Saturday, 31 December 2016

Another year over...

Getting to be a custom this.

Last night of the old year. Here - alone - with wine and chocolate, the Tv show on Japanese TV. 

Probably won't make it to midnight. Too old.

Today was good.. I went to my favorite ski resort. Enjoyed long, long runs...met various young, friendly Chinese boarders and skiers. Caught Pokemons. Did the last shopping of the year on my way home. Dear Son hopes to be home tomorrow night.

Cooked Okaasan noodles and herring and veggies. Pretty successful this year. Made sure her TV was off the shopping channel and settled her down with the singing entertainment that ushers in a new year for Japan.

So. Here she is. Survived another year of care by casual neglect with her youngest son and the foreign girlfriend. 86 years old and hanging on.
A definite decline mentally and physically this year. But hanging on. I think she is happy, mostly. I hope so!

Thankyou for reading this blog this year. It's been very patchy in 2016. A bit boring. But I keep on. I am much more relaxed now in my role of daughter in law/carer. Better at ignoring the stuff that doesn't matter. Just letting her be. Kinder? I hope so...

Happy New Year from me and the cats...

Tonight millions of Japanese will go to shrines to pray for health and happiness in 2017. I hope to be healthier in 2017 (after I've finished off all the Christmas chocolate), and I hope to do more kayaking/hiking/travelling.

So. Feeling fat and sleepy.....certainly won't make it to midnight! 
See you in 2017.

Friday, 30 December 2016

New Year food shopping

Here we are again - heading into O-shogatsu. That most Japanese of times of the year. In which I attempt to give an old lady a traditional experience, while her family are busy elsewhere.
Me and Okaasan.
Well, maybe Dear Son might make a guest appearance. January 1st? Maybe.

Today was a busy day for Okaasan.
Partially because I felt guilty after a French course dinner with old colleagues, and then a Thai lunch with a friend. And a lovely morning skiing locally.
Time to put in some Okaasan service.

First it was bath time.
Then it was hair drying and brushing time! She let me! In between trying to pick up bits of trash off the carpet....
Then it was lunch.
Then I managed to get in and vacuum her room.
Then get dressed and car ride to the supermarket.

New Year food shopping.
There is still one more day, so I decided to see what she wanted to buy, and then buy what else we need tomorrow.

First the supermarket bakery.....where Okaasan honed in on a tray piled high with chocolate scones. I was glancing around for the tray and tongs that customers use in a Japanese bakery to take your selection.
Glanced back and found Okaasan grasping a chocolate scone in her hand and peering at it closely....waving it at me: "Look! this is good!"
Shop staff far right having a fit at the sight of a customer handling food!!!
 I'm bowing and apologizing, and running round a table of pizza slices to grab the tray and tongs - and get the scone OUT of Okaasan's hands and onto the tray.

Then we set off round the supermarket....

She pushed the trolley. Chose some fruit,  some fish paste roll, some sweet rice drink and a tray of New Year sweets.
That was it.
No interest in the noodles, no interest in the traditional vegetables or the rice cake....nothing. Really amazing. In past years I can remember dissuading her (or secretly grabbing stuff out of the trolley and reshelving it) from stocking up to cook and feed a crowd of guests. Or the year I had Japanese cooking lessons and made a load of stuff, and then she went out on December 31st and bought more....This year, no interest. A few bits.

Quite a change. Really. More like shopping with a child, who only sees what they want to eat. Sweet stuff, fish paste and rice drink. It was easy.

Okaasan waited patiently on a chair while I packed up the shopping, and then came back to the car willingly...with just a little pause near the bakery and the chocolate scones...

Phew. No piles of strange vegetables to prepare, cut and cook with soy sauce :-)


I leave you with that most traditional time of year...the bakery has created a bread tribute to the animal character of 2017..

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Wallowing in grief

Oh god. When will it stop?

George Michael. Carrie Fisher...Richard Adams....2016 is just taking 'em all. Even the plane full of Russian army band members....

And adding to that. 

Dear Son was trying to call me many times yesterday, during my last working day of the year. Ominous. Calling me daytime.

Okaasan had burned the house down? Useless Older Sibling was dead in the family home with unpaid bills drifting? Work schedule???

Yup. Third guess lucky.

Dear Son was calling to say:"I won't be home for New more requests from rich foreign January 1st? 2nd?"

Of course I was all grown up and supportive about it. Congratulated him on being the most employed ski teacher in Hokkaido. Reassured him that all was well at home. See you "next year" joke joke....

Then I stood on the subway station and fought back the tears. Bugger. Bummer. And other British swear words.

When did he leave for ski work? Something like December 14? 15? Ages ago. First it was "back at Christmas"...then "before New Year" the ski resorts will close early May...

