Wednesday, 31 December 2014

7 years an oyomesan at oshogatsu...

SEVEN Japanese New Years with Okaasan!!

I just went back over this blog and looked. Cos I am a sad person with nothing better to do on December 31st at 8.30 pm.

Actually, I am knackered. Today I went with friends and covered about 7 km on cross country skis in a park near Sapporo. It was beautiful, hard work and fun.

And then I came home - scraped the burned pan that Okaasan had left from lunchtime heating up, had a long bath and opened the wine..

And cooked New Year dinner for Okaasan.

In 2008: Okaasan cooked New Year food in my tiny kitchen, and I assisted her. It was hard work because she kept forgetting what she's just done with seasoning and timeing.
In 2009: I bought stuff from the supermarket and heated it up.
In 2010: I took Okaasan shopping for all the ingredients and it took over five hours to help her cook all the stuff. A stressy experience for both of us.
In 2011: I bought ready made, I asked her about the taste just before serving.
In 2012: I had a Japanese cooking lesson in autumn and did an amazing spread! Okaasan was impressed.
In 2013: Instant noodles and shop stuff.

This year?

Instant noodles dressed up to make it interesting.

After I'd finished loading stuff in the bowls - and hiding the instant looked like this:

And tomorrow we'll eat the things Okaasan bought the other day and some readymade I bought.

So, Okaasan and me sat at the dinner table to end another year of being forced to live together...
Not so much chat about New Years past this time. A little about cooking, then just chat about the cat and how pink his nose is.

As I was clearing the dishes Okaasan looked around the kitchen.
"What day is today then?"
"December 31st, that's why we just ate toshikoshi (longlife) noodles..."
"Oh? December 31st today? I forget many things now, it's strange..."
"Yes, we know. It's ok. You are still healthy in your body, and enjoy eating and drinking and laughing. Don't worry...."

And so we finished dinner and another year. I checked the heating in her room. Made sure the TV was switched to the channel with old fashioned singers on it...and left her to doze into 2015...

Thankyou all for reading this blog this year. I've been a bit patchy on the blogging. 
Time for wine and chocolate, and something on cable TV that has nothing to do with Japanese end of year!!

See you on the other side :-)

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

And...into Japanese New Year..

Here comes New Year! Japanese style.................
Suddenly, over one weekend, Japan changes all the decorations to do with the frivolity of a foreign festival - Christmas - and gets back to its roots with twisted straw, blossoms, cranes and little bits of colored paper - Oshogatsu, or New Year.

Dear Son continues to be home for a few evenings - just wonderful!

Yesterday I took Okaasan shopping to the local big shop. We both had a trolley and she followed me round the a child given a trolley to push to help-mom-with-shopping.

But this "child" selected the usual: fish paste sausages, aloe yogurts and various New Year foods. She was easier to control than I expected because she kept asking me: "do we have this at home already?" I could say "yes" to things I could never see us wanting or eating.
She insisted we walked round a certain route in the supermarket - I always go here - and took ages packing the things she had bought into a bag. Good brain exercise.
She bought this stuff - brightly colored sweet bean paste animals, two kinds of fish paste and a small tray of 4 traditional foods. 

And a pine branch and flower display for the front hall.

So, SO luckily she didn't set off on buying the ingredients to make any traditional she did a few years ago. I have bought a pre-cooked dish, and that will all be enough for her and me for the holidays. DS leaves tomorrow.

After the shopping I suggested she have a coffee at MacDonalds, while I go to the classroom and do some cleaning. As she hadn't bought her handbag I gave her some money at the Macdonalds entrance door and left her for 30 mins...

Came back and found Okaasan sitting with an empty table. Looking slightly embarrassed.

"I couldn't buy any coffee! I don't have any money!"
In the 10 steps between the door and the counter she'd forgotten that she had money...

