Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Another year...another BBQ

BBQ day again in our house - from early morning the kitchen, entrance hall and front door area full of boxes, food, alcohol and people.

Okaasan hates it.
In past years she has sat out in neighborhood parks or restaurants to avoid coming home, exited thru windows and generally got angry with us and the guests for staying too long and making too much mess.

This year was better: because it was a rainy/wind storm and the BBQ itself was 20 m away from the house under the subway line bridges.
So actually Okaasan hardly noticed there WAS a BBQ until much later on.
I gave her lunch, I sent her out walking (before the rain), and I picked her up at the subway station. Gave her dinner.

But by evening, when the storm had driven us inside and upstairs to our living room with about 10 guests...Okaasan was getting testy.
"Why are they still here? Why is there all this mess in the kitchen? My husband had parties at my home, but they were a set time - then all the young women helped clean up and they went home. That is polite. Why are they all still here??"

Different generation. Different party styles.

It adds a whole pressure to a day...which is already full of pressure. And this year I have raging toothache and am on painkillers (maybe the long airplane flights from Brazil and cabin pressure?)...so I wasn't even helped with alcohol.

But...by 9 pm the last guest had gone and peace resumed.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The sound and the fury.

Started gently enough.
Early morning in the kitchen Okaasan asked for DS because she wanted some money.
I dole out money too, and DS was still sleeping - so I asked what it was for. Usually we dole out a little money late afternoon when Okaasan is heading out. A demand for money at 7 am is unusual.
"I need to buy a ticket for the concert by the Percy Faith Orchestra! It's today! I was at the ticket office yesterday and I didn't have any money. I need to get it today!"

Oh? Really?The concert is today? Do they have tickets left? Let me just check on the computer...

Computer check.
Percy Faith Orchestra came to Hokkaido last year. No concerts in Japan at the moment.

Told Okaasan that.

She started to spiral out of control: but there IS a concert! In Nakajima Park! In Kitara Hall! I was with my friend, she took me to the ticket office yesterday! But I didn't have the money! I have to buy it today! The concert is today!

But there IS no concert/ Maybe another big band/swing/jazz orchestra?

I don't know. I was at the ticket office yesterday. My friend told me. But I couldn't buy a ticket. I didn't have enough money. The concert is today July 22!! Do you know Percy Faith? It's at that hall in Nakajima Park. I need the money.

DS woke up and joined the party.

It's not that he doesn't want to give her the money. But of course he is wondering what she is doing with it. The whole story was confused.

She had been downtown the previous day, and had maybe met the "friend" in the coffee shop. The friend who has no name and no phone number. Near the coffee shop is the local newspaper office with their ticket office for sponsored city events. There is also the City Jazz Festival ticket office.
Maybe she saw a poster at one of these places? We really couldn't be sure.
And the hall in the park is taken over by a big classical music festival this month.....
Nothing added up.

And it got worse and worse.
Even after he gave her enough money for a concert ticket.

Every time we went to the kitchen after that, she'd come out of her room and harangue us - at the top of her voice, stating her case, complaining. Telling us about the ticket office and the mystery concert.
On and on and on. 20 times?

It was complete stressy madness.
Shows how just under the surface THIS kind of Okaasan is. The usual, gentle, sweet old lady. Just add a bit of stress, and BAM! major fury and aggression.

It was exhausting. You have to go into the kitchen a lot early morning at breakfast time and before work. She pounced on us every time.

Ok, ok, OKAY! We understand. But now you have the money! You can go to the ticket office and get the ticket, can't you? It's ok! ok! We don't know what concert. You go and check yourself. We don't know! Yes, yes - but you have the money now. There is no Percy Faith concert. The orchestra isn't in Japan at the moment. Maybe another concert? You go and check.

But I was there yesterday -- friend - ticket office - park - Percy Faith - yesterday - ticket office.......

There were a lot of raised voices and door slamming.
I really though she might start climbing the stairs to our second floor apartment to keep up the conversation.

She got dressed as thought she was going out. But then after hunting around for clothes etc she seemed to forget that plan. And sat down by the TV again. But kept checking the money.

Exhausting. Madness.
I think we handled it badly too. Our natural urge to help (check the concert details on the computer) and then the news that there was no concert - for Okaasan it all got interpreted as us trying to stop her going. She couldn't separate the two.  She thought we were saying the whole memory was a lie: the friend and the ticket office etc. That negative feeling unleashed all the sound and fury.

We should have just given her the money and left it at that. Not try to help and advise.

And the funniest thing: she went for a local walk in the afternoon and came home by 4 pm. I asked her if she'd got a ticket. She looked confused. A ticket? A concert?Me? Total blank again. Sweet, friendly old lady was back.

We wondered if there had been a dream, and that had prompted the early morning panic. She hadn't mentioned anything about a concert the previous evening when she came back from downtown. Had she seen something about Percy Faith on TV?

We don't know.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

We're home!

That's me! That's him! In Rio!!!!!