I AM ok. Really. Independent etc etc Can do it. Just. You know.....
It would be nice to have someone else sharing the house care - taking out the trash, remembering to buy cat food, creating dinners out of tofu....
I have all sorts of fun planned for winter holidays - dinners and lunches out. Skiing. Eating chocolate. Doing my accounts. 

But. Still.

Alone with Okaasan for Christmas AND New Year.

ha ha ha...

*** Noticed yesterday that Okaasan's favorite Macdonald's has had a revamp. This summer it was the supermarket she likes to go to. Now the Macdonald's. 
I have a theory that the supermarket renewal and redesign was bad for her mental condition this the home of chicken Mcnuggets and a cup of coffee has undergone a renewal and is all red and black with plush seating. Mac-Japan trying to rebrand itself.

Monday, 26 December 2016

A non-Facebook Christmas

Don't you hate Facebook at Christmas?
All those pictures of food and jollity.
Other people's Christmas.

Mind you, if I was having a Christmas like that I'd be hitting "Post" button too.

So here, for the non-Facebook Christmas...

Dear Son is still away. 3 weeks now. Maybe home for New Year....maybe he ran off with a ski instructor nymphet and hasn't told me yet. When he tells the ski nymphet about his 86 year old mum he'll come back to me...

Christmas in Japan this year was a wonderful 3 day weekend. The Emperor's birthday, then Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. 

Then Friday morning it started snowing here. And snowing. By evening we were thigh deep. A base of almost 1 m. Some 6,000 people camping out at the airport, trains and planes stopped. Holiday plans in a mess.

I was meant to be going to a friend's potluck party in a city near the airport, with a vegetarian lasagna. But I got on two trains at the chaotic station. One cancelled, the other threatening to be an all-station stopper into the snowy I got off the trains and fled the crowds. Took the lasagna to a friend's home in the city.

Day Service came and took Okaasan the storm. These people are amazing! 

Christmas Eve was snow shoveling day. All day. It topped up my headcold nicely. I had no energy left to ski.

Then one cat went missing for 24 hours. I didn't sleep thru worry. Imagined him buried under a meter of snow. I waited up, failed to sleep...didn't see Santa...but finally the cat came home at 3 am. 

Christmas Day I sat on my own with a coffee and the TV.
Took my presents from under the cat tower tree and opened them....

Really, thanks to UK friends and students, I felt it WAS chocolates, bath products, silly books and more chocolates came tumbling out. I had chocolate Santas for breakfast.

Lunch with Okaasan. Leftover vegetarian lasagna for me. Then took her out for a walk to the local supermarket. Millions of Japanese people had done their Christmas shopping, so it was quiet. We walked and looked at stuff. Had coffee in the Macdonalds. 

She is passive really. Just follows what I suggest. Sat for ages and looked out of the Macdonalds window at the parking area.

Came home. Ate more chocolate. Watched a Colin Firth movie on TV. Slept in a blanket with the cats on the floor.

Heated up supermarket chicken for dinner. Decorated the table. Wrapped a small present for Okaasan....a hand towel with a rose on it and a Christmas cookie. She opened the present and put it to one side on the table....I had to talk about it to get her to pick it up again and go thru the motions of talking about a present....and she thanked me sweetly. I think at some level she does know how much I do for her and appreciates it.

We talked about the cats. And roses. And the Santa candle decoration.

Then I came back upstairs to eat shortbread. And chocolate. Drank the plum brandy a student made.

Went to bed by 9pm knackered.

Such an exciting Christmas!

Dear Son? The bugger was  at a ski instructor's house for Christmas dinner. I saw pictures. Facebook.....I was invited too. But it was a 2 hour drive away and today - 26th - I had a 10 am lesson in the opposite direction. No chance. 

So. There you have it. 

A non-Facebook Christmas.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

A good deed...?

Hey! It's us!
Okaasan and Me.
Happy Christmas to readers and lurkers everywhere (specially the Russian spam-bots that I fear may be boosting this blog's viewing numbers).

Yesterday, a picture of happiness. Ladies having lunch together, downtown at Christmas. 

I had a rare morning free on a weekday and took Okaasan out to avoid the weekend crowds, and to go near the center of a city with a small chance of finding a parking space in late December.
We drove downtown  together chatting about this and that, and then this and that again...and again. FOUND a parking space near the department store and held hands to negotiate the icy streets and reach Okaasan's favorite soba noddle restaurant at 11.30 am for an early lunch.

After lunch we walked a few floors of the department store, and then outside to walk one block to Okaasan's favorite coffee shop, where the young staff actually remembered what she always orders (because she didn't!), and I settled her down with coffee, cake and a magazine at a window seat.
Then, I could escape to do some Christmas shopping for an hour.

