Monday, 29 May 2017

Black Sunday

Have to go to work today...and the next 5 days.
Spent a lot of emotional energy yesterday...

We visited the hospital at lunchtime. While he parked the car and went on upstairs, I went to a local cafe to get a choice of coffee or a cocoa, and a nice cake for Okaasan. Try to take her something nice everytime.

A few minutes later I arrived in the ward room. Okaasan was the only patient - the other 3 bed were empty and clean.

And fury was in the air. She was NOT happy - she was angry - at everything we did or said. The fury. The aggression. Anger. Rudeness. Raw emotion sitting in a wheelchair.

DON'T sit there!
Don't move that chair!
Hmm. Coffee? Cocoa? Both.
Don't put your bag there.
Don't use that trash bin.

It's itchy on my back. What's this thing round my body. I want to go to the toilet. What's this. Don't.

Such a change. We'd left her Saturday afternoon all smiley and pleased to have seen us.
And come on Sunday to this.

I got riled up too. I couldn't help it.
Dear Son put a warning hand on my arm....I went to walk around the corridor with my coffee. I Reset and went back. 

DON'T walk around the hospital like that with a coffee cup!
DON'T put the lid there!

It's impossible to fully get over the shock of seeing someone so different. So much anger, where usually there is none. 

I left again. Blood boiling. Went to the toilets downstairs.
Came back.

She was talking about the itchy feeling of the corset and wanting to go to the toilet. Dear Son trying to explain that she couldn't GO to the toilet - she was wearing diapers and a urine tube and bag. Trying. Anger. Wanting to defecate. Badly.

We left her. Hoping that without us sitting by the bedside she would defecate. 

Stood in the rain in the parking area wondering what had hit us. Was she alone in the ward because she'd turned difficult and the nurses had moved other patients? Or was that just a coincidence of hospital admin?

We went to lunch. Tried to Reset. Exhausted. Dear Son had a whole thing about whether he was bike taxi working or not, whether the rain would stop.

One hour later we went back to the hospital.

She was in bed. The anger was gone. Replaced with whimpering sadness and irritation about the itchy feeling.

I'd bought a back scratcher. While DS  paced the room I sat at the bedside and tried to scratch inside the back of the corset. Okaasan endlessly telling me to take it off and check her skin for redmarks. I sat and talked comforting, kind words. On and on....she calmed.
I got one of her magazines and held it over the bed, showing her pictures of old Tokyo - asking her about places in the city. Scratching. Talking. Calming.

It was a relief. She had returned. That other person, the anger person. Gone.
I guess everybody who lives with dementia in the family has this experience? Seeing a whole OTHER side to the person they know? It's amazing. Scary and confusing.

20 minutes later DS wandered off to the toilet. Okaasan heard the word "toilet" and started getting agitated. Flapping her hands on the bed, whimpering...stress building.

I asked the nurses to come and a team of three went into action behind the curtains to help Okaasan. We stood in the corridor and wondered when this will all come right...when will she be able to come home?

She HAS started physical therapy. End of last week. She had talked happily about the nice therapist. Obviously a positive experience. Will she be able to stand and start walking this coming week? 

We left. In the rain. Exhausted by the two hospital visits.
Went home to finish cleaning Okaasan's room and clothes. Watched a video. Ate steak for dinner.

And now a week of work begins.

Ho hum.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

All hanging on...and on...

SO sorry. It's been almost a week.

You are probably starving in front of your computer screen, drooling slightly with screen-stare waiting for the updates on this situation? Sorry!

The week kind of imploded. Just busy and exhausted. Nothing to do with Okaasan. Work and stuff. And tired. I can't do life on lack of sleep and our current schedule of DS working until late and coming home at 9.30 pm to watch Tv and drink beer...and that bookended with early summer sunrise and cats wanting breakfast at 4.15 am.....

I was zombiefying. I even  slept one night at the classroom. I was probably on the futons on the classroom floor by the time the student had reached her car....desperate for sleep.

Now ok.

So Okaasan.

She is still in hospital. She is wearing a corset and we hope that next week thy will get her standing and walking...and that Coming Home can be in sight.
Mentally she is ok. Calmed down a bit. Every single day we have  to tell her why she is there. The whole story of why she is in this place and why it is important to take care etc etc.
She kind of accepts it enough when we are there. We take in snacks she likes. Tell funny stories about the cats. Make sure her TV is working. Try....

She looks better. Hair washes and  showers from the nurses. Sleeping better I expect - at home she sleeps in front of the flickering TV, which can't be good for her brain. In hospital it must be an almost dark, quiet room. Maybe better quality sleep? I hope so.

And tonight Dear Son and I have dinner alone time. It's rained all day, so his job was cancelled and we are going to pig out on tacos shells stuffed with meat, cheese and all sorts of goodness.

Tomorrow I will continue and maybe finish the big cleaning on Okaasan's room.

And we hope she will come home...soon....really.....

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Boning up on...vertebral compression fracture.

That's what Okaasan has got.
My new word of the week. Or, collection of words.

This week she's got one. And she has had two others - sometime in the past. 

Kind of amazing this. I didn't know that elderly, and specially women, can have spinal bone fractures as the back bones weaken and crumble. And some people don't even know it's happened, they just feel a bit sore in the back for a day or two...and carry on.

Okaasan has falls. Maybe about two a year...or so. The front door step. While out walking. The subway station area. I guess there is damage inside that we don't know about.

Dear Son has told the doctor that they should get her fitted up for a soft-type corset and get her able to stand and walk the toilet again - and then send her back to the living family. Hopefully after the carpet comes back from dry cleaning.

I visited her yesterday, we both visited her today.

She was in a much better way mentally and physically. Able to sit up in bed and wheelchair. Had enjoyed a shower by the nurses on a special shower bed. Had clean hair. Enjoyed ice cream and bits of hospital food. Watched a bit of Tv.

