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.