Back at 2 pm to get her and she came happily. A little tired in the legs to get back to the parking area and endless "where are we going questions?" indicated that she was mentally tired too. But, back to the car and drove home.
All a success. Including a nice guilt-inducing photo of the lunch to Dear Son saying "Look. it's take YOUR mother to lunch day....dear...." He owes me. Always.

At home Okaasan seemed nicely animated again and even offered to wash up dirty dishes in the sink for me. She put on her apron and I thought she was going to do it...but 15 mins later when I passed thru the kitchen on my way to work....dirty plates in a pile and Okaasan in her apron settled in by the TV. 
Oh well. Never mind. The lunch was a success.

And then.....

I had lessons 3 pm to 9.30 pm.
Left food for Okaasan and cats. Did a long slog and at 9.50 pm came home with a bottle of Chardonnay crying my name from the upstairs fridge...exhausted.

Okaasan was in her room waving official looking papers at me and looking over-active....

My heart sank.
Chardonnay whimpered.

"What's this? Day service? It says here day service people come, something to do with me? They come? Dear Son pays money for this? Why? I don't need this. I go to Doutor coffee shop on my own. I went to Doutor coffee shop. I go out. The old lady across the road, she  doesn't go out. But I go out. What is this? Day service. Why???????"

Oh god help me.

I kept it together. Just. Level voice. Calm. Not angry.
Explained. Many times:
Winter. You can't go out. Dangerous. Dear Son working and away. Me working Monday to Friday. Sitting here for 5 days without exercise or meeting anyone is bad for your health. So day service come - you go with them to Seiyu for shopping. It's FUN! It's good for your health. December to March.

Well, almost calmly. I confess I had us both standing in the entrance hall with the front door open to the cold and snowy night to demonstrate: LOOK! Snow! Winter! Dangerous!

But. Mainly calmly and kindly.

We stood in front of the calender too where "DS" is marked on every Tuesday and Friday in December. "They came? here? This week? Last week? Here?" She had no memory of that.

So hard. She can't get it. Can't hold onto the ideas of "winter" - "danger" - "exercise" "health" - "go with someone" "we are working" - "day service lady".
Just can't. Trying to explain is so hard as she can't hold the ideas long enough to connect them.

Dear Son doesn't even try to explain. He just tells her: you do it. I decided.

It was lucky that she didn't start saying "Why do I need to go with day service? I can call a taxi myself and go!" - as she did last year, because that of course gets us into the tricky topic of her dementia-state and the fact that she doesn't have the self-motivation and drive to MAKE a decision like that anymore, to decide to do it and then carry out the necessary steps to order a taxi and be ready when it comes.

Dear Son's simple diktat is better?

I should probably do the same. But I try to be kind and explain. 

After 10 minutes of round and round, I managed to get the papers out of her hand and ended the conversation with : "Dear Son in home next week, talk to him about it".
And ran to my Chardonnay.

Not sure where she got the papers  from. Did they arrive in the mail and she opened it? It is the January schedule etc


I actually found myself wishing I hadn't taken her out at lunchtime and to her favorite coffee shop. It over-activated her, made her think about the coffee shop and downtown. Made her wonder WHY she needs day service. I know that is bad of me -  should be happy that she enjoyed the trip out and got mentally stimulated.
But a calm, docile Okaasan in front of the TV and coming to the kitchen table for feeding is easier to manage.

Anyway. I've got the day service papers away from her now. Hoping that today she has forgotten all of that. Hoping. day service will come tomorrow.

Friday, 16 December 2016

"Anything" on the table...

She ate it. The soil...and seeds...for the cat grass kit.....!!!


My fault because I left it on the kitchen table in the morning. I'd just found it in a little-used cupboard and thought: "ahh, good for winter, I should start growing cat grass for the cats again...."
But I'd left it on the table and in the rush to work forgotten it.

Also on the kitchen table - on the usual place mat where Okaasan sits - were a box of rice, another of simmered Japanese veggies, some salad on a plate, a pack of soup and a fish sausage. The usual lunch pickings for Okaasan to heat in the microwave and eat.

But the cat grass seeds and soil packs were 10 cm to the left.....

What did she think they were? I know Japanese food can look pretty odd. All the seaweed, fish and dried vegetable products. But they look odd to a non-Japanese person. To an old Japanese lady who has spent her life dealing with the stuff not so much.
I'm not sure WHAT she thought it was!

But food, for sure.

I got home between classes to prep dinner and as I chirped a greeting into Okaasan's room I noticed the two packets of brown-something on her kotatsu table. And then the bowls...

Bowls in two places - kitchen table and kotatsu. So she'd tried it in the kitchen, and found it strange, and then....forgetting that experience...a few minutes later - taken the package of stuff in another bowl into her room to taste as a Tv-watching snack!