So, I showed her the money that was in her coat pocket and let her buy me a coffee.
Interesting to watch Okaasan order: she stood right behind the customer in front, right up behind them in a unnatural invasion of personal space. She only wanted a coffee. But when she looked at the counter menu card with all its confusing options her eyes went straight to the top right (reading starting place for Japanese) - which was the Chicken McNuggets and Coffee set. And that is what she always.
The sweet staff member offered Okaasan the choices of dips and smiled at me in a familiar way. People are kind - knowing the regular customer and acknowledging the family member.

So we sat in a noisy-for the-holidays Macdonalds and drank our coffees, shared the minced-in-China chicken nuggets and chatted about the weather, the coffee, the baby nearby...

And finally home.

Home for the holidays.

I have house cleaning and accounts to do. I have a book to edit. I have cats to play with. Chocolate to eat. And ski. And friend.
And Okaasan and Me.
2015. Bring it ON!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

So that was Christmas...

...and another year almost gone.

I made it to the end of working. Well, classroom working. I still have a massive editing job to do over the holidays which I think I can do with cups of tea and regular supplies of Xmas chocolate..

Christmas came and went, without Okaasan noticing much.
It isn't a big thing for her generation of Japanese, so I didn't feel too guilty to be going out for fun with friends and students.
I decorated the bits of the house she sees - toilet and kitchen, entrance hall. And on Christmas Eve and Day I made her mealtime sitting place at the kitchen table look festive.

Dear Son got back late on Christmas night from work, so after a lot of eating and drinking with friends I cooked him a cheese and potato omelete and shared some TV time with him. He is home for 4 nights in a row, which is in itself a present to us as a couple at this time of year. Ski school schedule change brought him to a ski area nearer home. He'll be here till Tuesday, and then gone again.

Okaasan ok.
Went out with day care helper Christmas Eve and didn't buy up a ton of food. Only a huge cabbage.
She had another toilet accident that evening. I was making Christmas cup cakes for a class, humming carols etc Noticed that she'd been in the toilet ages....she came out looking a bit sheepish...I made gentle helpful noises: "upset stomach?" and she mentioned not quite getting to the toilet in time, but claimed to have cleaned it up.
She hadn't.
But I couldn't break my fruity Chrissmassy cup cake joy with carols to face that on Christmas Eve. I just bundled up the soiled mat (had only been newly cleaned and in place 5 hours!) and carpet tile - and put them in the bathroom to cope with the next day on my way to work.

Oh. And the chair standing and top cupboard exploring.
She's at it again today...

Got a bit testy with me when I said it was dangerous and that the only things up there were unwanted stuff. Told me: Japanese people don't fall off chairs (!!!!!) and that you should always sort through things in case you might need them now.


I got her into a bath and then did a frantic 20 minutes clear out of the top closet. Put the bags into trash bags for protection and put six bags (each containing about 8 smaller bags!) into the shed in the garden. Left about 3 bags on the floor in her room for her to sort through. Took the closet doors out of their runners and hid them.
Now she can SEE there are no more things up there to reach for. She can sort through the stuff within reach. And hopefully be content enough. Because I really can't start hiding the kitchen chairs every time I go out :-)

I'm sure this sudden interest in the closet is a sudden burst of end of year cleaning thoughts. But she can't be standing on a chair like this as her age. Her balance on a flat shopping mall floor isn't great. A chair is an Everest.
But the dementia makes her aggressive to any suggestion of help: even when I showed her after the bath how I'd helped her - look I took the things down for you. Now you can sort them out safely. She was still testy with me. No gratitude for the help.

I got her all smiley and chatty at lunch: wartime food, New York, etc. The old tales. Maybe just averted a flareup.
I'm going to get DS to warn her about chair climbing though, she does listen to him and if he says something is dangerous she may take his advice. May.

I have to get rid of all these bags. Shall have to find someone who does flea markets in the spring and offload them all.

And so. Another New Year holidays of Okaasan and Me approaches.

Dear Son will be away. It'll be me and Okaasan for the festivities. I bought some frozen crab legs and readymade traditional food. I'll take her shopping tomorrow and try to control the amount she buys.


Wednesday, 24 December 2014

End of year Cleaning??? ;-(

Blood ran cold....heart stopped etc yesterday as I noticed several bags on the floor in Okaasan's 2nd room.
Bags? More bags? Why....and OH MY GOD! where is the chair that is always just standing inside the 1st room entrance?