It was amazing, a real holiday of couple time again. The football (although he was gutted that Brazil were knocked out), the homestay, the city, the food, the sights....the obligatory pick pocketing (small amount of local money and about $800 taken from two credit cards)....

He called our home almost every day to check in with the carers and Okaasan. One of our friends also visited a few times to make sure Okaasan wasn't trashing the house. He called the vets to make sure the cats were ok.
That's what it's like to go on holiday and still have responsibilities at home...

We came back late on Thursday night. Okaasan was sleeping.
Next morning I met her in the kitchen as she was heading to the toilet. She just said "Good morning" and shuffled on. Did she even realize we'd gone? 

Later we sat with her at lunchtime and chatted. Souvenir biscuits etc She listened to our chat and only showed interest in our observations that Brazilians were really kind to strangers on public transport/that Brazilians eat a lot of sugar....because she could quickly relate that to something she knows about - "Japanese people were like that before the war"..."they all have diabetes from eating too much!".
But she didn't ask any questions: it is a feature of the dementia. A kind of wall of disconnect from things which are beyond HER own world/knowledge.
If DS came home and said a huge purple monster had ridden his bike taxi I think Okaasan might comment that monsters eat too much and get diabetes....

Day care people had left a report file. Everything was fine, Okaasan had been out sometimes when they came - but after they called her she came home quickly. She ate dinner, she chatted, she had one bath, they did a little of her laundry, tidied a little in her room.

By Day 3 she had taken down all the signs DS had made for her about "Don't Forget to Take When You Go Out"....and for several days she wasn't really understanding that we'd gone to Brazil...then she got the idea...but by the next few days seemed to think we'd gone to South Africa...then by Day 7 she was telling the calling friend/care staff "Oh I don't need help now, they came back already, they are upstairs..."

But basically she was ok.
Such a relief. It means we can take trips together. We really can. Because it WAS so great to be together on holiday, to remember who we were before care duties and responsibility.

I wonder a little if there will be a basic knock on effect of this experience for Okaasan. That we won't see immediately. She appears to have coped with a change in routine, but all of us react to stress some way. I hope not...but I do wonder.

Our first dinner as family again - pretty strange!
DS had booked day care for yesterday too, in case there was a travel disaster and we couldn't get back in time. So, rather than cancel it and let the woman have a probably welcome night off...he asked her to cook THREE dinners and feed us too!
He has a nerve. Really. I was amazed.
So was she. But she agreed to do it. Went and did the shopping. came back to our kitchen and while DS sat there chatting about his holiday....and I watered the garden...and Okaasan watched TV...this lady cooked dinner for us!

There can BE no better home coming from holiday than to have someone shop and cook for dinner.

She served us dinner while we sat at the kitchen table. We joked about booking her for every night. Okaasan looked confused about why this woman was here cooking for us all and we were all chatting and laughing and showing cat pictures on our cell phones etc.

It'll probably give Okaasan the final push into another stage of confusion :-)

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

BIG adventure begins.

For us: the first holiday in 5 years as a couple - via a New York transit to Brazil and Rio on the final weekend of the World Cup!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For Okaasan: left home alone with 3 chirpy day service women coming in each day to take care of her.

The longest she has been left alone at home without us.

The last few days has been the usual pre-holiday whirlwind. Making lists. Making new lists. Worrying. Remembering "must do".
Work. Shutting up the classroom/contacting substitute teachers for other classes.
Preparing the classroom for an English woman who will stay there - her first time ever in Japan, so I had to think of all sorts of information she needs to know like trash sorting and how to operate the hotwater/telephone/computer.

And cats. To the pet hotel yesterday.

And packing.

And Okaasan's care.
Dear Son got Okaasan out for an afternoon walk so that when the day care team came at 5 pm she wasn't here to listen to conversations about dirty underpants and trash and money, and what-to-do-if-she-disappears...
Two women came, and a third came almost 1 hour later. All friendly.
DS had prepared a very efficient point by point information paper.
We sat in the kitchen with them and tried to describe our life caring for Okaasan. Made me realize how much we do now automatically. We showed them her room and where the lunchboxes and dirty pants lurk. Warned them NOT to tidy up her table and move stuff around....

Okaasan came back at 6 pm, just as the third woman was there.
She joined us in the kitchen, looking surprised at guests.
"Is something happening? Are you away? Is that it?" she asked.
Was a bit surprised to hear it was Brazil. Didn't really understand how long. 5 minutes later asked it all again.
"Oh Brazil! I haven't been to Brazil" she commented.
We said it was really a trip all about football, which she isn't interested in...

DS had prepped a laminated sign - 5 signs actually - with important information for Okaasan. 
He has taped them up in the kitchen and the entrance hall and on her door.

Reminding her we have gone and how long.
That women are coming every day.
That she should go walking and come home by 5 pm
That they will cook. Lunch is delivered as usual.
And don't forget: key/subway card/telephone.