Oh my God.

Well. She is still alive. I guess the seeds are just a kind of seed. If actually poisonous her body would be reacting by now...

So. Lesson learned. Must be very careful in future about what I leave on the kitchen table! I already know that if I want any chance of eating fruit or cookies myself, I should take some upstairs for later. Okaasan will often eat all of something over a day - all the oranges, all the cookies....far more than a non-dementia sufferer would eat.

But, until now I've never thought about the dangers of leaving a non-food item on the kitchen table.

And yes, there IS other food in the kitchen that she didn't eat. The fruit bowl was on a side counter and in the fridge were more fish sausages and some yogurts.

But Okaasan sampled the soil and seeds...

* Dear Son has left the building. Gone ski working. It was for 10 days, until Xmas. Then came the phone call last night....till December 30....sigh. Ski widow. 

Plus sides: TV remote 100% control! Computer wordgame time without guilt, even LESS housework....reading time.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Hate people who dress up animals. hate 'em....

Hi. Still here. Had a record breaking snowfall last weekend that wiped out Sapporo. 60 cm in 24 hours? 29 years record? Whatever. A whole lotta snow.

There is a blue car under that pile on the left.

I spent a lot of time snow clearing, and of course caught a cold. Spent Sunday wiped out and am just getting my energy back. Of course I worked, didn't take medicines and didn't go to the doctor - all things which amazed my Japanese friends and students. Us Brits, we are tough. And anyway - it's a head COLD! Not a life threatening condition. Stiff, chapped and sore upper lip - carry on chaps.

Good excuse to eat a lot. "Good for the cold".

Dear Son came back in time to take over snow clearing duties and cook a lot of food for the freezer - he really IS a catch of a Japanese man. He was home 4 days. And now gone again, till Christmas.

Okaasan is getting into the routine of the day care visits twice a week. A new helper is going to come, so there have been TWO women visiting - as the old passes the baton to the new, such as telling her the intricacies of our dirty kitchen. I came home on Friday night to find Okaasan sitting straightbacked at the kitchen table, with an untouched food box in front of her, and two women sitting opposite her :-) 

No fightback from her yet about this day care.
We'll see.

I saw a TV program about a family where the grandfather had moved homes to be nearer his son, but the whole move had upset his until-then mild dementia...and within a month he had plunged into far more confused state, which he never really moved out of again. The experts were discussing how people living with dementia are not good with change in their environment or routines - and how a very rigid routine in itself is sometimes a precursor of dementia because it demonstrates the need for people to find comfort in the same, same, same.

Okaasan's condition has worsened this summer. Her mental and communication, and her physical.

What changes? Nothing at home, that I can think of...well, we had the Injured Cat Crises which distracted DS and me for months.

Outside environment?
The new apartment building across the street, all summer. 8 am to 6 pm. Bang, bang construction sounds. Trucks and men.
Okaasan's fave supermarket Seiyu had a complete revamp, while still open. Every time you went the design and layout changed, as they revamped the store. It confused me. It must have confused her far more.The magazines, yogurt and fish paste sausages were gone...somewhere...

Whatever. Winter 2016 and Okaasan is further along in her confusions. Christmas and Japanese New Year we come.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Walking. Together.

So. New normal.

I took Okaasan for a walk.

She needed a little persuading to go out, but I reassured her that I knew which roads were icy and so she got herself together and we set out together on Sunday afternoon for a stroll round the local streets.

Awful balance problems. She seems to teeter along - like she is on tip toe all the time - almost ready to go off balance and into trouble. Her whole body appears to be forward all the time.

I grasped her hand and guided her firmly up the street and to the main road.

We walked/teetered. She grabbed onto walls and street lights, shop windows and signs. Kept stopping and looking up and down the street.

"Are you tired? Shall we take a break?"

"No, not a break. I am just looking and thinking where to go. ...."


And often really holding onto something, like a street pole, with both arms. Looked very odd.

But we walled. And stopped. And sat on walls and benches. 

No way could she walk to the Seiyu supermarket where she always used to go and I was wondering what to do when we got to the crossroads. We could come back by taxi, but I doubted she had the energy to GET there in the first place. 
At the corner she hesitated. Looked around. I made vague comments about the Japanese sweets shop and a cup of coffee in the other direction....and after a few minutes she came with me...almost willingly.

At the sweets shop almost fell INTO a basket of sweets on a rickety table outside the shop. Then bought some rice cakes. Back to the station, into the convenience store, toilet, magazine and finally.....agreed to let me lead her home.

Obviously exhausted.

She enjoyed telling me "this is what I always do, sit here, buy my magazine here, go to the toilet here, walk here"...and I let her instruct me. But I managed to make it a short enough walk an get her home again.

