food for her. The carer will have to check exactly what she is doing and that she is ok, day by day.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

The small stuff...

Living with Okaasan's stage of dementia is (thankfully) not so often full of the big dramas, but just a daily procession of the small stuff.

She goes through her days mostly doing what she likes:  getting fed, going out for walks, watching TV, reading newspapers and magazines, watching life go by. Maybe in her mind she is taking daily baths, doing housework and laundry and washing dishes after meals.
Mostly she isn't.

We fill in the gaps of her life, usually behind the scenes - becoming part of OUR routines.

This week for example:

* I checked 3 different dry cleaning shops, Okaasan's favorite coffee shop and our two down stairs closets to see if I could find her missing black and white spring coat.
It's been AWOL since the end of last year. Okaasan says I took it to a dry cleaning shop. I don't remember that. I have no tickets and the 3 shops I use don't have any forgotten coats.
Sapporo is still in cold weather, so the need isn't really urgent - but soon Okaasan will start wanting that coat. And I don't know where it is. She'll start getting antsy about it. I can see we'll have to do a shopping trip to find one just like it.
Probably she left it in a convenience store or coffee shop sometime last year....and it is long gone.
I will do one more check at the subway lost property office next week.

* Her room cleaning is progressing. I do it, he does it. We try to share it.

* Family duty to the shopping mall on Saturday for lunch and a wander round the clothes shops. Dear Son chose Okaasan's lunch for her because the menu was too daunting. He took her to the toilet. 
We walked round shops, she picked up the same stuff I did...and then focussed in on a brightly colored scarf and a bag. "Noooooo...she doesn't need another bag!!!" I muttered to him and we steered her out from the danger zone.
Okaasan enjoys walking round shopping malls. But she looks a little like someone drifting thru, not really connecting. Like me in the make-up department of big stores. I don't wear make-up and have no interest or knowledge in it. I walk past counters with bottles and brightly lit displays, with bowing glossy shop assistants and it means zilch.
Okaasan in a shopping mall looks like that really. Drifting thru it all. But happy.

* Today we sent her walking when the weather finally dried up. She left the house without a coat, and at 5 pm we checked her position on the GPS and drove down to the station to pick her up.
Checked the GPS again - WHAT????!!!
She appeared to be on a different subway line heading north from the city center!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The GPS isn't 100% accurate. Specially if she is in the subway system, but this was well out of her usual area.
We waited 5 mins...10 mins and kept checking (GPS and cell phones are just a wonderful aid for carers)...and finally she was heading back in the right direction.
Not sure where she went. Probably took a train going north, instead of south. Maybe on the same line. Not sure.

That's our kind of week.

Here are some cute cat pictures. Just because.

Oh and this. The so-called "job", which paid in Sapporo beer and lamb BBQ....back singers to the Mayor and a folk singer at a city promotion event. It was on Tv this weekend. We are on the right of the stage....

Monday, 12 May 2014

A hobby is born :-)

Dementia books are always saying it: Carers should make sure they have an interest that has nothing to do with the caring. A way to remember who you are and to take a break from responsibility.
Probably very hard when you are, by necessity, limited in how much you can get away from home because you physically have to be near at all times.

We haven't got there yet - so....

I'm getting into kayaking. The old kayak I bought off someone last year...I got a car rack...I got Tie Down straps...I got a whole slew of info off the Internet. And ventured, nervously, into kayak owning.

And another blog was born...cos you know how much I like to do stuff and then rush to the computer and write about it. :-9

Hokkaido Kayaking...a beginner's tale

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Mother's Day

Today is the day to thank your mother. In Japan anyway. In America too? In England, a different date.

We bought the carnations and gave them to Okaasan this morning, with some jokes and laughs.

Actually, yesterday DS was off work - so we did Family Duty.

