Saturday, 29 November 2014

A subtle change...

There's been a change in Okaasan.

Her walking power/ability/confidence has diminished. She is happier to be taken out and led by the hand round streets or a shopping center. With a kind of mask face....

And Dear Son is right in it.

This week he has taken his mum out several times, walking round local streets and on trips in the car to supermarkets (including Costco again). It's good. He is spending time with her and getting to judge her mental and physical ability more.

He is worried about the walking. He says she is really precarious when she walks, tripping over small rough surfaces or slight slopes. Threatening to teeter and topple at any moment. Holding his hand - and she takes his hand very willingly - gives her confidence to walk.
She is still walking a long way. They walked from home to my classroom one evening for a family trip out to a restaurant, and  she's walked all over Costco.

So, she isn't so weak and incapable.
But somehow her balance? Her confidence? Her coping with a change in surface - all has declined since summer.

So he has taken her out almost every day this week.

One more week of him being at home. Maybe. Then the ski season starts. And she is my responsibility.

I can take her out at weekends, in the car to a safe walking place. And on Wednesdays the day service helper will be in charge. DS doesn't think she should go out alone....and Okaasan's attitude to using a stick is...hmmm....not great.

So. A new stage we've reached.
I see other families doing this a lot. The aged member being led by the hand, or steered by the elbow by a middle aged family member. Sometimes the aged one is marching with determination, but usually they are passively being lead and not really connecting with stuff happening around them.

Tonight we went to a local store and while I whizzed around grabbing our dinner and cat food, DS walked his mum around two floors...she gripped his hand and walked willingly with him.

Will she walk with me like that? She takes my hand if she is getting in and out of the car, and on steps. I wonder if she'll walk with me hand in hand.

When we moved to this house 5 years ago Okaasan took long, daily walks all over this area and regularly went downtown by train.
That narrowed to fixed routes locally and downtown. A few falls. Less and less going downtown. Over ambitious distances locally. Then the past few months less and less actually going out herself....

A new stage of all of this....

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The winter plan...

The plan is: every Wednesday  late afternoon a day care person will come to the house, help Okaasan get ready for going out, take her by taxi to the local big supermarket, walk around it with her for exercise and chat, come home by taxi, cook/heat up food for her dinner and leave her to eat it.
I will be out working. DS will be away ski teaching.

That's the plan.

The day care manager, Dear Son and maybe Okaasan...have agreed to that.

I was out at work. But I agree to that.

It'll start next week. And we'll see if that is a good idea. Exercise/chat/someone apart from me to stimulate Okaasan's body and brain in the long winter months.

DS says Okaasan was a bit negative about it all - of course didn't think she needed outside help etc. But the carrot of "going to the supermarket for a walk" seemed to work.

Crossed fingers.

One side point: she is happy to go to Supermarket A...but not Supermarket B, because "the staff are bullies"......first we've heard of her having a negative about that supermarket. We wonder what happened to her there, or what she thinks happened to her there.... need to see this cat picture...current cat craze sweeping Japan....Neko Montage....give your cat cartoon eyes:-)
Have you got a cat handy now? Pick up a pen and a bit of paper - give it a go!

Saturday, 22 November 2014


Did I ask Okaasan how to cook burdock and carrots?
I came home on Monday at 6 pm after 4 hours of classroom time and NINETY minutes of the dentist chair (ongoing and almost finished root canal treatment) and poured myself a large glass of Chardonnay. Flopped on the sofa with a cat draped over my knees.
Dragged myself upright enough to put the burdock and carrot in a miso soup creation, and heat up supermarket fried fish for dinner. Gave Okaasan 30 minutes of chat time at dinner.
And retreated back to a 2nd large glass of wine and more TV.

Didn't have the warm, relationship building joint cooking thing at all.
I have a dream, that if I wasn't working full time I would be spending lots of quality time with Okaasan chatting to and doing things with her to build our connections and give her fun in life.
But - too many days are like this Monday. Work comes first, and Okaasan care is limited to getting some kind of food on the table by 7 pm every day.
In between work we fit in the bathtimes/the walk times/the laundry/the cleaning/the lunches left on the table or ordered in for her.
Two people working don't have much extra time to give to quality caring.