But. shocked really.

She used to walk so far alone, miles actually. For hours. Not now.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Signs of the future

It says "Toilet". It's on the kitchen door. And there are two others: on the door from Okaasan's room to the kitchen, and on the toilet door.

We hope that helps her. Helps her to FIND the toilet, helps her to remember that is why she stood up, helps her to remember that maybe she should go to the toilet.
All of that.

Our new norm.

I hope she will leave the signs in place. A year or two ago we tried to put  signs on her clothes drawers to help her find things, but she ripped them all down within 24 hours.

This week we did a family trip to the local city office to get our My Number ID cards. Japan has introduced these cards, which has everyone in the country befuddled as to their usage. So, everytime Okaasanb asked us: "Why am I here? What should I do?" we were as in the dark as she. Just waited for the counter staff to call us and exchange bits of paper for other bits of paper and card.

Day Service also started. Two hours on a Friday. Dear Son and I went out to dinner together to leave the care worker alone with Okaasan. Apparently she went out willingly.

He started ski work today. Next week more. I am about  to have crazy December of end of year parties and Christmas/New Year preparations....into winter HERE WE GO!

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Winterising Okaasan

Our new normal. Wonderful handgrip structure in the hallway. Useful when we roll home drunk and can't get up the step....

Day service have taken us under their wing for winter. Like all of us in north Japan at the moment, busy winterising our homes and gardens by wrapping/tieing/staking plants - the winter care system for Okaasan is falling into place.

Twice a week. But maybe only an hour on the 2nd day, because they have staff shortages.
Trip to the supermarket by taxi to walk around inside.
Dinner and chat.
And this snazzy handgrip in the entrance hall.

I feel a little bad about taking up a care worker time for our old lady - she isn't SO bad. But also twice a week would be great for her body and brain, and help me enormously. If the weather is so bad at the weekend, or I am busy...I will at least know she has been beyond the front door twice that week.

Dear Son said that interestingly, Okaasan used the handgrip without any comment. As if it had always been there. So, useful. It will cost us only Y300 a month to rent!

He took Okaasan out yesterday to walk round the vastness of American shopping that is our local Costco. They stopped off in a local supermarket on the way home...Okaasan went to the toilets...only Japanese squat style...she got stuck. Couldn't stand up , down on the floor...Dear Son and staff assistance to get the cubical door open and Okaasan up off the floor.

It's good that he has these experiences with her. Reinforces in his brain that his mum needs our watch and care and help.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Day care cometh...

Tomorrow in the kitchen there will be a summit of Dear Son, Okaasan, Day Care Manager and maybe a cat, to decide what kind of help we will get this winter.
I will be away on a work trip that got rescheduled - somehow addressing a group of local government people IN JAPANESE for 40 minutes about how to attract foreign visitors to their area.

Anyway - in the kitchen the important people, plus cat, will decide whether Okaasan gets once or twice a week visits from the care worker for chat, shopping by taxi and dinner.

Dear Son was shocked when I told him about Okaasan's lost in the street episode, and has readily agreed that we should try and increase her care level this winter. Twice a week we hope. She is already weak about standing up off the carpet at home. She really needs more exercise.
Still don't think we can get her to go out in a mini bus to a care center and join others...she is still too aware of things to pull that one off. I think there would be a fight.
But three to four months of twice a week visits.

Winter, here we go.
Bloody FREEZING here today. Coldest for years for a November day. We walked in the park early this morning and snow if coming. Maybe one of our last walks like this?

And....ho ho ho....if you want to see what Oyomesan looks and sounds like...and what a messy room can look like on TV....check out the first 4 minutes of this made for foreign-TV show....I had a job to report on a morning fish market in my area.

I think I look strange. Nervous. And behind me you can see the chair holding the door firmly closed..because beyond that was a lurking cat with a dead rat... is the link...J-Trip Plan/NHK World TV.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Pokemon to the rescue :-)

Yes. That's a click bait title...but actually true.

Yesterday Pokemon rescued Okaasan. Kind of.

I'd been out working and at lunch with a friend all Saturday morning, unusual for me to work at a weekend. But a high level translator group invited me. Lots of translators and interpreters gearing up in Sapporo now as we'll stage the 2017 Asia Winter Games in February.

Anyway. The weather was finally a kind autumn day again. Okaasan hadn't been out for a walk in a week. I called her from the restaurant and told her to go out.
45 mins I got home and she was still fussing around with sweaters and gloves, but I got her set up and escorted her down the street round melting snow lumps. Sent her on her way.
Her walking looked frail, but the weather was kind and the cell phone with GPS was in her bag. I noted the time and thought I'd probably go and get her in an hour or so.

