Thursday, 28 April 2016

Fraying routines

Dinner is finished.
It's time to stand up and check there is water in the electric kettle.
Then flick the switch down to start the water heating.
Walk to the dresser and get a tea cup and the green tea can. And a wooden spatula.

Put them on the table. Open the tea can. Put a spatula of tea in the cup. Close the tea can lid.
When the water boils - the click of the switch and the light off indicates - pick up the kettle from its holder and pour the water into the cup. Stir a little.
Sit and drink.

That's the routine. Okaasan's lunchtime and dinnertime routine. Without fail. After a meal, time for green tea.
She doesn't cook now. She hardly sets the table. Clears her dishes from the table sometimes, washes a dish sometimes, wipes down the kitchen counter...

But the tea making is her solo task.

We've noticed it is fraying a little. Usually she manages to do it all in order and complete the task. But sometimes ...recently more times...not.

Right from the start actually. From the decision to make tea - sometimes she finishes eating and we are busying around the kitchen (well, ok...trying to escape) she just sits. And sits. Doesn't actually make any move to get up and start the tea process. Just sits and watches us washing dishes, putting leftovers in a box, changing the trash bag.

If we say: "Okaasan, there's water for tea!" she starts in on the routine. But often not.

Then the whole kettle/tea/cup/spatula process gets all mixed up.
Cup with only hot water.
Tea into the dirty bowl which has traces of curry on it.
Tea and water BACK into the kettle.
Tea in cup placed slightly to one side and a second cup made straight away.
Tea and cup left forgotten on the table.

More and more we notice that the routine isn't going smoothly.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Oyomesan - the quiet time

Buds are budding...and the last snow is melting.

Spring is my time off duties.
Shopping, cooking, bright dinner chat, arranging day service needs, bath time, nail cutting etc etc

He does it all.

The ski season ended...pretty much, so he is home with a few weeks of no-work before the summer job starts.

Home to take on all the tasks.

So I just float thru life - work and friends - TV and cats - gardening - the gym.

Come home and find dinner cooked. Sit at dinner in the usual silence, or listen to him prattling on about something. But Okaasan usually just focuses on her own plate and hardly notices what is happening across the table. 

Life chugs along. A few toilet accidents last week; green tea poured into the kettle; bags within bags within bags and the set phrases endlessly. But she seems happy enough.


In south Japan the earth started shaking last Thursday night/Friday morning and caused terrible destruction. And 72 hours later an even bigger quake struck. More damage, but luckily not so many deaths because by then most people were in evacuation centers, or tents, or their cars.

And the quakes keep happening, which is actually worrying a lot of people. Large quakes on a daily basis. Magnitude 4 and 5. Still.

We are a long way from it and just watch sadly the TV reports. One student this week said his in-laws are camped out in their car near the damaged house, because robberies have started. People want to protect what they have left.

There have been reports of care homes and the mentally and physically handicapped, the elderly - people with already hard lives, who need stability and care. They look confused and the carers shattered. many roads into the area have been damaged and train and air services too.

I can't imagine living in those conditions with Okaasan. Camping out in a hall on blankets on the floor, with cold food, no showers, shared toilets and noise. She would go to pieces. I would too.

So. Here we are in north Japan, far away from all of that - our spring is just arriving. We found plum blossom in the local park. Okaasan's winter day care has finished, and now she can go out walking most afternoons - a happy time.

She came through another winter of life here. It wasn't so bad, maybe because I didn't work so many evenings this winter. I had more energy. But the cat and his injuries was hard - balancing cat/work and Okaasan's needs drove me nuts at some points.

What will the spring and summer bring?

Monday, 18 April 2016

All ok in north Japan

Cat on lap so can't type much.

Yes - we are fine. We live in Sapporo - the other end of japan from the eartghquake.

Watching it on TV like everyone else in the world.

will write more later. not uner cat.

Friday, 1 April 2016


I deceive Okaasan on a pretty regular basis.
I guess I am not alone in this? Other carers do the same?

I justify it to myself - usually - that I'm doing it for HER own good.

Not to add  confusion or stress to her life. 
What she doesn't know won't hurt her.
It'll be easier to get her to do something.

The white lies.

And sometimes: just lazy and knowing I can get away with it. Bad. 

Knowing that she almost certainly doesn't remember just now, or a few hours ago can be pretty useful.

* Deception One Example * Day care visit on Wednesday. I needed to give Okaasan money to cover the taxi and the shopping. But I didn't want to TELL her that it was Day Care Day, otherwise she'd escape, like last week.
So, I hovered in the kitchen and when she went to the toilet I planned to rush into her room and stuff the notes in her wallet. Unluckily she went to the toilet while I was upstairs, so there was just a small window of opportunity - I didn't have time to reach the wallet. Instead I opened the window doors between the rooms, grabbed Okaasan's trousers that were on the sofa and stuffed the money in the trouser pockets.
Later the day care visitor reported that Okaasan appeared to have the money in her pocket and not her wallet...and Dear Son chastised me for not directly putting it in the wallet myself.

But - it WAS easier. She found the money ok. I didn't have to explain why I was giving her money at breakfast time. I didn't have to risk her escaping.

* Deception Two Example * Hair salon. She hasn't been for more than 3 months. Kept brushing off the suggestion to go. Finally, on my way home last night I went into the salon and made an appointment for tomorrow.
Tomorrow morning I will brightly tell her: "Oh, today is hair salon day, isn't it! What time?? Oh - on the calendar it says 2 pm! Yes, hair salon. WE telephoned the other day, didn't we!"

And she will say: "Did we? Today? 2 pm? Hair salon? Oh??? Yes?"

And at 1.30 pm I will make sure she is getting dressed and get her to the salon on time.

And so she will finally go. Because she thinks the appointment was already made. We do the same with bath time every week - prepare the bath for her and then brightly tell her it is ready - as if she/we talked about it just before.

* Deception Three Example * Serving the same food. A bit guilty about this. Sometimes I give her the same food for lunch and dinner...because there is nothing else to cook/it's easier/it's leftover...she doesn't remember WHAT she ate at lunchtime, so I can get  away with it.

But food is a joy in her life. Isn't it for everyone? So, of course I try usually to cook and serve different things, choosing her favorite and trying to arrange it nicely, so it is attractive to eat and gives her pleasure.

But is the same food all over again.

* Deceptions 4, 5, 6.....*

Cleaning her room while she is out.
Removing important looking mail from her table and giving it to her son.
Removing, washing and returning laundry - secretly.
Going "taking a foreign guest for dinner" when actually going to the movie or a couple dinner.
Following her on the subway to check she is walking ok and knows her way.
"Oh I ate dinner near work, so do you mind eating alone?". And scoffing a hamburger upstairs.

...and on...

I am not alone in this. Am I? 
Mainly these are deceptions to make managing her life easier...for her and for us. But still, they are deceptions and inevitably color the relationship. Make me have a different attitude to her. Make me think less of her...because 99% of the time she doesn't notice or think it strange.

Keeping respect for the person you are caring for is hard. You do so much personal stuff for them. So much behind the scenes. She thinks she does more, much more. That she is in control of her life. But isn't.

White lies...slightly grey lies? I hope I don't get into too many really, really black lies...but you could. Someone with dementia is at the mercy of the carer and while I am ok with my level of deceptions I can clearly see how they could level up and become malicious and harmful.

Onwards in deception.

Got to get that tax office letter out of her rom today.
Got to get her to the hair salon tomorrow.

Might sneak off to see a movie at dinner time tonight...