Tuesday, 30 September 2014


Back on top of life again?
Okaasan is walking to the toilet...most of the time and getting to the kitchen table for food. Getting to the bathroom to brush her teeth/wash face...
Even got outside onto the terrace to fetch in the laundry that the thoughtless foreigner had left out beyond the wishing hour of 4 pm when all laundry turns into evening dew.

She is fairly lively again. And of course doesn't remember being bad the past week at all.
But she hasn't tried to go out of the house for a walk: so maybe at some level she is being cautious.

I still have to get in and do a major cleaning on the carpet and the heated table cover. Her room smells foul.

Tomorrow is the Glenn Miller Band concert. She's been twice already and loved it. Happy to go on her own. I bought the ticket ages ago and have given Okaasan the flyer to put on her table (gave her a photocopy of the ticket and kept the original safely out of reach).
Can she go tomorrow?
Walk from the car to the concert hall seat? And out again?
I went to the concert hall 2 days ago to check if they have wheelchairs to borrow and whether I can wheel her in and out, but not have a ticket for the concert. Once inside Okaasan will be happy. She likes going to concerts alone.

We'll see if she can get there.
She also needs a bath and hair wash before sitting in a public place next to strangers....

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Well...not off the carpet 100% yet.

We are still locked in a dance of toilet/walking/denial conversations.
And on-going carpet dwelling.

Okaasan IS a whole lot better than last week.
She sits upright and watches TV, she eats a little food.
She has walked herself to the toilet....twice in the past 2 days.
The rest has been...predictably a carpet and pajamas and diapers situation.
She made it to the kitchen table...once.

So, you can see - we aren't off and walking yet.

Trying to persuade/recommend/encourage her to wear the diapers - or even the sanitary towel-like pads is a struggle. She constantly claims to be on the verge of going to the toilet room herself. But usually doesn't. Her focus goes back to the TV, or if she is trying to actually move she will reach one stage of the journey from carpet to toilet - and get stuck there, for an hour or more....one knee off the carpet, sitting on the side chair....

The moaning/screaming painfest on the carpet was easier to 'nurse' - but emotionally/physically tougher for us.
Now, because she is mentally more together, everything we try to help her with has to be discussed WITH her and reasoned thru again and again...repeating the messages in loops.

He and I did escape for a few hours yesterday afternoon and early evening - to meet friends in the beer festival downtown. Then back by 7 pm to feed Okaasan.
She was aiming to stand and get to the kitchen table all the time the food was being prepared. So she got up off the carpet. To the sofa. To the side chair.
When the food was ready and on the table - she was still 4 meters away on the side chair in her room. She examines her feet and legs as if they are a disconnected from herself and she is waiting for them to kick into action...as if somebody somewhere will throw a switch and she will be mobile...
The food was in the bowl all hot and waiting. That 4 meters gap looked undoable. She refused to use a stick or a supporting arm from a caring family member.

We gave her a small bowl of pasta at that half way station.
Then she slipped back down into the carpet nest.

And so it goes. I'm home today.
Next week - if he and I are working - we'll have to leave food for her within reach of the carpet nest.

Ah. The carpet.
I am trying to clean it up. Hard with her in situ of course.
I've got towels and newspapers down to mop up pee, I am trying to dry it out - with a hair dryer!!! And the blanket that covers the kotastsu heated table is damp too.....

Yuk. Yuk

I am doing mopping up operations in front of Okaasan - because it's a way of trying to enforce the idea that "you DON'T always get to the toilet, and it IS embarrassing, but I'm ok with it, but it WOULD be helpful if you wore the diapers or pads"...trying...trying to get that message across.

Of course she doesn't think that sitting on a pee-soaked carpet is a good thing. Every good-housewife cell in her brain tells her that. But there's a vast disconnect between knowing that and agreeing to help us with that situation.

Oh, and it's all in a second language for me.

Ho hum.

Meanwhile...just to add spice....one cat has brought home TWO still-alive catches this morning!
The bird that was in this computer room - I managed to let escape thru open windows.
The baby rat/large field mouse is still lurking somewhere in the living room.....last seen shortly after 5 am behind the CD collection.

Ahhh...the weekend. So relaxing.

Friday, 26 September 2014


She walks again!

I came home from work.
Walked into the kitchen and looked at Okaasan's carpet nest.
She wasn't there.
Where where?????

In the toilet. 10 minutes later came out....walked little tiny steps, but WALKED back to her room, sat down on the sofa - shook her heels in the air (literally) to show me she has no knee pain.

Bloody amazing.

She says her arm hurts still. Knees? Nothing.
I fell? I spent 2 days on the carpet crying in agony? Me? Really?

Just amazing.

I almost feel as if I am suffering from memory loss - was she really so bad? But luckily I live with DS and we know how bad it has been since Tuesday night. I haven't been exaggerating her condition at all.
She can't remember any of that.

I think a big part of the problem is that when she is in pain she gives such a huge reaction (probably unconsciously) - that it sends us into panic mode. She is noisy and screaming and flinching and batting us away with her hands.
Is this something to do with the dementia - over the top emoting?