But she IS ansty. Wants home badly. She told me yesterday she was going to leave - BIG whisper about that - without the doctor or Dear Son knowing. Don't think she actually will escape from the hospital, because she is there in bed and has no idea where to go from a 4th floor ward!!

She gets stroppy with us for speaking too loud, or too quiet. Or other people having visitors. Or the food cutting style. Or...whatever. 

But much brighter. Stronger. Less pain. maybe.

So. We enter the second week since the accident. Hope they will get her up out of bed this week. I can't go to visit so much because of work, luckily Dear Son is in that direction every day.

Thankyou for all your comments and support! Real people are out there. It still surprises me that this blog thing reaches people out there in internets-land. I'm bad at replying to comments, but I do read them and enjoy. Thankyou.

Going to sit myself down with a blue cheese salad, some alcohol and the final season of Breaking Bad on Netflix. So ends my week :-)

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Staring at walls

Okaasan in hospital.

Not a happy thing.

She doesn't remember the fall, doesn't remember the pain - until she tries to sit up or move her body....

so wonders - endlessly - WHY AM I HERE?


We expected deterioration in her mental ability with such a dramatic change of location/people/routine.

But even we were shocked at the physical change in her. Okaasan's speech is slurred and sometimes incomprehensible. Of course she suspects the nurses, doctors and other patients of spying on her and the family - told us that in big whispers - that "they" are bad people. Old, familiar paranoia is back to the fore.

The slurred speech and rambling words. That was a surprise. Even here 4 days ago - as she lay on the carpet in pain etc - her speaking ability was clearer.

Yesterday we did a joint visit. Okaasan was on the bed staring at a dirty, stained grey wall. The TV on the bedside table was turned in another direction and the magazine was unopened on the side table. Dear Son said she had watched Tv before, but then dismissively told the nurses "I don't need that", so they'd maybe moved it away from her.

She DOES need TV. It's her everything at home. It's life and entertainment. Companionship.

We got the nurses to move the furniture back into position. We guided Okaasan to her handcream to attend to scratchy feeling on her leg where the hospital diapers were rubbing her skin, we gave her drinks and chat...and...

There are three other elderly women in her room. The others looks more mentally alert. The room is near the nurse station - from where I am sure Okaasan listens to every conversation and thinks they are talking about her.

She is eating the foods. She is sleeping. She can sit up a little, if the bed is moved into position.

Today Dear Son will meet the doctor and hear what he thinks. Was it spine damage, not exactly a break...maybe a crunching together? A nerve is caught?

The house is so strange without Okaasan in it. Feels huge and empty.

I came home Friday night. Dear Son was working late.
I threw all the left overs in the fridge into a frying pan, added cheese and ate it upstairs in front of the TV. No need to plan a healthy dinner at 7 pm.
Years of having my daily routine guided by Lunch at 12. Dinner at 7. Must Feed Okaasan. Must Check Okaasan. Now freedom....strange.

We really, really hope they don't keep her in hospital a long time. get a corset fitted, get her sitting and standing and walking again. Get her to come home the end of next week?

What more is necessary for an elderly lady? As long as she isn't in great pain. She doesn't need perfect physical ability. She needs a livable-with feeling in her body.


From kind of looking forward to the day when Okaasan might go to hospital and experts would take some of the burden off our shoulders - I am already missing her and hoping she comes back to us soon.

Strange that!

Thursday, 18 May 2017



She is there. We are here. Feels strange.

Since we moved into this house 8? years ago, Okaasan hasn't been away while we are here - apart from the two night visit to a family wedding in Tokyo a few years ago. 
It seems strange to see her room empty. And to know that we can eat cheese fondue and meat for dinner. And have dinner any time, or out...

However, Dear Son has his regular bike taxi customer until the end of the month and is working most evenings. I am in and out with classes - I don't think we'll be having a wild, freedom time here.

And room cleaning. The ambulance hadn't left the street and I was already taking up the carpet for dry cleaning. Got a whole lot of other cleaning plans for Okaasan's room too!


She is in an orthopedic hospital downtown. NOT the big hospital near our home, where I teach the staff...which would be so convenient. It took the ambulance five phone calls to find a hospital to accept her, such is the state of Japanese healthcare now.

She is in a room with 3 other old ladies. She ate the hospital lunch yesterday.

X-ray and MRI yesterday didn't find any big bone break, and the skin marks on her hips appear to be bruising only. But the back bone specialist will look at her today to find the cause of the pain and they are measuring her for a corset.

Basic idea seems to be for her to stay about 2 weeks. Not moving around for at least a week....trying to get the pain reduced.

So, maybe good. Not a huge injury. 

I feel guiltily happy she is in hospital. It gives us a break. It gives expert people the chance to check her over for everything.
But it WILL, inevitably, make her dementia worse. A stay in an unfamiliar place with people and sounds. Sharing a room. No walking.
Or will it be good for her? A brightly lit room with people coming and going? Not so much mindless TV. Nurses making chat. People taking an interest in her?

Who knows.

I've just put together a bag of Okaasan's things for Dear Son to take into the hospital today.
Pink underclothes, a red cardigan, her hand cream, the framed photo of the family reunion party...a magazine. I hope that familiar things on the hospital bedside table will reduce her stress.

maybe I should add in a handful of supermarket receipts, a half eaten bread roll and note pads with TV shopping phone numbers?

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Finally. Hospital.

Help has arrived. Finally.

Dear Son finally got real and agreed that a hospital should look at his 86 year old mother who is groaning in pain in diapers on the soiled living room carpet.....finally.

I'm relieved.

True: yesterday she did manage to sit up for a short time and drink tea. And she lay down again on the other side. And she ate some rice and milk. All we don't think it's a huge emergency.