We do what we can fit in, without feeling too guilty.

Meanwhile - DS is back from Tokyo and getting ready for his ski season.
I've turned up the nagging level so that he has been forced to call the day care manager and arrange a home visit for next week to discuss what they can do to help Okaasan this winter.
We are hoping for a friendly woman to come every Wednesday afternoon and take Okaasan out to a local big supermarket, let her walk and shop for snacks and magazines, bring her home and maybe cook some dinner for her. If that happens mid week thru December to March, then I can take her out at weekends.
If she gets out of the house and walks at least twice a week - it is a good enough basis for life.
Plus - if I can get that Nishi Guru exercise video set up....

Have to give up on going to day care for now. She is too negative about it. And DS isn't eager enough to push her.

We did a big clean of her room today. Got the carpet back from the dry cleaners and threw away a lot of papers and stuff in her room. 
Found more #$*?<" in a supermarket flyer...left on the heater in the kitchen :-( I'd noticed the paper there for a few days...hadn't realised what was inside the fold....


We really HAVE to check and clean her room and areas more now.....

Dear Son has realised that his mum's walking isn't steady at all. He doesn't want her going on her own to much. In fact she hasn't been out on her own for a walk for a week or two, and she has been downtown on the subway for maybe a month or more.
With winter coming her life is about to get much smaller...

and my life is about to get....BUSY!
This blog, which has been comatose during summer will probably liven up.

Monday, 17 November 2014

#$%* Happens

Hope you're not eating breakfast.

Cos it's unhealthy for you to eat breakfast and surf the Internet at the same time!

And you might find topics like this.

Found a nasty little parcel in Okaasan's room yesterday.
Casually left next to the sofa and the recycle newspaper box. A supermarket flyer crumpled up. ThankGOODNESS I didn't grab it.
Something brown and squishy inside.

Set me off on a hunt for the pants or pajamas that she'd been wearing at the time. Soon located the nice flowery jimjams I bought her this spring. Squishy and probably stained beyond rescue.

These "toilet accidents" at more than before. We use to find them in winter, or when her legs painful. Times when maybe she hadn't got to the toilet in time.
DS also has a theory that sushi is to blame. He's stopped taking her to sushi or buying it for meals at home. I think that's sad - she loves sushi and sashimi. A little is ok. But gorging out at a revolving sushi bar is probably a bad idea.
Maybe slightly old food in the fridge is also a bad idea?

Old people and their digestion? Or something more? We'll never know if it is something medically wrong. Cos she will never go to a doctor.

Anyway. About once a week now.

Can't talk to her about it. Tried that in the past. She doesn't remember the incident afterward.
Could try putting a toilet style trash box by the door in her room? Would that be enough of an association to get her to put soiled things there?

Onwards thinking.

Peaceful Sunday.
I got her into a bath, gave her lunch and then went out myself for a long walk and a movie.

Came home with a small amount of raw fish and tried to cook the burdock and carrot dish. It didn't look so good and Okaasan told me I'd done it wrong - I used to flare up at her advice. Now I just let it was over me and nod, and aplogise for being a bad cook. I have learned to control my flare up feelings over the last few years!
If I am home early enough tonight I might ask HER to show me how to cook it.
Or I might come in thru the front door, pour myself some Chardonnay and watch TV.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Winter caring warm up

Into my first weekend of winter care.
DS buggered off to Tokyo on Thursday morning - leaving me the health insurance card, and the number of the day care manager. No Letter of Authorization this time. That's ok, while he is drinking and eating his way round Tokyo he is easier to phone contact than somewhere out on a ski area in real winter.
He left on a lunchtime flight.
There were flurries of snow.
By 6 pm winter had arrived. It snowed non-stop from Thursday at 6 pm until Saturday at lunchtime. 10 -15 cm. Wet, heavy snow.
So, my trial run with Okaasan for this winter season really felt like winter.

First two days a bit crazy. The snow, I had dawn till dusk work. Came home between classes Thursday and Friday to prep dinner for Okaasan.
I ate with her Thursday. Quick before my work.
Thursday's White Lie was that DS was at a party.
Friday/Weekend's White Lie was that he has gone to Tokyo for a ski instructor's big meeting.
She doesn't seem bothered, either way.

