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.