Came back into the house, did a few things. you do...if you are addicted to Pokemon like me...I realised I was a little low on balls, and popped out to the local park to stock up.

To my surprise I could see Okaasan down the street, standing looking at the cars on the main road leading to the shops. Hmm..."must be frailer than I thought, she needs a rest after walking only so far...but good that she is pausing".

I went to stock up on balls.
10 mins later I circuited back to home. Okaasan was in the same position.
I watched her. She stood there. And stood.

I walked down to her. A confused, uncertain face -"I'm deciding where to go..."
I reminded her that the supermarket was straight. Offered to walk with her. Got rejected.

I left her. Walked the car....10 mins later I was back. Okaasan was in the same position.
Standing by the motorbike shop and the trash bins. Staring down the street.

How long? Maybe 25 mins in all? A street she has used regularly.
Lost. Not sure where it all was. For sure.

If I hadn't gone out to get balls for Pokemon - HOW long would she have stood there? Would somebody have helped her eventually? Would she turn around and make it home ok?
Pokemon luck!

Big light bulb moment. Why she hasn't been going out this summer. Confusion about location.
Totally. Coupled with frailty after not going out for a week, of course. We have reached that stage in her dementia. Sad. Walking out alone was her big pleasure. It kept her physically healthy and was an independent pleasure.


I persuaded her to get in the car. Took her to the supermarket. Picked her up an hour later in Macdonalds next door. Took her home for dinner. She was much brighter of course, having been out. The bad experience of standing by the roadside lost seemed to have gone - but I guess the bad feeling from that experience has got attached to "Going out" this summer and so...we are for sure entering a different phase in her care.

Spent my summer walking the injured cat on a leash.
Gonna be walking the Okaasan from now on...

Dear Son is still away. Back next week. I've got several big proof reading jobs and a speech in Japanese to prep. a Long week..

and oh hell...that fucker Trump won the US election. What a week....

Monday, 7 November 2016

Where IS the toilet?

Okaasan came home yesterday evening all happy from the hair salon.
New cut and perm. Looked good.
Dear Son had taken her to the salon thru an amazing November record-breaking 23cm of snow and then picked her up two hours later and brought her home.
I welcomed them in the hallway and went with Okaasan into her room - hanging up her coat, switching on the TV etc.

"I want to go to the toilet. Where is the toilet?" came the voice behind me.
She looked around the room and the kitchen beyond. The living space she has been in every day for the past 8 years...and had no idea where the toilet might have flitted to at the moment.

Oh god. It was amazing. 

I showed her. Go thru this door into the kitchen, then left into the hallway and that door in front of you is - as it has been for 8 years - the toilet.

Amazing. These moments of dementia in action just blow my mind.

Maybe. Just maybe she was confused about the place because I was talking about her hair cut and how nice it was. maybe she thought this was still the hair salon and didn't know where the toilet was.

But all around her was her own room. Her own clothes and Tv etc.

It was pretty amazing. And scary.

Time for signs to the toilet???

Recently she has soiled her clothes/pajamas more. We always assume it is because she can't stand up quick enough to reach the toilet. But maybe it is worse. maybe she stands and looks at the two doors in her room - and doesn't know where the toilet is?

A winter of Okaasaning - which I now make as a new verb - it has begun.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Winter arrives.

Wednesday was this....

Saturday is this....

BANG into winter in Hokkaido, north Japan. It is a little early, but there is rain in the forecast for next week. But, still impressive. Will put a dampener - snower?? - on my Pokemon Go addiction....

And for Okaasan the winter lock in will start. We'll have the meeting with the day care people soon and arrange for her weekly visits and trips out to the local store. Dear Son is finishing bike taxi work and off on holiday next week to Tokyo - then ski season will start. He will be away working a lot till March.

Sigh. And another winter of Okaasan and Me. Maybe the blog posts will increase!

Overall her condition has worsened this summer.

Loss of motivation/confidence to go out for walks alone.
Diminishing conversation.
Diminishing activity inside with towels, laundry, self-care.

We try to make the Japanese tea for her now after dinner each evening, because Okaasan is spooning in heaps of the expensive tea powder into a cup. Seems to have lots the knowledge of how much is enough.
Walking round the local store as a family the other day - once round each floor for walking exercise - we were stopped in pet supplies and Okaasan chose dog chews for the shopping basket....wonder what she thought they were???!! Snacks for in front of the TV?

Anyway. Sliding, snowily onwards...

Friday, 28 October 2016

Monthly drop in....

Once upon a time this blog was an hourly affair....then a daily you're lucky if I call in once a month.

I've been busy: being a TV star! Yes - my blog got scooped out by Japanese Tv and now I am in hot demand as a dementia X international family life X chocolate commentator on sofas across all channels.