When Okaasan was in the toilet I raced in to her rooms to find out.

She'd take the chair from the 1st room to the 2nd room and had climbed up to explore the top closet area - removing several of the bags within bags within bags within bags which I had sorted through and stashed a few months back.
Climbed on the chair. Aged 84. 

Never mind dementia. This isn't great.

In the 2 minute window given to me by her being in the toilet: I grabbed the chair and some bags and ran with them to the washing machine area. Hid them all behind the door.

She came back. Settled by the TV again. Nothing said.

It's the dementia much do they ACTUALLY remember/realize? If I remove this (chair and bags), will she notice/remember? Will her lack of short term memory work to my advantage.
I'm sure it is something all carers do: remove something and hope, hope , hope that the cared-for doesn't remember it.

Okaasan did, this time.
At dinner time she was back in the 2nd room...looking through one of the bags within bags I'd failed to scoop.

"Oh, I was just checking this. I wondered what was up there in the closet. I think I had a chair? It isn't here now. ...."

Thinking quickly, I kept a casual voice: "Oh, that's old stuff you don't use now. You put it away up there I think. Shall I put it back up there? Standing on a chair is a bit dangerous, isn't it"

She let me put the bags back. No fuss. I feared she would want to get all the bags own and sort thru them...what were there - 70 bags or something??
But this time she accepted what I said and allowed me to close the closet door.

But I'm not sure this is the end of it. Maybe there was something on TV about end of year house cleaning and somebody sorting through their closets. So Okaasan felt inspired to check her closets.
So, if the idea is in her mind. I think she might try again.

What to do?
I've removed the chair from her room.
But there are kitchen chairs within sight. Should I hide them too? It is fairly easy to hide cooking pans and outside shoes. Not so with three kitchen chairs....


Tuesday, 23 December 2014

DS on Duty

He was home for the weekend: so he was on duty.


 Friday night I was helping a friend with a leg injury reach her evening classes by driving her there and back. I left curry and salad in the kitchen late afternoon, and he came home from work to heat it up and eat with Okaasan. Mother and Son dinner time. :-)

Saturday morning I told him he needed to take his mother out for lunch and a walk.
"Oh, let's go to XX shopping mall!" he said happily.
"No, YOU take her there for a walk and lunch. I've done a lot of Okaasan service recently. And I need to get into her room and clean!".

And so. He took her out in the car to a big store for walking and shopping. I stayed home and did a cleaning blitz on her room.
Some horrible finds....she had a large toilet accident at night and had hidden away the toilet floor mat. And three pairs of pants that I couldn't clean enough to rescue. And a lot of orange peel, peanut shells, banana was yuk. But it was better than going for a walk/shop.

They actually bought famous lunch boxes and came home to eat. Family time.

A friend came late afternoon to tune up her skis, then stayed for dinner too. Okaasaan was nervous with a foreign guest, she sat bolt upright and didn't actually eat anything (but had stuffed a whole box of sushi at lunchtime), although she enjoyed DS teaching the foreign friend how to use chopsticks. More family time.

Sunday morning I was out with friends at a flute concert. DS did lunch with his mum.

Sunday night I cooked dinner for the three of us. Family time.

Monday morning he left again for the mountains. BUT - he will be back on Christmas night :-)

Having him here for three whole nights was great: for him and me as a couple, of course. But as carers for Okaasan. Having the break I needed from thinking about it and doing it. Monday to Friday Okaasan is lucky to get a few short conversations with me, maybe a meal with me. Have a bath. Get taken out on Wednesday by day care.
At weekends she needs more conversation and another trip out of the house. So it was great that he was here for that.

Is she aware that she isn't going out much now? Probably not really. A few times last week, when I came home and commented on the weather. She responded with a casual "yes, it's bad weather, so I didn't go out today"...but I think her awareness is that it is only "today". We know it is five days a week of staying in the house.