Okaasan was in polite guest mode with the women here. She looked around the room and drummed her hands on the chair.
I was a bit shocked that the women all got very jokey and noisy with DS, and didn't keep it professional and Okaasan-focused. Finally, as I started making dinner, I TOLD them it was wrong and ordered them all with DS out into the hallway. 
Okaasan doesn't like groups of people standing in the kitchen laughing and chatting, by now she was in her room watching TV - but she could hear it all happening in the kitchen.

Sometimes...many times ...in Japan...I am left gobsmacked at the unprofessionalism of some people. It seemed so bad - to be noisily standing and joking with the son, while the client who has dementia - with all of the paranoia and suspicions of that condition - is just feet away trying to watch TV.
Okaasan had just been told that her family are going away on holiday without her for a long time. And that she needs these outsiders coming in to care for her.
She needed respect and focus. Not to be a side act while the group outdid eachother with chat and jokes.

And to add to our tension.....Hokkaido had a BIG earthquake. Magnitude 5.2. Big for here. I've never had that size here in the 16 years I've been here. Of course the Tohoku quake was huge, but not centered here. This was just 100 km south of here.
The house rattled and rolled. The whole lavender bush was shaking. After shocks have continued all evening.

I hope our family life won't suffer shocks from this holiday and it's aftermath.

The day care team finally left.
I finished cooking and served dinner. We ate in silence. Okaasan didn't say or ask anything about what had just happened with the day care team. We didn't. It was so strange.
I feel we should talk about it in a nice upbeat way. But Dear Son doesn't...so I follow his lead. Okaasan doesn't talk about it.
Nothing like: "oh, so Brazil, where are you going? what are you doing? where are you staying?"
None of those quite normal questions.

Part of our essential prepping for the holiday was leaving emergency contact numbers with a friend.
If there is a terrorist attack, or a Brazilian street mugging - and we can't come back. What to do. Who to contact.

If we don't come back. Useless Older Brother will be getting a nasty shock.
His mother will become his responsibility..............

It's almost worth staging a fake disappearance. If I could get the cats out of the vets office and run away....

Over and out. I've gone.
I need a holiday. He needs a holiday.
We need a holiday.



Thursday, 3 July 2014

1 week to go.............

One week from now I will be flying to this...

But for now, I am worrying about this..............

That damn fuki - wild celery. Okaasan bought it last Saturday. On Sunday I got her to prepare it - cutting and peeling off the rough bits. Then I alternatively soaked in water and boiled in water for days. I asked Okaasan and she told me to soak it and boil it some more.
We have been trying to use it. Mixing it with tofu, adding soy sauce. putting it in miso soup.
Isn't very nice, to be honest.
Celery farmers have done a better job at creating an edible vegetable from this wild ancestor.

The biggest problem? Okaasan has no interest in what to do next with it. This is one aspect of dementia - or at least HER dementia. She enjoys the shopping for something and brings it home.
Then puts it on the kitchen table.
Then: loses interest in it. Either can't remember that she ever bought it, or has no idea what to do with it next.
If I ask her. And I have tried an annoyingly number of times.
"Okaasan, this fuki that you bought. What shall I do with it? What is delicious? How do we use it?"

"Fuki? Where? This? This is very good for the stomach. After winter you have constipation, this helps clean your stomach out. What month is it now? This is very good for your stomach. very delicious. Use it? Oh...I forget. But it's very good for your stomach after winter....is it spring now.?.."

And so it goes.
We can't be bothered anymore. Our lives are full of holiday preparations and watching football. And something called work.
So today I have bagged up the damn fuki and I'll give it to some students. Okaasan won't miss it. And we can't be bothered.

Holiday preparations.
The day care team will come next week to consult about how to care for Okaasan while we are away. We have to make a list of info for them. We are already making little preparations around the house: extra toilet rolls in view, cleaning the kitchen so the team doesn't know I am a bad housewife...

And last night. The kind of incident that doesn't fill us with confidence a week before we go.

Okaasan went out at 2 pm for a walk - because I sent her early.
At 7 pm she was still downtown.
 We ate dinner as I had an evening class at 8 pm.
At 8 pm Dear Son got a phone call from the staff at Susukino subway station downtown: your mother is here, she doesn't have a subway card and she doesn't have any money. What shall we do? If we give her money, can you pay us back?

She's gone out without the subway pass. Then used all the money I'd given her for a going-subway ticket and the usual coffee, cakes, snacks....and then had nothing to get home.

It's exactly the kind of situation we worry about while she is in the care of the day care team.
They will come 5 to 7 pm. We hope Okaasan will take her phone/subway pass/keys/money every time she goes out. We hope she will come back before 7 pm every day.
We hope.

After I came back from work we sat and talked about it: deciding to make several big signs between her room and the front door, so she is reminded to check she has all the necessary things. Wondering whether to change the No. 1 Call button number on her phone so it rings thru to the house telephone. Wondering whether the day care team will end up waiting for Okaasan every day at 7 pm, calling her to get her to come home a lot etc


Gosh....I need a holiday.

Oh. Right. I'm going to get one once all of this stuff has been worked thru....