And now. She is sitting on the sofa watching TV. Perfectly ok.

I am going out now. But I am going to hide her outside shoes - I worry that she will feel SO alright that she'll set out for a walk downtown again.Don't need that today.

Just amazing.

Signs of recovery?

Well, maybe.
With a lot of vocal prodding she managed to move her body across the carpet so that her back was against the sofa and she was facing the TV. She spent most of yesterday sitting upright - seemingly a little brighter.
But she was wearing the diapers all day.
Ate a little food.
He thinks she is moving her arms and legs better. I'm not sure of that. But I agree she seems more engaged with us and the TV.

This morning again at 6 am, we rose from our beds and went to check on her.
During the night she'd taken OFF the dirty diaper and left it in a pile of newspapers on the carpet.
Even doing that must have taken some thought and physical effort - which she certainly didn't have in the past 72 hours.
She was reluctant and angry about me putting on a fresh diaper - but we pleaded with her that it was to save the carpet and her clothes from the inevitable pee.

Except I confused the delicate topic by constantly mixing up the word "oshi-ko/pee" for "oshinko/pickles"..so I was telling her that there were a lot of pickles on the carpet and it was hard for us to clean up!!!

At breakfast time she was trying to stand again. This time she got up one one knee by the sofa. There is NO keeping this generation of Japanese people down...when they have the will to achieve. Really, these people who survived the war - little, survivalists one and all.
He was trying to encourage her to leave it a little longer to build up strength. She was telling him: "it's rheumatism, it'll get better eventually....no, I didn't fall. Look I have no injury!"

We decided that he should go to work today - he needs a mental break. I have less work today, so I can go home between classes and check on her condition. And so it goes.

Tomorrow we have beer festival plans with a friend - we'll probably do it in shifts - so one of can be here to make sure Okaasan is safe. In a way, when she starts trying to get up and walk is more dangerous than when she is prone on the carpet moaning.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Carpet dwelling

I've just changed my mother-in-law's diapers and given her lower body a towel wash.
I think we've pretty much crossed all the personal boundaries that exist.

Yesterday was more and more of Okaasan prone on the carpet of her room, curled up under a blanket, or sitting, or propped up on one arm - looking at her legs and rubbing her arm. Glancing a little at the TV. Drinking a little water, eating a little rice and soup. At some points stretched out face down on the carpet, trying to push herself up on her arms like a baby - and lacking the strength to do it. Falling back and staying there for another 20 mins, off and on.....
She doesn't have the power to drag herself, or the understanding how to move her body to another part of the carpet using her buttocks or rolling. 
He stayed home all day, I came home three times between classes. We carried her to the toilet 3 times in the morning using the chair.
But in the afternoon she refused help and said:"I can go there myself" or even "It's ok, I went to the toilet!" - all the time prone or sitting in the same 1 meter of carpet space, at slightly different angles.
She slept deeply.

And now, Thursday morning a soaked and smelly carpet and a full diaper to change. Trying to get her to roll her body a little so I could tug the diaper out from under her, washing her and then gently easing clean diapers over her feet and up her legs.
The breakthru is that she accepted wearing diapers. She allows us to put them on and take them off. It's embarrassing, but at some level she knows it is necessary.

And he says we will wait "a few days".
In the past when she falls or has self-diagnosed "rheumatism" she has laid low for a few days, hardly eating etc - and then gradually got better. Last summer she went from unable to walk to being able to stand herself, and then crawl around the kitchen table....and then, after weeks and weeks - to recovery.

So he is prepared to wait. Because he too believes that if you wait, the body will cure itself.

I know, I know, I know.....

I will give him "a few days"? Play it his way? Or will I just call the day service people? Call the ambulance? 
If she is still almost immobile on the same spot of the carpet...by Monday?
These are questions I don't know the answer to myself. As the initial crisis of Tuesday night has passed, we have entered a holding pattern which is kind of manageable. She MAY have some internal injury we don't know about, but she is marginally brighter that yesterday and can move her left arm around - but can't put weight on it.
So a holding pattern.
Trying to keep her clean and dry on her lower body, trying to keep her warm and fed. Trying to keep her feeling positive.

So strange that this has all come out of the blue.
Tuesday morning I got her to have a bath, she ate lunch and at 3 pm set out with a ring to sell it....took herself on the subway downtown.  By 6 pm she was holed up in her favorite coffee shop with pain and fear.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Pain pain pain

Was going to be a blog posting about Okaasan suddenly announcing: "I have no money, I'm going to take this ring downtown and sell it!".

But, instead.

Early evening she was still downtown and we started the phonecalls to her to remind her to come home for dinner.

I have leg/knee pain and can't stand or walk. 
Get a taxi?
I can't go downstairs from the coffee shop.
Ask the staff to help you.
I can do it myself. I have to go to the toilet.
Ok now? Ask the staff to help you, get a taxi home.
I can't stand. I need the toilet.

Repeat over the next 30 mins. Same conversation.