First, got Okaasan to have a bath.
We discussed about her hair washing: how recently it never looks washed. Has she forgotten how to wash her hair? Is she confused by the shampoo/treatment bottles in the bathroom? Is she only adding conditioner and not washing it out? Her hair looks dirty and matted a lot of the time. Not going to day care now, so not getting it properly washed.
DS says he sometimes opens the bathroom door when she in in there and gives her advice about the hot water level etc. I wonder if I can actually step over that personal line and join Okaasan IN the bathroom to help her?
This time he talked to her about the shampoo and treatment bottles. Maybe it worked, her hair looked a little cleaner. Afterwards I talked her through using the hair dryer and the brush - so the result looked good.
Maybe it is time we should start verbally reminding her about DOING and HOW to do hair washing?

Then we had family trip out to a local curry restaurant. Delicious curry. Okaasan loved it. Looked so happy. When our lassi drinks arrived she told us the tale about cows-behind-my-house-pre-war and how her mother told the kids to drink the warm milk...but she didn't cos mother herself didn't drink the smelly, warm stuff.
And then she told us again. And again. And again. Happily.

And on the wall by the table was an Indian craft hanging of an elephant.
THAT prompted a story about a similar hanging in a restaurant downtown...."Where I go and drink coffee sometimes"....or "where they have milk on sale"....each time she told that story it changed slightly. Mercifully really, so we could look interested eachtime!

So a gentle family-time lunch. She loves the soup curry with all the vegetables and rice. We do too. It's a good thing to go do together.
Afterwards we walked back to the car park via a disabled people's center street stall and Okaasan chatted to the stall holders happily. Then I drove us back via some local flowering cherry trees.
All happiness and smiles.

As a friend with children once told me: it isn't necessary to go out for hours and hours to a place a long distance away. Something local and fun, easy to go and do for everyone.
Just relaxing time. She is very happy and we can do it with minimum stress.

Day care.
The city office/day care center sent last month's bill and formal stuff about Okaasan quitting etc. Information about to start her up again.
And photographs.

Photographs of Okaasan looking pretty happy at day center. Drinking tea, eating lunch, wearing a Christmas hat, hair washed etc Happy pictures, of course.
Some of the other women in the pictures look a bit out-of-it - I wonder if those are the people Okaasan said "there's nobody interesting to talk to"? I do wonder if we sent her to day care a) too early or b) to a small place that didn't have clients with a wide enough range of mental ability.
I wonder. 
DS says he won't show her these pictures now. In case they just bring back negative memories. Maybe in the autumn, when we try to get her interested again. Maybe.
Hmm....I hope....hope...hope....

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Back on duty.

Guilt got to me.

Yesterday I saddled up, strapped on my spurs and headed out into the wilderness that is Okaasan's room to clean.

A month left alone and what did I find?

5 plastic bags/screwed up old newspapers containing peed-on underwear, some soiled pajamas and some trousers. About 40 other pairs of underpants in the laundry baskets and around the room ... lurking.
One old lunchbox. 

Not so bad.

I also had lunch AND dinner with Okaasan, as well as sending her off for an afternoon walk and picking her up in the car from the subway station as it started raining.

Meal times were so silent. I tried to lob over some likely topics of conversation (Dementia 101), but apart from a few comments no topic seemed to ignite her interest. We ate in silence and I used laundry and work to prepare as reasons to get away from the table as soon as possible. 
I know mealtime isn't chat time for this generation in Japan, but as the silence deepens and plummets into a dark hole - it is really amazing that she can sit across the table from another human being and say nothing. 
Exhausting saying nothing.

But I am back on duty.

Monday, 5 May 2014

That cleaning rota...

So, that cleaning rota plan?
How'd that work out?


Like that. It can't.

I talked to him about it. Cos that's all fair and good-couple style, isn't it? How I was feeling resentment because I'm the one who always cleans Okaasan's room etc How we should agree to share the cleaning.

But it won't work out.
Because: in summer he works 6 days a week and his day off is usually Saturday. That's the day we do stuff together - either him and me - or as a Happy Threesome Family. 
We can only clean Okaasan's mess when she isn't sleeping/watching TV in the middle of it.
In summer he is never here when she is out.
He doesn't work on rainy days. But she doesn't go out on rainy days.
On Saturdays we do stuff with her. So there is never a She's out/He's in time.