So, she and  I did Saturday lunch together, and then Saturday dinner. Lunchtime I got her chatting about her hydrangea plant at her home in Saitama. A familiar story: how the old man who grew plants professionally gave her a hydrangea, how it was better than regular plants, how people in the street commented on it - but Okaasan wouldn't give them a cutting...because then everyone would come and take flowers.
Why do some stories in our life become THE stories we treasure and retell. Especially in dementia?
I guess this one has elements of special service/praise from others/home/flower?
But funny: when I broke the hamster wheel of chat about this famed hydrangea plant...."How nice, what color is it? Pink?"...Okaasan looked around the kitchen as if hunting for a clue right there: "Pink? no, I don't think so, what color? Not really a pink....."....before getting back onto the main rails with "...and there was this old man who grew plants professionally...."

Her memory stories are stories, rather than memories? Words that give a sense of comfort. Not the detail of the event?

Anyway, Saturday night dinner - I tried, oh I TRIED, to leave the silence as we ate and see if she would fill it herself. Nothing. She ate. I ate. The minutes ticked by. I said nothing. Neither did she. It is so unnerving. Silent eating.
Finally I asked her about her Japanese tea bowl that was on the table and got her onto a 15 minute hamster wheel about the bowl, the design, samurai, men doing tea ceremony/tea ceremony school etc etc

Apart from that: took her in the car to the big supermarket yesterday. Let her loose in there for 30 mins. Today she'll have a bath.

So. Winter mode.
I miss my man. My TV companion and joker. But in a way it is easier to be in full responsible mode for Okaasan. I will decide everything she does today: the bath, the lunch, the dinner. Probably even the curtain opening and closing times. Whether she goes out or not. Not. It's my turn today, she can stay home and watch TV,

Working life is busy at the moment. Classes, narrations and editing work. I'm happy. But tired this weekend. Lots of sitting and watching TV. I even went to bed at 9 pm last night.
The cats are amazed about snow. 4th year for them. But still amazed.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Okaasan in Costcoland

A little Japanese old lady in a strange land - where everything is bigger, brighter and much more fattening!
Dear Son took his mother to Costco, that emporium to the great American truth that you CAN buy everything cheaper.

I just wish I had a whole video of this event. But I was working.
He took her out for a Japanese lunch at a noodle restaurant, and then - because time was short and he needed shopping and she needed a walk - he spirited her away to a fantasy land of giant packaging, huge decorated cakes and Xmas illuminations that would light up half of Ohio.

She held onto the trolley all the way round the store, for balance. And bought mammoth bags of dried seaweed snacks and rice crackers. He steered her AWAY from the giant bottles of shochu liqour.
And they bought the big pizza and came home.


In the evening we ate the pizza and I asked her about the experience. She kind of remembered going. But had absolutely no comment or conversation about it. This is dementia in action: a few hours after that whole experience she had nothing to say about it. For sure, she has never been in a shop so huge and with so many unfamiliar things.
But no comments. Just vague agreement sounds and a few words when we talked about the shop and how cheap the pizza is, how US military families come shopping there etc.

Yesterday DS took okaasan for a walk locally to the ordinary supermarket. Walked around it and came home again.
In the evening he commented: "Her walking really isn't very good. I had to hold her hand most of the time. She almost lost her balance. Her walking isn't good. She can't go alone..."

Today he leaves for Tokyo for a week.
He'll come back and then the ski work will start.

Yo ho HO!

When he comes back I told him we will fix the winter arrangements for Okaasan.
Day worker visiting for chat and cooking?
Taxi driver to take her somewhere?
Nishi-guru's exercise video on a timed loop?

and...that letter of authorization to allow me to send Okaasan to hospital if all else fails.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Walking again

Son and mother have just gone out for a Sunday afternoon walk round the neighborhood.

She is better again. A few rough days, still not eating lots. But much brighter and, most importantly, she can get up off the carpet and stand unaided. Walk to the toilet. Walk to the kitchen table.
Today is the first time out since the fall last week.

So, there was 48 hours of DS having to pick her up off the carpet. Standing behind her with his arms under her arms and pulling her upright. I can't do that.
She is out of diapers and back into her own underwear. And changing herself.