Finally I drove downtown to get her.
She was sitting outside the coffee shop. With lots of pain in her left knee and arm. I helped her, agonizingly into the car.

The coffee shop staff said she'd come in around her usual time, and mentioned "falling". But had somehow gone to the second floor of the coffee shop as usual! And then got stuck.

Came home.
It's my rheumatism. It suddenly comes. Fall? Me? No, I didn't fall. It's rheumatism.
DS helped her from the car, painfully, agonizingly the 5 meters to the front door steps.
To the entrance hall chair.

Where she sat.
And sat.
I don't need dinner. I can stand myself. Just give me time. I don't need any help.

So we sat in the kitchen and ate our dinner.
Okaasan sat in the entrance hall.
The cats peered at her round the door frame.

We finished dinner. Washed up. She was still in the entrance hall.

Remembering the past situation we decided to lift her ON the chair.
Between the two of us we can just about do it. Okaasan weighs..what? 55 kg maybe?
With her screaming in agony and moaning we huff and puff the chair across the entrance hall, thru one door and to the toilet door.

I can do it myself! I can stand!

Okaasan then sits on the chair 1 meter from the toilet - for the next TWO hours.
Refusing help. Fighting help.

We go upstairs and watch a DVD. Come down sometimes to give her drinks of water. Get only refusal of any offers of help.

Come 10.30 pm our movie has finished.
We push the chair right up against the toilet, Okaasan is trying to hold onto the towel rail to pull herself up. Can't. 
Finally. Finally - DS puts his arms under her arms and hauls - really hauls her onto the toilet.
Screams of agony.

I am making telephone gestures to him and mouthing the word H-O-S-P-I-T-A-L-!! and he is shaking his head.

Then another struggle to get her off the toilet. He is standing behind her - between her back and the toilet, I am trying to position the chair as close as possible at the front. Then we are dragging the chair, lifting the chair out of the toilet - into the kitchen - into her room...and Okaasan is finally finally slipping/falling off the chair, onto the sofa and down onto the carpet.
Crying out in pain constantly.

It was a looong evening.
From 7.45 pm to midnight.

And then, just now we  were all awake at 6 am and we've done it again.
Carpet to chair. Chair carried/dragged to the toilet. And all the way back again.

But - we have managed to persuade her to put on the old people diaper pants. Because he can take the day off work today. I can't. He can't get her to the toilet alone. It's the first time she has agreed to let us put her into them.

I know. Hospital would be a really good idea.
Maybe she did fall downtown. There are no external wounds. Her knee looks swollen. And this time her arm or hand - or both - are painful. It suggests she fell and put out her arm to break the fall.
But it's the old story. Utter refusal by Okaasan and her supported by DS to even consider help.
At one point last night I was half way up the stairs to the telephone to call the ambulance myself. Trying to remember the emergency number in Japan - then she cried out and he shouted at me to come help again, and I was back downstairs in chair-lifting mode.

And so - here we are again.

I actually wish this would happen when he isn't here. Then I could just call the ambulance myself and get professionals involved. I don't care if she is angry with me. I don't understand why he lets her decide the course of inaction.

So. Here we are.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Onward truckin'

Friends and students ask: How's Okaasan?
And I say: Doing ok. Life goes on in her routines. No big dramas. Luckily. Summer is easier, because he and I are home and looking after her. We fill in the gaps of stuff that she can't/won't do...and life goes on. Almost 5 years now?

And so it is. Not exciting bloggable dramas...just general calm and routines.

Here she is a week or two ago - engrossed in picking the soy beans off a plant that a neighbor gave us. Had to find her special, flower arranging scissors to do it and enjoyed arranging the newspapers and towels on the carpet etc. Sorted out the good beans.
I started doing the job myself in the kitchen, but suddenly realised it was exactly the kind of job Okaasan should be doing - good for her brain and hands, and giving her a feeling of contribution to family life, an opportunity to do something she knows - and to show a British woman what to do with this most Japanese of foods.

We've had a few family meals out to local restaurants. Had a few toilet accidents. Found more than a few old food packages with rotting food inside. Baths and laundry. Dole out the money.

Slightly interesting...but only slightly!!...she has several times mixed up the TV remote and the cell phone. Waves the cell phone at the TV and wonders why it isn't changing channels or turning off.
And when we ate soba noodles at home recently, she twice tried to drink the noodle dipping soup - mistaking it for a glass of wheat tea? Even though we were talking about noodles, and 1 meter away her son was standing at the kitchen counter and dishing out noodles.
She still picked up the brown liquid to drink.

A little sign of beginning to mix up objects that should be familiar.

But really nothing else to report on the Okaasan front. We are enjoying the end of summer, with food festivals, friends and working events.

Have to start thinking about Okaasan and winter activity soon. Whether to try and get her interested in day care and hula dance. Or just to give up on that and go directly to arranging a taxi once or twice a week for her.
The taxi driver could come and get her and drop her off at the local subway station, so she could take herself downtown for a walk. Then some system to get her home again.
She needs to be going out at least once a week to see more than her room and the TV.

Anyway. All calm.