Thursday, 6 August 2020

A pandemic birthday...

Okaasan has reached 90 years old!
Little Kazuko, the oldest daughter of the haulier's family of longtime ago Kawagoe, has lived thru three emperors, a war, a country's rebirth, a technological revolution....and a Pandemic.


Well, we HOPE she lives thru the Pandemic!
If she does, we can actually take her beyond the care home front door, into the sunshine. Out to a cafe or a little lunch of crab.

But for now we can't. So, 30 mins in her care home bedroom. Singing Happy Birthday and clapping. Masks and hand sprays.
We ordered a tiny cream pudding from a cake shop, they topped it with a biscuit iced with "Happy Birth-Day" letters and the date. We took in paper plates and plastic spoons, and napkins and had a 15 minute party in her bedroom.

Of course, the staff nixed the idea of lighting candles, because none of us wanted to test the care home and hospital sprinkler system. I stuck two tiny candles in the top of the tiny cake...in fact Okaasan probably can't remember is she had in fact just blown them out....and in Covid-19 times maybe not a great idea to encourage her to blow on the food the three of us were about to share!!!

And so we celebrated. She enjoyed it. Smiles and claps. Tucked into the cream pudding and scraped away with the spoon on the pot.

Then the staff came and told us "Time Up", another family were waiting for their allotted 30 mins of Visit Time. So we hurriedly packed up the cake plates and headed away.

Happy Birthday Okaasan.

So sorry we can't take you out to eat crab.
Rising cases of this disease in our region, up to 10 plus a day in this city...and worries about how the traditional hometown travel of the Obon Festival next week will impact it all. In fact, many Japanese people have cancelled their hometown visit plans.
It's a hot, humid summer. Wearing masks and sweaty....

But Happy Birthday Kazuko! You made it so far :-)

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Hulu memories

Hulu dance was such a big, happy part of Okaasan's life...before she moved to live with us and then for a few years here, too.
Until the stress of not being able to remember the dance steps and all the training for performances that this so-called hobby group subjected their members to. Because it's Japan...and even an old lady hobby group aims for perfection.

Anyway. It was her happy activity.

We were wonderfully reminded of that on our care home visit this week. We forgot to take photo albums, and were wondering how to fill our allotted 30 minutes of visit time - because she doesn't talk or do more than head bobbing, lip pursing and eye rolling.

Somehow hulu dance came up.
I did a few comedy steps, waving my arms in the wave-pattern...swaying my hips...

Okaasan loved it. Laughed. Through back her head. Actually SAID 3 full sentences about the topic...laughed again.
Dear Son did some hip rolls and hand waves too. Okaasan responded with a little - FAR more realistic - hand ripple gesture.

It was delightful.
The staff laughed. We laughed. Okaasan too.

Of course, all the dementia how-to-books say this: that if you can find the happy memory/skill thing and even give a little hint of that - it will penetrate deep into the broken mind and reactivate the emotion of that experience.
Okaasan can't do or talk about hulu any more. She maybe can understand if we talk about it. But can't respond. But the gesture of me doing it - that triggered her and a full sentence emerged. 3 of them!

I see hulu moves in my future care home visits...

** NOT good news.
The care home is on the south side of the city's entertainment area.
Yesterday a new cluster of COVID-19 was discovered in cabaret bar - the young women who work there, customers...
I don't think the staff of the care home are going bar hopping after work, poor things probably have no energy, or money, for that.
But I DO worry that they may casually stop off in a local convenience store and sit at the Eat-in counter with a snack...where somebody from the cabaret has sat...and left their infection...

I know, I know. It's a long shot!
But still. It's all in the same walking distance area.
I read somewhere that big care homes have a greater risk, once Covid-19 arrives. Okaasan's home is big. 6 floors of old people...30 people to each floor....staff...

If it gets into the home there is little we can do. Can't move her. Can't bring her home. We would be shut out. Only the local TV news and phone calls telling us what is happening.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Visit, while you can?

We've done two more visits to Okaasan.
Sat in the lounge, sat in her room. 30 mins each time - it's long enough, to be honest - because she doesn't talk and hardly responds to what we say...so 30 mins of prattling about things is enough for our brains.

I think she understands what we are saying, but can't form any response.
And if the sentence is too long and complex...she just gets lost.
And of course, she can't see our mouths moving behind the masks.

But. But.
Yet another care home in the city has COVID-19 and the cases are mounting...10 one day...12 the next. Residents and staff.
How long will it be before our care home shuts the doors again to family visits?
We feel it might be soon.

So, we go on the weekly visits and chat away.

Meanwhile, some kind of normal in our area - businesses are open again and now there is a domestic tourism discount promotion campaign to get us all to travel a bit and spend some money. Japan is still banning foreigners from coming into the country - only 250 a day from the business community of Vietnam, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand. They will be restricted in movement and activity.

Sapporo city is always packed with foreign tourists. It is so strange to see it quiet.
I met a friend downtown on Saturday. We sat, in our masks, on a park bench in the city center. Quiet. The shopping area was like a midweek afternoon.

I can't imagine foreigners flooding back here for months and months...this winter?
But then we can't do all the open doors and windows...the air circulation....

What a strange world it is...still.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Hello stranger!

Here she is! Okaasan is BACK, in person, in the blog named after her :-)

First meeting with loving family after 4 months of care home lock down...got the lock down hair syndrome, and a bit uncertain about all this social excitement...

But back.

She was happy to see us, knew who we were and said a few words...laughed. Looked from him to me, smiling. Wasn't so communicative, but not bad. Pulled some funny faces for us and WAVED us "Goodbye!" right until she lost sight of us near the elevator doors.

A good visit.

The care home had it all set up:
Temperature checks
Facemasks
Spray down with some kind of sanitizer
Health questions about our recent condition.
Rules: no presents, no visit to private room, 30 mins only.

Slightly surprisingly, we were allowed to wear out outside shoes into the care home. 

It was strange to be back. Take the elevator upstairs to the lounge area and there was Okaasan, in her wheelchair at a table. We sat and prattled on about a world-wide pandemic, and masks, and summer and flowers, and hair and stuff...

I think she found the mask communication hard - she couldn't see our mouths moving to KNOW we were talking...and obviously it was a bit muffled. So her focus slipped off to the TV. But when the staff came over to chat, she looked from person to person.
They said she is fine...but recently isn't good at feeding herself. They feed her, and still there are lots of food drops and slips. They asked us to get a plastic bib apron for her. Walking also...not so good now.

But we MET her and could see her!
This summer she will be 90 years old....hopefully we can take her OUT of the building by then...out to enjoy fresh air and some kind of birthday celebration.