So yes - it is good this fall happened while he is here to see the results and imagine what it would be like if I was here alone.

Before he goes to Tokyo I will get the contact numbers of the day service people. They will be my first call. Out of hours, or a real emergency it will be an ambulance.

And yes - probably a GREAT idea to get a letter of authorization from him to say that he recognises I am responsible for her care and that over her wishes I can decide to get her to a hospital.
He does feel that generally - although I think we disagree at one point a hospital may be necessary. But heavens - it is ONLY a hospital! We are not talking here about committing her to a mental institution. Only hospital. For like...oh I don't know - care and comfort?

And Okaasan?
Doesn't really remember that she fell down. Sometimes she does (because we've told her), but generally no memory of that.

Onwards into winter. This will be our SIXTH winter with Okaasan.
I started this blog in 2008, when Okaasan came to live with us.
And here we are 6 years later.

And I am still trying to perfect my miso soup.


Friday, 7 November 2014

Another story of dementia

Just found this story of a woman and her mother in Japan - like it.
Japanese government announced this week more research and money etc for dementia, so it's all in the media again.
Anyway - this is a nice story of Akiko and her mother Asayo.

Mom Turned Into a Monster

Another fall

Mid-afternoon, Dear Son is  watching TV because his summer job is finished and November is his off month. I'm away at work. Okaasan is out for a walk.

He hears the door bell.
Looks outside and sees an AMBULANCE.
"Is this KN's home? We brought her home. She fell down and couldn't stand up...but she refuses to go to hospital and she doesn't appear to be seriously injured. So we brought her home."

Fall. Again. Somewhere locally, because she had only been out for an hour or so and hasn't been downtown for a month or more.

Looks like no injuries. Amazing really, to fall at 84 years old and not get injured.
But because she couldn't/wouldn't stand up somebody called at ambulance.

She doesn't seem so bad. He helps her into her room and she says she'll eat a little later.
He comes to pick me up from work because we had a discount ticket for a local curry place. We go early for dinner. It's near home.
3/4 thru dinner his phone rings. Okaasan wants to go to the toilet, but can't stand up.
He leaves the table and the restaurant and drives home quickly. Helps her. Comes back to finish his food. Then we return.

Cue evening...and now an early morning.... of DS in full-on carer mode with his mother. She says she has constipation. He actually tried to um...give her two suppositories...and helped her to and from the toilet, half carrying her...and changed her diapers twice...and kept a running monologue of kind, helpful, encouraging words.
Really he did. Is doing. Great. I am just a bystander.

Giving someone a suppository is the ultimate service.
I know. Cos I did it for him earlier this year...

She says her knee hurts. Again. She is very nervous about putting any weight on it. Can't haul herself up off the carpet really.
Same old. But at least this time she is letting him put his arms under her arms and haul her up and around.

It is good it happened this week.
Next week he goes away for 5 days to Tokyo to see old friends.
It is very good for him to experience this with her - and imagine what it would be like if he wasn't here.
So I am staying as the bystander on this. Just taking out the trash bags and making sympathetic noises.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Hair maketh the woman

Huge improvement!
Washed, cut short and permed - Okaasan looks so different. Obviously feels better too. Didn't remember that she'd been to that salon all...but happy with her cut.

And she really, really needed it.
According to the stylist is was FOUR months since her last visit! I had no idea it was that long. Poor woman - relying on me to arrange that stuff....she'll be tripping over her tresses before the daughter-in-law comes to the rescue.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Don't worry :-)

Hey caring readers! Don't worry about me!

Thankyou for your comments on the hair-salon saga - but reading thru them I got the feeling that the situation had come over as more serious than it was. Must be losing my writing skills.
DS wasn't on my case in any nasty, aggressive way - more like wearily wondering why Okaasan and Me were going in different directions on the topic.
And the "guilt" was tongue-in-cheek - me feeling guilty of "oh bugger, I've over-managed again".

So. Don't worry. A momentary stressy thing. Just a reminder that I should try to pay attention to what she wants to do, and try to facilitate that...not force her to march to my decisions.

Weather is bad today. He is isn't working: so he is in charge of getting her to have a bath. And then taking her to the salon this afternoon :-)