She stayed in the same position on the carpet after that. As we tried to change the diapers again this morning she was crying out in pain and slapping us away....

And Dear Son looked at me. And I sighed. And he agreed.
What IS it with him and this hospital aversion? Why oh why? He pressures me to take the cats to the vets if they have the slightest problem - why won't he respond naturally for his own mother?

As the ambulance staff were taking notes and checking Okaasan - one of them asked me about the situation.

"Saturday? She fell on Saturday? Why did you call us today???"

Why indeed. I felt guilty. While I don't wish bad things on Okaasan, I hope a doctor or somebody says to Dear Son: you should have brought her here earlier. Why didn't you?

Okaasan was ok with the ambulance guys. Didn't remember the fall and the past 4 days of course. But grudgingly agreed that maybe an X-ray was a good idea etc. She let them take her. They talked kindly and professionally.

So. They've gone. I have a big day of work ahead. 7 classes and stuff. 

And a really soiled carpet to take to the dry cleaners. Finally.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Sitting upright .....

She is sitting up and drinking tea.....

Looks like she's survived again....

Dear Son just sent me a photo on my smart phone...


And waiting...

Waiting for the miracle self-healing thing to work.

She is still on her side on the carpet, under a heated blanket.

We are giving her water to drink, and yesterday managed to get her to eat a small dried persimmon and a bit of a rice ball.

Interesting. The whole "I'm sick so I don't eat" mantra was less yesterday. I put a nicely warmed up rice ball on a plate and put it 10 cm from her nose..

"What's that? I ate, didn't I? I ate dinner, didn't I?"
 Really, she had no idea whether she'd eaten or not - and once the food was there within easy reach and she could put some in her mouth - she did :-) 

But we are changing her diapers because she hasn't sat upright or walked since Saturday night. Now it is Tuesday morning. Diaper change was fairly easy. She just lay there and let us do it - a messy job...but we never had a baby, so this is our shared couple-experience...

By coincidence: last night student came to class and told me that over the recent public holiday her 81 year old mother had tried out a family member's balance 11 pm!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!...and lost control of the ball - falling 5 steps down the house stairs!!

She was badly winded and in pain. But finally managed, with help, to stand and walk to her bed. Next morning she couldn't move at all and was taken to hospital. Broken lumbar. Is now in hospital 3 weeks and wearing a corset..... isn't this. But I wouldn't be surprised.....

I told Dear Son this story and we talked a bit.
He said that if she isn't moving any more by tomorrow...he will take other steps...



Sunday, 14 May 2017

Mystery fall

Okaasan fell in the kitchen last night.
We think she is ok. But who knows? 86 year old, fell back hard on her bum and back - finally crawled to her sleeping area and has been there for the last 24 hours. Wearing diapers. Refusing (as usual) food. Can't really sit up without moaning about pain....

The usual in this family. Leave her be for a few days. Just give her some water. Check on her a bit. Leave her there. On the carpet staring at the TV.

If it was my parent she wouldn't be left there. 
But she isn't and this is her choice, and the agreement of her son.
It's worked we wait to see again.

The awful thing is: I have a feeling this fall may have been my fault.


I don't know. I was upstairs switching off my TV. I'd just called Okaasan to dinner.
Maybe she was heading to or from the toilet....and just to the left of the kitchen door are some car floor mats...under a heavy poinsettia pot plant. The mats are grey...the kitchen carpet is grey.
Hard to see the change in surface...did Okaasan trip over the edge of the mats?

They aren't right by the kitchen door....about half a meter to the left....they've been there a week or so - too cold to risk a poinsettia outside.

All I heard from upstairs was a loud crashing sound....and when I opened the kitchen door Okaasan was on her back behind it....groaning......

Dear Son was at work. I had to deal with it. Cushions, blankets, lots of positive chat etc to get Okaasan to check things were not a crises.....and then to get her to crawl back into her room. After 40 mins she did it.

And she's been there ever since.

So. We'll see.

* I was going to write about my question to a lawyer about what to do with Okaasan if Dear Son suddenly dies......but I'll keep that for another post.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Role reversal

Sooooo lucky to be part of a team: the Carers.

Now is a public holiday time in Japan, Golden Week...several public holidays all near eachother, and if you are lucky you get a whole 9 days of holiday! This year - I am. Amazing.

But he is now working. Bike taxi. Special customer. Afternoons and evenings. For the next 26 days.

So our roles have reversed. After all the home care he has done for me and my knee - now is his turn to be out in the world. And I am keeping Okaasan and home, cats and life ticking over.

I'm happy to have a quiet week close to home. Gentle exercise with the knee. A lot of house cleaning, garden prepping, Breaking Bad seasons on Netflix....cherry blossoms...time with friends.

Okaasan is good. She's gone walking alone. Another trip on the subway and home again safely. Will this continue? Last summer shuddered to a halt, with location confusion and a major loss of confidence. WE never knew why. So we started taking her out ourselves. But this spring, she appears to be ok again.

26 days on Okaasan duty.....26 nights of lunches or dinners.....with Okaasan. Isn't a great prospect. She is so silent at meals now. But anyway....

She appears fine. A little more confused about whether it is morning or evening, a little more confused about taking our post into her room - I found her sorting thru packets of free cat food the other day (!!!) and a little more repetition of action - the endless window checks, bag checks, bits of paper checks...

But fine. I think.

The treasure trove of photo albums are here upstairs. I so want to give them to her and start chatting about their contents. But I do understand that this has to wait until the brother moved/house sold story is active. We hope the house will sell soon, the agent seems to think it will - and then once that is happening and she knows about it - we can give her the albums.