Meanwhile me? I'm here on Sundays. I'm here now in Golden Week. I am often here late afternoon, before evening work. I often remind Okaasan to get up and go out.

So I am designated cleaner ;-(

To be fair, he did say he would try to go into her room and clean if he comes back from work and finds her still out. But that'll be patchy. He'll be tired etc.

So. It's back to me for the summer.
He does do a lot for her, and for me. He was in full housewife mode a few weeks ago - shopping, cooking etc Not cleaning. Nobody has cleaned the room for about a month now.
I just feel bowed down by it. Full of negativity. But, have to do it cos otherwise she will run out of any clothes to wear and a TV crew will arrive to do an expose on Foreign Wives Who Abuse The Elderly in Japan.

I don't want to. But I will. Occasionally.
Take out the smelly/rotting food, wash some clothes, remove any important-looking mail she is keeping...

Bugger it.
Funny how small things like this can become a source of resentment. I guess that overall I'd just like to be shot of this role - living with and caring for Okaasan - and the room cleaning is my area of frustration venting.

"I promise to Love, Honor and Clean your mother's room"...a wedding couple pose in a city center park.

Meanwhile....Golden Week holidays here and this year the cherry blossom arrived right on time for the holidays. Just gorgeous here.
I am spending my holiday doing a bit of gardening, seeing films, eating out, watching TV, playing with cats, checking out the blossoms...and spending as little time as decently possible with Okaasan.

DS is working full time as a bike taxi driver. Regular customers and holiday time. Busy.

Should I take Okaasan out to see the blossoms? guess I should. We keep telling her that now is the time to go and see, but she just walks to the local shops and has a coffee in MacDonalds. Agh....I know I should...don't want to...aghh..will my guilt win? I'm not a good person at the moment.

GW I am mainly slumping around happily off duty.

Have some more cherry blossoms - let's lighten the mood. Cos they ARE wonderful.

Our morning walk is thru the graveyard - which is full of beauty.

Japanese people really do come to the park with friends or family and sit out under the trees with a picnic.

Thursday, 1 May 2014


Hair salon time.

Okaasan been brushing off suggestions about getting a hair cut for weeks now. Too cold for a cut.

Yesterday, she finally agreed.

"But I don't want to go to that place downtown. They have men stylists, it's ok, but it's not so relaxing to talk to them. I want to change - THIS place is new, it's near here! I will get good service because they are a new business! I want to go here!"

We went round that topic a few times. Me saying - but you've been to the downtown salon for 2 years now, apparently happily. The male stylist was just last time, usually it's the middle aged woman manager etc Why change? 
And Okaasan adamant that the new salon advertise on a flyer in the newspaper was better.

It's hard to talk about things like this with her. She becomes VERY fixed in her opinion, and gets more and more excited as she talks.
So, I just agreed.

Then there was a whole thing of would Okaasan actually go on her own. Would I go with her? Would they be open on a public holiday? Would they want customers? Wouldn't the staff prefer to be with their family? etc etc (My logical answer was: If the salon is open on a holiday they expect/hope for customers - but she didn't think so).
I actually gave her the money for the hair cut, then took it back when she appeared to be chickening out of going.

Later I called the new salon myself and made an appointment for yesterday morning.

Getting Okaasan all ready to go. Still in pajamas 10 mins before announced departure time. Suddenly deciding she wanted to drink a coffee, so taking the coffee cup along with her in the car...sloshing, sloshing, sloshing as I attempted to drive quickly but smoothly for the 10 am appointment.

All the old hassles.
And then - I had given her enough money for the salon and dropped her off outside with reminders to "go home on your own, won't you!".....two hours later Okaasan is calling me to be picked up, and then as I rush off to a Japanese class I can see her hovering in the streets near the salon.....still confused about what to do.
She actually took the subway downtown and walked all over! One strong lady, for sure.

Hard though to balance her determination to be independent with her sudden needs for information and instruction.

The new hair salon was ANOTHER male stylist. But Okaasan seemed happy with the result and experience. Maybe.
Maybe in 6 weeks time she won't be, an I'll try to tempt her back to the downtown salon...or yet another salon.