But my activities for Hokkaido on Trip Advisor do get me into tourism monitoring. writing, advising work sometimes and this month has been full on. I will be a 4-minute guest reporter next month on "J-Trip Plan", a program by NHK World - made for Internet and foreign viewing.
It involved lots and lots and lots of technical checks, visiting a fish market and eating everything I could find and filming it...writing and more technical stress. And finally, last Friday a computer to studio piece to camera with the presenters. It'll be aired next month.
And I did a weekend trip to a rural region hoping to open up farm visits for foreigners, with wine tasting (my kinda work!!!), and there is another date for my Japanese speech at a tourism seminar in November.

So, last weekend it was wonderful to finally have an ordinary weekend at home. Preparing the garden for winter, doing laundry, arranging cat toys, catching Pokemon...

Dear Son too was working nights for 2 weeks and that finished. So we actually had conversations of more than two sentences.

Sunday I sent him and Okaasan out for Mother/Son lunch. She hadn't been out for days. And I needed to get into her room and do a monthly clean.

Put away her summer clothes, put winter clothes where she can see them, and threw out some of the multiple magazines, hid away the shopping bag gifts she gets from magazines and folded up pairs and pairs of her socks - it is braining training for ME to re-pair 40 pairs of little pink and brown ankle-length obviously impossible for Okaasan. I put them all in a basket on the floor where her sock pile is.

Makes me think: how long ago did her clothes shopping become repetitive? We all buy a color or style we like, of course. But from Okaasan's clothes evidence it's clear that for years she has been buying almost the same thing over and over again. The wine red shortーsleeved sweaters and T-shirts, the pink and brown socks, the flowery-pattern towels. Somebody should do a study on this - at what point shopping preferences slide into early-dementia repetitive buying.

So. End of October.
Trying to get her to go out. But she doesn't. We have to take her much more. I can see a winter of walking round shopping malls ahead of me...

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Gradual decline... blog writing......

No, actually Okaasan.
But yes I know - this is probably the longest gap in blog writing ever. The Summer of Cat sleep, work, two friend visits from the Uk, more no sleep, stress, work....then a holiday in America and the last night of Queen and Adam Lambert in Tokyo.....
All of those excuses.

Really not great recently.
A summer of decline for her.
Even Dear Son has noticed it - which says a lot, because he doesn't notice anything that isn't football, beer or cat related.

Okaasan seems to have lost her going out mojo. She even said to Dear Son: "Am I going out alone? It's not so fun. I don't feel like going out" and there have been many days when she stays home in front of the TV, with strange reasoning like: "The workmen in the apartment site across the road can see me going out...."

It's a change. She has always loved going out for a walk. Never wanted us to go with her. Proud and happy to go out independently. We wonder what happened. No fall, apparently. Maybe she got lost or felt disorientated? She has lost confidence in going out for a walk.
Not a great sign - if this means we have to walk with her more....just when I have escaped walking the cat on-a-lead duties, maybe Walking Okaasan will replace it.

Activity-wise she has declined too. The handwashing of underwear, small room cleaning activities....towel folding...has all declined this summer.

More toilet accidents and clothes soiling....

Conversation has diminished and got odder too. I visited Nihonbashi, an old area of Tokyo and thought that might be a nice memory trip for Okaasan as conversation.

A few years ago, if you gave her the jump off word "Nihonbashi" - she would set sail with the story: "Ahh, Nihonbashi, I used to go there. My husband's office was near there and sometimes if he forgot some important documents at home he would call me up and I would go to Nihonbashi to deliver the documents. And he gave me money and I'd go shopping in the big department store there, so actually I was happy to go all the way to the center of Tokyo....."

Last week I told her I'd been to Nihonbashi.
"Nihonbashi. My husband worked there. I went there......but the war there wasn't gasoline for cars, so my father couldn't work, no gasoline. I didn't have school lessons in the war. I worked....."

The husband/father mix up, and "work" went from husband/work to father/work and then to me/work and wartime within one or two sentences. Wartime Japan and childhood. The years of being a mother and wife are fading.

Many times now at family mealtime she hardly enters our conversation unless we directly talk to her. We chat - even in Japanese - but she concentrates on the food and dropping bits and looking for them. And at the end of mealtime sits and waits for whatever happens next.

But there have been some happy things too: we did a trip to a shopping mall and she and I sat together in foot massage machines with the shop staff praising Okaasan's amazing leg muscles.
I came back from America and gave her a flowery scarf, which she obviously liked so much that she put it on immediately and sat in her pajamas all day wearing it :-)

Today we are doing a family outing to the last day of the autumn food festival in the park. Hope she enjoys it.