Role Reversal.
Looking at those Okaasan and Dear Son photographs of a long time ago, made me think.
In those days she was planning his food, entertainment, money management, clothes, personal safety.
And now - 50 years later....he is doing it all for her.
Even down to the toilet accidents and diapers.

Nobody wants to depend on their children to look after them. But it is the safety net that anyone with a child has - hopefully.

I have no children.

It makes me think of MY safety net. Now I am 56. When I am 86, who will be taking care of me? I have a vague plan that I will be back in England by then - Dear Son having passed to the big football game with beer in the sky - and I will be in a care home....

I guess.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Opening the past...

Okaasan and Him.
Somewhere in Japan....

ISN'T that the cutest thing?

The past is opening up to me (and him) in photographs. It will soon open up to Okaasan too.
He came back from the family home and brought old photo albums, dusty and full of memories and a life that Okaasan is already forgetting.

Once the house is actively selling.
Once the real estate agent needs Okaasan's permission.
Once she has given it and had the "oldest son has moved somewhere smaller" tale.
THEN we will give her a book case and all the albums.

We don't want to give her the albums now - in case it sets off too many questions about the house in Saitama and the older son ...questions we don't want to get into quite yet.

We are sure the photographs will make her happy. There are some wonderful photographs of a happy, wonderful life. They have been a revelation to me: of the woman Okaasan was before she became an old lady with a brain-sapping disease.

The baby? The school girl? The young, strong-faced office lady on company trips with other workers. The young man who became husband....the little boys (Oh WOW! Dear Son was a clown in endless pictures even then!)....and the fashions, the trips.
In later years the foreign trips with friends to so many countries - Okaasan in a swim suit in the Dead Sea, Okaasan on a camel in Australia, in New York, in England....always nicely dressed, with hair just so, happy and active.

I found myself looking at the date on some of the foreign trip photographs - 17 years ago...was  she already starting to show signs of the dementia then? Did friends on those trips notice strange behavior? WE know for sure that about 10 years ago she wasn't looking after herself at home, beginning to get confused about money....did friends on those trips notice early signs?

I am starting to notice lapses in ability of an older starting to wonder. I sense she is starting to wonder too. Did Okaasan's friends notice vocabulary mistakes and directional errors, strange decisions, confusions...20 years ago?

Glorious pictures, which I will share more of later....
It is so wonderful to see Okaasan in her life. To put images to some of the stories. Already she doesn't talk about the New York trip...hardly about the Kenya trip....will she remember more once she sees these  pictures?
It will be great to sit and talk to her about them.

**  All good here: Okaasan went downtown yesterday alone! By subway alone. And came home ok! First time in half a year?? Amazing!! The good weather is here - spring flowers and sunshine. She feels good.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Into summer mode....

We survived.
Okaasan and Me and Knee - all week.

The cooking wasn't very creative. She ate prepared food boxes for 3 days while I worked long hours. But she survived.
I survived too. The knee is stronger day by day. Bike rides! First subway ride! Went to a movie theater!

When I had a hair cut I dropped Okaasan off at the supermarket opposite the salon, with careful instructions to meet me in Macdonald's next door when she was ready. She often goes to the big M after the supermarket, so I hoped it would come naturally. I parked the car at the supermarket.

Just as my hair cut was finishing the stylist pointed out Okaasan hovering that the supermarket doors. Looking at people going in and out, looking at the road, looking back into the shop.
While I paid and got my coat and bag etc - she continued to hover. Obviously wondering what she was meant to be doing next.
Is someone picking me up in a car?
Is there someone with me who is in the supermarket still?
What am I doing here?

Sadly, not chooisng the other option of "Go to Macdonald's".

Anyway. I got to her ok and parked her in the big M with a coffee while I did shopping, then brought us both home in the car.

Dear Son is home from the final house clearing.
Three boxes of stuff - he says mainly photographs and some trash he couldn't dump....are also coming.

And so the house sale. And Okaasan will discover this sometime soon.....when the real estate people have to get her permission to sell her home of 30 years.

I'm hoping I can find a photo of Okaasan when she was young to show you!

Dear Son will start summer work soon.
The garden is starting to flower with early spring stuff.
Okaasan has been out several times ALONE for a walk and managed to come home ok.
That final point is a big relief, I wasn't looking forward to us having to escort her all the time. But she seems, at the moment, to be ok.

Thursday, 20 April 2017


I just diapered my mother-in-law.
And I'm feeling flushed with success.

I caught her just as she was leaving the toilet early morning. I followed her back into her room and showed her the new diapers.

"Maybe it's a good time to change these?"
"Why? Did I wet myself? I didn't, did I?"
"I don't know, but you wear these now in case you do - and you haven't changed for a few days. maybe fresh is nicer?"

I pulled up a chair, sat her on it, gently took off her pajamas...and pants (Oh...NOT diapers, that means there are soiled diapers somewhere in the room...) and helped her put on the fresh diapers.

"Did I wet myself? I don't think so?" she actually fingered the crotch area of her pants and showed it to kids who pick up interesting bits of sick seconds after vomiting....YUK

But success.

She is just more passive now. Really. If you talk her gently into an action, as though this is a normal thing, we always do etc etc...and then she just follows.

Busy week at work - knee getting better - holding it all together with the help of convenience store food. 

But thought I'd share that big success with you! Cos I know you were waiting to hear...

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Alone again....

Well - a deux again. Okaasan and Me.

Dear Son has gone to the family home near Tokyo for 5 days to meet the real estate agent and look at tea ceremony cups, kimono and what ever else may be of value. I'm hoping he will bring back photographs of Okaasan a long time ago - I'd love to see them and maybe she would like it too. We have no photographs here.

So. Okaasan and Me - we are alone for the week.
My knee is good enough now that I can walk down th stairs, carefully. I went on my bike at the weekend too. I have a busy work week, but we've arranged food box deliveries to help me out when I can't cook.

