Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Too difficult for hospital...

The hospital is complaining.
They've asked us to take Okaasan home for a night. In the hope that it will ease her aggression/stress/anger.

Dear Son got the phone call yesterday and went in to talk to the doctor and nurses.
They said that the physical therapy is progressing. But she still can't stand or walk alone. So they have taken her to the toilet by wheelchair and lifted her on and off the toilet twice. And she is diapers, of course.

But. She is noisy and difficult. Banging her hand on the wall by the bed. Aggressive with the nurses. Shouting.

Of course.

They suggested she comes home tomorrow for one night. To give her (and them) a break.

We are in a whirl of wondering. And heavy feeling.

Will one night at home make any difference?
Would Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon be better? 2 nights?
Will we be able to get her back to the hospital?
Is it actually NECESSARY that she goes back to the hospital?
Special taxi and driver with a wheelchair.
How to get a wheelchair into the house.
Should she sleep on the floor (as usual), or the sofa? Or we should get in a bed?
Toileting......protecting the flooring/carpet/sofa.....
Could she transfer to another, more dementia-experienced facility? 
Could she be at home, here - with a physical therapist coming every day?

Dear Son will be calling the day service manager today for advice....

His difficult bike taxi customer leaves today. Finally. He was looking forward to a few days of normality and rest. No chance.


This is a smallish hospital. Orthopedics. Mainly neck and back. Many elderly patients, of course. But they don't have special staff for dementia and psychological support. The nurses are busy.
As Okaasan's pain subsides and she begins to feel better - she is getting more questioning about her situation.... questioning which is frustration and aggression. She can't remember the calm reasoning anyone gives her and she doesn't do much to ease her own stress.

Anyone in hospital usually arranges their time to while away the hours. A bit of TV, a book, a letter, a visit, sleep, some food, physical therapy, checks...but someone with dementia doesn't. She frets and stews and stares at walls, listens to conversations....turns away magazines and the tricky TV earphones.....doesn't chat to other only in the moment of self-unhappiness.

And it's coming our way...tomorrow or Friday.....

Stay tuned.

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.