Monday, 15 August 2016


Hot and sweaty in a Japanese summer.
Luckily, where we live in the far north it isn't so hot - or so long. About a week of around 30 C....before it dips back into the usual 26C.
The Bon Festival this year actually became a real holiday for many Japanese with the new public holiday - Mountain day - last Thursday. If you got in quick and took Friday as a day off...then hey presto - you got 4 days off for a summer break.
It's always surprised me that the Bon Festival, which is a traditional time of returning to home towns and meeting the relatives both dead and alive, isn't actually a holiday from work. But this year, it almost was for many.
And for me.
I had 5 days off work. FIVE days!

And then.
The cat drama continues. He came home from the vets on Friday, with us under strict instructions of no running/jumping/chasing butterflies. Boring walks on a lead etc
We have built new barriers at home - fencing off the living room and bedroom. We have a whole system of doors open and closed - NASA and airlocks comes to mind.
Dear Son and I are team working it - who is at home, who is on cat duty.

I got out one day in my kayak to the coast and a glorious, glorious sea kayak experience to rocks and caves and water and sunshine.

And then Okaasan.

After all, this blog is meant to be about her!

It's been a hard few weeks for her too. The apartment building construction across the street has continued non-stop - only today was a holiday for them - so every day from 8 am to 5 pm...and usually longer it is noisy.
Okaasan can't manage the whole windows open and closed, electric fan on/Off, kitchen door open/closed system. Many times I've gone into her room and found it sweltering. Windows double closed. Okaasan even with the electric heated table on. Clutching a blanket!

She's been a bit odd really. Probably the stress of all of that. One day I found her heading out for a walk with a handbag inside another handbag. And inside that were SEVEN little towels and handkerchiefs.
She sits and stares at the endless Olympics on TV, or TV shopping...but gets out every day with our prompting for a walk. This summer going downtown many times by subway. That's amazing really - often 2 or 3 hours downtown. Such physical energy.

I have tried to ease her stress with glasses of water and ice creams. Keeping the room as cool as possible. Little food treats, like melon. Dear Son chats on about stuff.

But...drip drip.....early morning when I am outside with the cat in his harness and leash I sense autumn in the air. In a month from now I am going to the US on holiday AND then the Queen and Adam Lambert concert in Tokyo.
Meanwhile. Drip. Drip.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Happy 86 Okaasan!

Happy Birthday Okaasan!
86 years old today.
Doesn't she look GREAT in this picture!!!
Last night we took her out to a fish restaurant in the city fish market for a crab feast - bowls of rice topped with all sorts of marine yummyness, AND grilled crab legs.

She enjoyed it. Quietly in the restaurant. Not much chat. Really focused on the food, getting it from bowl to mouth and chasing the bits that dropped. But sweetly, finally, taking the bowl off the table and cradling it at chest level so she could get into the yummyness easily.
But - when we came out of the restaurant and I got mother and son into this jokey face board she just lit up and gave this wonderful smile :-) We should use this picture as her funeral picture as a wonderful way to remember her?

This brilliant Oyomesan had the idea of going to this restaurant. Past years we've gone to a crab specialty place, and had a multi-course dinner in a private room.
But I thought that wasn't so great - it takes too long, it's just the 3 of us sitting a a table with nothing to talk about apart from print pictures on the walls, the waitress is kind of formal...and the food is too much.
So - I suggested the less formal fish place in the market, with a shorter service and eating time, laid back staff, things and people to look at around us while eating.

MUCH better.  I am brilliant.
Dear Son ordered a cup of sake for Okaasan. But after watching her gulp into it for 3 minutes he sneaked the cup away and hid it behind the napkin and toothpick stand on our table, and we put water and tea within Okaasan's reach...which worked well...she never mentioned sake again and stayed happy and safe throughout the evening.
He added the sake to his drinking line-up. I was designated driver.

We ordered good choices. Gave her lots and lots of de-shelled, easy to eat, grilled crab bits. Chatted to the waiting staff and even found that the waitress shares the same birth date as Okaasan! About 60 years difference in year, of course.

At the end of dinner Okaasan told me the childhood memory about her father the truck driver, who sometimes brought crab when he worked near the sea. He'd come home and she'd be allowed, as the oldest child, to wait up and have bits of crab  with him. That happy memory is still intact.

And we strolled back to the car on a balmy, summer night. Son and mother hand-in-hand. A successful night out.

Today we both have work and things to do. But I'll probably give her some flowers and snacks.

86 years and going strong.....mentally definitely weaker than when she first came to live with us, quieter, more pliable, accepts help more, needs to focus more on walking and eating, does less personal care, does less of most things.
But still walking, sitting up and down, dressing herself, feeding herself, reading magazines, enjoying TV, shopping - and most importantly LAUGHING at life!!

Happy Birthday Okaasan.