Best thing is Okaasan and walking. She has been out 3 times now, alone.
Each time she went out just locally and came home ok. Tired. But ok.
One time I found her on the door step - unable to find her front door key, and her handbag was greasy with a half eaten fried bun and the remains of a convenience store coffee. But she got home ok.

She even remembered that my knee is bad! We have just sold our old car to a breaker company. When the driver arrive to take the car away I could hear Okaasan telling him in the entrance area: "Amanda's leg is bad, so she can't come down teh stairs quickly" - which was surprising really, that all of that information was in her mind and she thought to tell someone.

It's such a small point - but really I notice things like that, because it IS a surprising thing, for someone who is usually all internally focused.

Let's see how this week goes. 
Diapers...oh yes...should think about that, too....

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

How to diaper

To diaper.

I think it must be a verb.

Next week Dear Son will escape south to a warm country with cherry blossoms, leaving me and my recovering knee to manage life at home...and his mother...and her diapers.
While he is arranging to sell the family home....

Adult diapers. Somehow, amazingly - he has managed to get her to start wearing them. After a series of toilet accidents he gently explained that it would be a big help to him if she would consider wearing them.

So, every other day he goes into her room and encourages her to change diapers. 

Next week it'll be my turn.
He and I practiced what and how I should say it. How I should get Okaasan standing, open the diapers at carpet level and ask her to step inside....then leave her to pull them up. Retain some dignity in this topic. She doesn't change them herself - takes off the old ones sometimes and leaves them around the room - - anywhere but the diaper bin we've placed near the door....

Anyway. My task - one of many, next week.

And day service finished for this winter. 
On Saturday Dear Son let his mother go walking alone! Considering she was getting lost and confused last year, this was a brave...or lazy...move.
But he stayed home and tracked her on the mobile phone GPS. And went out in the car to rescue her when she ran out of walking steam.

I can't walk with her yet. My walking is limited to about 20 steps from car to shop and back again.
But I can let her go out alone and track her progress.


Last night I went in to Okaasan's room to close her curtains...told her food would be ready soon.

"I'm not eating!
"Oh? Are you ok? Why?"
"I don't eat in the morning..."

"It isn't morning. It's 7 pm....dinner time...."
"Oh? Is it???"

I guess my routine is to often go into her room in the morning and OPEN the curtains - so the scenario fit. But it was quirky all the same.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

The the room

So April.

Operation House Sell this month.

Dearest Son and Boyfriend will go to the family home near Tokyo and meet the real estate agent. Discuss the sale of the house. Look at the maybe-valuable stuff left over from the house cleaning and decide what to do with it.
The real state company will send staff here - over an hour flight to a different part of Japan ! - to meet Okaasan and get her permission to sell the house. Sign documents etc.

Dear Son plans to tell her Older Brother has "moved somewhere smaller, and he doesn't need the house of course and we all agreed it would be best to sell, didn't we?"

Well. Yes. "somewhere smaller". Like a box in the temple!!

Hopefully all of that will go off ok. I think it will. Okaasan is generally less confrontational about things now. She may want stuff from the house - a tea cup and a kimono or two may placate her. Does she even remember things that were in the house now?

And so we sail on - with the death of the older brother as the big No No topic. His picture in its black frame is in our living room upstairs, where Okaasan doesn't go. His Buddhist memorial plaque too.

Yesterday I came home and Okaasan was in the kitchen leafing thru just arrived post on the table. 

"This for Amanda-sa, this for Dearest darling Perfect Son...oh this is for my Oldest Son!..."....the TV cable company had failed on the "please change name on all post" request....and sent the schedule magazine for April using Oldest Son's name.

I made vague sounds about taking the post upstairs, going to the toilet...making dinner...and swept it away from Okaasan's gaze.

She didn't mention any more.
The Dead Family Member Whose Name We Must Not Mention...

* Knee Update - walking slowly inside. Crutches outside. Walked up the stairs last night. Progress!

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The elderly. And the Infirm.

Dear Son.

What did he do to deserve this?

Two women who need his help in endless ways.....must have a whole lot of bad karma to work thru...

Sunday we went out and did a family trip to the shopping mall for lunch.

Dear Son had to help both Okaasan and Me get from the front door to the car safely, across the still melting, icy snow. Had to find sweater/socks/handbag/coat for Okaasan. Coat and keys for Me.

At the shopping mall he had to take Okaasan down the escalator. Then leave her gripping onto a rail. Run back UP the other escalator and help me hop awkwardly onto the moving top step...down two flights of escalators.

Then I hopped thru the shopping center with them.

Restaurant. Noodles for lunch. Okaasan ordered a huge set and Dear Son was in charge of sneaking food off her plate and finally halting her eating, eating....

Then they went shopping. I sat on a bench.

Then he went and got the car and helped his two old women back into the car, and drove us home.

I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

AND.....I've joined Okaasan in the soiled clothes routine....the other night I didn't have the energy to go back downstairs to use the toilet...woke up next morning with a Godfather-life-wetness-in-the-bed. Only it wasn't a horse's head.....

So Dear Son had wet sheets and pajamas and a soiled mattress....which he managed to move into our all day sunny office space - where a lot of baking powder and a hard vacuuming has hopefully cleaned it....Oh. I hate being like this. :-(

He's done a lot over the past 3 weeks. We've got stroppy with eachother several times.  But I AM so grateful to him.

I could give some thankyou back - let him go off yesterday and use two free movie tickets a student gave me. And I agreed that he could and should go ski working this weekend - it will be a boring old weekend for me....but I can just about get food on the table and wash up dishes. Feed the cats. Wash their dishes. Clean the litter box.

I think I can. I am getting around to most of my work solo now. With help from students and center staff.

Last night I walked 3 small steps into his waiting hands - like a toddler. The knee is still swollen and aches. Not big pain. But aches. Behind the knee muscles and ligaments seem....healing....

Oh. Just tired at the moment.

Many people with far worse problems....just feel sorry for myself. I'm not a good invalid.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

8 years ago.....

EIGHT years ago!!!! - we started life together in our new home - the big old concrete box near the subway line in the south side of the city. 
Friends helped us move and clean - our small apartment spilled out into a large house with big closets, we ate sushi as a first night dinner and our old cat Bob and the goldfish were with us.

Life really WITH Okaasan began. The first four months she'd lived in an apartment 2 doors away from our home - but the carrying food between the homes, the cooking, the was all too much - so we moved.]

What a lot of life and death we have already seen here. Bob-cat died. The goldfish ? What happened to them??? I gave birth to a garden. We discovered we had a huge garden shed. And BBQ space. Then my step-mum in the UK had a car crash, then dad died, then my step-mum died......then my ovaries multiplied and ballooned up inside me and I had 'em out....then kittens that grew into fat cats....and...and...and..

And Okaasan's dementia steadily grew. 
When we came here she would wash clothes by hand,leaving half-finished laundry all over the place - and go outside and hang it up in the garden. Go and re-hang MY laundry up in the garden too. She would wash dishes, Heat up food in the microwave. Read the newspaper. Change TV channels if it was boring. Go walking for miles late afternoon, ride the subway.....downtown alone. Tell looooong stories about the war and trips to New York and Australia. About family and husband. Take bath when we told her to - and get out of it alone.

8 years she has changed. Not as badly as we all thought. I think that is our care for her.
There is decline in her abilities, but less because she lives with us and we do so much to fill in the gaps. 

Thankyou if you have reading this blog since those days - since the peeing in trash bins, the domestic violence drama, the fights....

And today? We are going out as a sweet little family: lunch. A shopping center walk for Dear Son and Okaasan. A sit in the car and Pokemon hunt for me...

My knee?
The MRI showed a tear in the meniscus. The doctor says it should repair naturally. The behind the knee ligaments and muscles are improving and today I may stand and take a step. I have been practicing standing the last day or two. Trying to put weight to my left.
Strangely, the day we went to see the doc I was in tremendous pain in the knee. Don't know why. I cried my way thru the doctor talk and happily took painkillers. One day later - pain gone. Don't know WHAT I did to get that.

 I am getting around to my work - with Dear Son's help with the car if I can't park near enough the work place. He is shopping and cooking and doing so SO much.
I'm frustrated. But trying to accept. Go slowly. 

Anyway. 8 years in this house. Seems faaaaar longer!

Sunday, 19 March 2017


Still hobblin.

I don't know. Sometimes I think it is getting a little better...and then I move in a random way and there is a lot of pain. I can't put my leg straight. There is still knee swelling.

But sanity (and exhaustion) - I have gone back to work. With big help getting there etc.
Telling the same old story over and over again. Actually it's a good judge of student's real ability - how much they can ask and find out about the situation from me. Should use a Faked Disability as a level check for future students????

Her reaction.
Well, of course she sees me hobbling around with crutches and has asked three times why.

Ski accident.
Knee injury. Hurts

Oh? Skiing?


And that is about that.
That lack of empathy really. I could be wearing a bright yellow sweater with live kittens sewn into the sleeves....I think there would be the same response.

None of the: where/why/ advice?....shared tales....offers to help.

It doesn't matter. I GET all of that from wonderful students/employers at the community centers and my man....but it is interesting how she responds to obvious injury and pain and hardship in another.

Last night she watched me wash up all the dinner plates - sitting on a chair at the sink, with crutches to my left.....and there was no offer to help....nothing. Dear Son was chatting and she was responding....and nothing....usually Japanese women rush to help you even before you have an inkling that you might need ANY help....but no.

It's ok. Just a thing.

A shitty thing.
Dear Son had the full shitty experience.....he is a wonder...he cleaned up the soiled area, washed the clothes...washed his mother's body AND got her to wear a paper diaper.

He is a good man....

So. Spring is arriving. W"arm sunshine. Melting snow. I'm inside.

Going to try driving tomorrow to work. Can get to the classroom with the center staff's help. TUesday MRI.....Thursday MRI result.....

Heard a horror story from a student:
She fell while skiing a few years ago and drove home with pain.
Had pain the following week and went to the doctor. Got some pain killers.
Had a quiet life....but walked the dog and went shopping.
3 weeks later - THREE WEEKS! - she went to a different doctor and had MRI and they found the ligament had broken in her hospital for a month..physical therapy for three months.....

Oh God. 

But now she is skiing again :-)

I will return. I will return. I will.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Two old crocks

My left accident...on my birthday....

SO glad this house has some handles for Okaasan to help me get around!

Also so glad that Dear Son's ski season is nearly done and he can be home to look after two old ladies.

My 56th year started so well. Carefree weekend away with my man in the sun...skiing at two different resorts. Nice hotel, buffet dinner and breakfast. Yay! A little worried about the left knee, which has been painful since the stand-and-do-nothing volunteer work 3 weeks ago.
But determined to have fun.
Day 1. Fun.
Hotel and buffet dinner etc Onsen - Fun.
Knee a little sore. But ready for Day 2.
Day 2 - sunny - views for miles.
Skied from 9 am till 11.30 am - snow getting wet and heavy with spring.

Fell at the bottom. Skis over head. Knee screaming.
I actually got up and skied to the coffee shop. Remained determined over a coffee that I'd ski again. But then - after hobbling to the toilet realized it wasn't going to happen.
We came back. 

Now cancelled work, doctor checks. Pain. MRI next week....

Maybe muscles? Not ligaments. Not bone. Instructions to do nothing - just sit. Very hard for me... crutches. Drag myself to the toilet downstairs on my bum. etc etc etc.
GYAAAAGHHHHHH!!! That same old knee from a few years ago.

OKaasan hasn't seen me on crutches yet. Cos I ate all meals upstairs. Good excuse to escape family mealtime (a bit drastic, though).
She'll probably tell me I was over-eating - which was true with the hotel buffet to graze....

So. There we are. Back to damaged knee......bugger.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Cross-cultural mind f***

Knew that cheese fondue bliss would come back on me.
Cheese-overdose....night sweats, constipation...y'know....

Stupid cross-cultural living with a senior.
Rant follows.

It had been a good day, professionally and personally.
I'd taught my classes, visit-taught another teacher's class who love me. Been to the gym (and somehow toned up in after a month of gym absence)...caught some Pokemon. Planned some classes.
All good.
Came home for family dinner. Boring old oden, simmered pot of fish paste, seaweed and vegetables. But ok. Back on family duty time...

We had our beer. We had our food.
Dear Son and Okaasan were doing the ritual "cheers/kampai!" with their glasses, I was momentarily distracted by opening the mustard to the "cheers" a few seconds late.

"Sorry! I was focusing on the food! Not the alcohol! I was the working person today, so I was focused on the food! You both stayed home :-)"

Except it wasn't received with a Smiley face.

Okaasan looked grumpy and muttered something....

Dear Son jumped in to stop a Female Fist Fight....saying things about : "It's ok, she's a foreigner, it's different, it's ok, but you can't say that, it's rude..." etc etc

I was floundering in cross-cultural confusion.
What? What was rude?  What? Eh???

Apparently: my statement about me being the working person, and therefore more interested in the food - THAT was rude!

Even though....
-  it was said as a joke, with a jokey voice and a laugh
-  but is actually TRUE. They watched TV all day. I worked.
-  Okaasan often says: "I shouldn't eat so much, after all I didn't work today

what the F***????????

I shut up and ate the rest of my boring Japanese traditional dinner of fish paste stuff in silence. Fuming about stupid things in a foreign country. Feeling that horribly alone feeling, far away from good old England and my family and friends. Hating a culture where the senior can criticize a junior like this safe in the knowledge that respect-for-senior will prevent a fist fight, hating these strange family-relation situations. Hating living with another generation.


Thankyou. Rant finished.

If you are ever given a choice about Live with a Senior, or Don't.

 Choose: Don't.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Ahhhhhhhhh. Happiness....

No. She didn't die!!!

But when my dear, sweet man said "What do you want for dinner tonight, when Okaasan has bought her own food at the supermarket with day service?"

There was only ONE answer!

We ate it together in the kitchen. Okaasan had eaten earlier in front of her TV. We enjoyed the cheeeeeeeeeeseeeeeee winery wonderful fondue.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Turning pro...

Carer's daydream.

When this is all over...yes, when Okaasan dies....I imagine what we'll do.

What I ACTUALLY imagine for the day she dies is a lot of confusion...specially if I am alone here and find her under the kotatsu, with the TV blaring and gone. If Dear Son is away in the mountains I guess I'll just have to leave Okaasan in situ and call him to come start the whole process of police? funeral company? whatever whatever (he is having a practice run with that now after his brother's death).

And cheese fondue.
I actually imagine that our first dinner without Okaasan will be cheese fondue.
Yes. I'm that bad.
In my mind cheese fondue represents our lives Before Okaasan. What we could eat when she wasn't living with us. Of course, we could eat it now and across the table give her something healthy - but my fondue daydreams represent so much more than cheese, flour and wine. It represents our old days. Freedom from responsibility. What we could enjoy at home before we had to consider an elderly Japanese lady and her needs.


After that...I imagine we'll have to decide what to do with the next stage of our lives. Stay here in this house? Move? Move to a ski resort? Open a guest house?


Become a professional carer?

This is actually the point of this blog. Not cheese fondue on the night an old lady dies.

Caring skills. I'm getting pretty good at this - I DO say so myself. I could do this and get paid for it. :-)

I'm basking in Carer Confidence after this weekend's Bath time.
It really all went well, with a few minus points, but I'm really getting the hang of this. And Okaasan followed directions and was happy and didn't slap me. Progress.

Start the bath running. Heat up the changing area. Set out a chair, pink towels (not the frayed at the seams one, otherwise she'll fuss about sewing it).
Tell Okaasan it's bathtime.
Encourage her to switch off the TV and go to the bathroom.
She undresses herself.
Check water temperature.
Leave her for a bit.
Check the water temperature.
Go in about 4 more times under different pretexts - now I am SO much better at just walking into her bathroom. Bright smile, chat. Most normal thing in the world to be standing with you next to the bathtub.
While she is bathing - do a quick clean of her room. Grab laundry.
After 45 mins start encouraging her to get out.
Keep at it.
And again.
Finally start talking about "lunch is ready" and gently tapping her hands and then the bath rail to show her HOW to pull herself up out of the bath.
Direct her with gentle finger taps to move her bum around so she is in the correct position to stand.
Start draining water from the bath.
Finally, put my hand under her armpits and lift her up to start her standing.
Let her get out of the bath.
Sit her on the bath-stool. Wash her hair. Chat.
Help with towels etc, back to her room.
Toe nail clipping.....and under toe nail scraping (wow! 86 year old body still growing!)
Hair drying....encourage her to use the dryer.
Give her water to drink. Time to cool down.

Start cooking lunch.
All of that between 9.30 and 11.30 am.
She was mainly happy and smiley. Didn't get stressed or angry. Didn't slap my hands or shout. Only screamed once - I give myself minus points for forgetting to warm my hands before touching her body in the bath.

Pretty successful.
A year ago I still wasn't confident about even going into the bathroom with her.
Now? Old pro!

So. Should I forget the daydreams of owning a guest house in a ski resort and welcoming guests from around the world? Should I think about opening a care home for seniors?!!

Probably not.
It's one thing to do it for someone out of love for their son. Family duty. Easing the guilt I feel because I didn't do much caring for my own parents in the UK. It would be a whole other level to do this day in and day out for strangers....I admire people who do that SO MUCH.

Pat on the back - with warm hands - for carers everywhere. We are doing a great job. :-)

Thursday, 23 February 2017


The world really IS a small place.

A friend in the UK met her new neighbor the other day. Discovered that she'd lived in Japan. Had missed Japan after leaving. Had started reading a blog about life in Japan as part of her reconnecting.

A blog by a British woman living with her Japanese mother in law.

Who has dementia......


me! here!

Hi Erin!!!  ;-)

Isn't that strange??? There are many, many blogs by expats living in Japan. I know quite a lot of people in the UK. Sarah was an old colleague from my journalist days in the UK 25 plus years ago. I haven't actually met her for years, we connect on Facebook now.

And her new neighbor is a reader of this blog.


And in other, less happy news.

I did one day of volunteer work for the Asian Winter Games. Then quit in disappointment and anger. And exhaustion.

My volunteer place, the VIP and event executive HQ hotel. They had too many volunteers and the staff (civil servants from many places around Japan) didn't USE the volunteers for much at all. Just made us stand in the hotel lobby....for hours. Decoration volunteers.

I directed a few people to the breakfast room. I helped a Chinese women with a suitcase. Showed two businessmen (not AWG people at all) the way to a lunch place. Err. I held up a sign "Observation Tour" for 20 mins.

Errr. That was it.
I didn't escort ANY VIP to a waiting taxi. Didn't share any local knowledge with anyone. Just stood for 5 hours. Then lunch. Then stood some more...

So I quit. Told the Volunteer Center why. They offered more work in a different place, but I'm already hearing tales of boredom and frustration fro students and old friends at other venues. So - No thankyou.
I'd rather have my life back.

So. Here is a picture of me as a brief volunteer at the Asian Winter Games..


Dear Son is home and looking after everything. Best of all he provides a bit of dinner-time chat to enliven the evening.

One thing. Okaasan and pee smell. She really really smells strongly of pee. After she's been to the toilet it even wafts up to the 2nd floor.
Is it her body? Her urine-soaked clothes? I must do a major laundry blitz.
Or does her actual pee smell so strong???

I have to investigate.

Oh, and the cat has a lump on his neck. Have to take care of that.

No time to dwell on volunteer disappointment!! Got Pokemon to catch, pee to check, cat to attend to....onwards.

Hi Erin!!! I am thinking to come to the Uk in September - we can meet!!

Sunday, 19 February 2017

I want?

Okaasan peered across the table and into my bowl of ramen with slices of pork.
"I don't have that? Why? Those pork slices?"

"You want to eat it? Usually you don't eat pork meat. So we didn't put any in your bowl, you have many vegetables...but here, here you are, you have one of these slices!"

The three of us settled down - in uncommon family style for a winter home lunch together - and slurped noodles in silence.

A few minutes of slurping.

"Dear Son! Here, I don't want this! You have it!"

She had picked up the pork slice in her chopsticks and was waving it across the table him. We choked and gulped our laughter.....oh ho ho ho HO!

And I reclaimed my missing pork slice.

Just so funny. The instant of "want", and then once possessing the thing: "why do I have this? I don't want it". 
Childlike. Really. We've all seen kids shout and scream for something they want, only to cast it aside once the possession is completed.

So funny.

A quietish week or two for me with Okaasan care, because Dear Son was home more from skiing and took over the house duties. Gave me time to focus on work and going to the gym, and preparing to be a volunteer at the Sapporo Asia Winter Games.

Day Service came twice a week and Okaasan went out with them. She also went out with Dear Son a few times. Fussed around in her room a little. No major drama.
I think she is sitting more and more in front of the TV shopping channel and not opening her room curtains. Sitting in the half light, peering at the TV.
I go in and open curtains, change the TV channel, remove the food packages and the empty cans of sweet sake. ANYTHING we leave on the kitchen table she eats. The whole mantra of "I don't eat before 11 am. Eating too much is bad for you" is an alternative reality. Trump style....

THis coming week I will be a volunteer at the HQ hotel of the Asian Winter Games. Probably escorting VIPS to their cars and standing in the cold making sure taxi drivers are waiting at the right pick up point. Wasn't quite what I thought i'd be doing - I'd prepped a lot about helping foreign visitors  with shopping and dining information. But anyway. Helping somehow in the Asian version of the Olympics.

Friday, 3 February 2017

In control. Maybe.

Getting better. I guess - because I haven't run to the toilet for a few days now. But all is not 100% inside....if you know what I mean.

BEST event this week was that Dear Son came home for 3 nights and took over the cooking duties. I felt so much more relaxed, just knowing that another human being was at home taking care of stuff.

A registered letter addressed to Dear Son arrived from a real estate agent in Okaasan's home town - a valuation of the land  and house - and she just took it from the front door and left it on the kitchen table. But I wonder. She must have seen what kind of company it was from and where it was from. Did it not set off any questions in her mind?

I know he is busy at the moment and his time off is busy too, but I think he is skating on thin truth-ice with this topic. Better to tell her about Older Brother and get on with sorting out the house with Okaasan's knowledge (patchy) and consent (probably also patchy).

Anyway. Hope it doesn't blow up on MY watch.....

Onwards into February.

Sapporo Snow Festival starts next week and then in 3 weeks time i'm gonna be a volunteer at the Asian Winter Games, nicely situated at the information counter in the biggest, oldest hotel in town. Near a Starbucks.