I had a year end lunch with some students yesterday. As I said farewell to two of them at the station - two VERY energetic, fun 80 year olds - I was aware AGAIN how different people are at the same age. These women are out with their hobbies and friends on a daily basis. In charge of their lives: shopping/cooking/money management/planning.
Okaasan at only a year or two older: in a daze in front of the TV. Waiting for the next meal to come. Given small amounts of money to spend. Not cooking or cleaning. Making lists for shopping and cooking she will never do.

Both my lovely 80 year olds are singers; church choir and a chorus group. One of them is even still an active mountain climbing club member!

Dementia makes such a difference to someone.

This week is the slide into Christmas and not so much work. Then winter holidays. My schedule gears up again after January 5th.

This year Christmas?
I've actually got a class on Christmas morning (noooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!)...and then three  foreign friends have invited me to join their cooking lunch plans. One of them is an artist living in an art community guest house nearby - it has a big kitchen and so we, two Brits and two Australians, are going to cook up a feast.
It'll be SO SO good to cook and eat Christmas food with people who actually have a Christmas sense - I am really looking forward to it.
Trouble Dear Son is coming home in the evening...and although he says he isn't to bothered about Christmas...I know I should do something special. But I'm going to be stuffed and sloshed from it'll be something easy-to-cook and vaguely festive for him and Okaasan.

Thursday is going to be a hard eating day.

Okaasan's mind is already on New Year. She cuts out New Year food adverts from the newspapers and is making a list...
Since New Year is likely to be her and me...just the two of us... I have to find a way to stop her buying all that stuff....

But first. Christmas!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Day helper success :-)

Just dropping in - as my week continues plowing on almost without me catching up with it...

This week day service helper success: Okaasan agreed to go out with the woman by taxi to the supermarket, where she bought a huge hoard of rice crackers, yogurts, packed food and breads.
Came home again by taxi and settled down by the TV to eat some of it.

I hid the helper file on a chair in the kitchen - and left a note outside the front door telling the helper where to look.
Dear Son sent me a message for his mother about the benefits of walking - and I printed it out and put it by her lunch things on the table.

All seemed to work.

I was actually here when Okaasan and the helper came back. I'd slipped back to feed cats and was lurking upstairs quietly....there wasn't the cheerful chitchat in the kitchen that would be ideal. But maybe the helper and Okaasan were all chatted out by the time they'd gone, walked round the shop and come home again.

The important thing is that the helper came, got Okaasan dressed, got her out for walking and chat. A break away from watching the TV.

I do feel sad for Okaasan. Last year she was taking herself out for a walk a few times a week, even in winter. Now she is down to twice a week - under supervision. But that is all we can do with our own working schedules at the moment. Plus her refusal to go to day center for dancing etc.

My evening classes this winter are only 3 times a week. But still that means she is eating alone 3 least.
Last night I called her between classes to tell her that her dinner was on the table, soup on the stove etc.
"Is it morning? I don't eat breakfast...." Okaasan told me....

"No,'s Thursday evening at 7 pm. That's dinner on the table...I will be home about 9 pm, please eat the food...."

Dear Son is home for the weekend. I can take a mental break from all this arranging and planning of my schedule and the needs of two cats and one old lady.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Hiding stuff

It feels a bit crazy...and mean...but...

I have started hiding stuff that I don't want Okaasan to use.

Her boots...and my kitchen pans.

Came home yesterday to another burned pan, I think she tried to heat up some left over soup, and maybe added some rice from the delivery lunchbox on top. The result can't have been very good.
She won't actually burn the house down, because this cooker cuts out when the heat gets too high, or the pan isn't moved. But I can't add in scrubbing charcoaled pans to my list of Stuff To Do every day. Can't.
Okaasan can heat up food in the microwave. Well, she "can" because there is a microwave in the kitchen...but she's of the generation that don't trust zapping food....if there is a pan...she wants to use it. But doesn't have the ability to monitor using it.

So. I hid the pans this morning before I went to work. Cleared out space on the top shelf of the towel shelves in the bathroom. She will never see them there. If she looks for a pan there won't be one. 
She can zap food in the microwave, and make instant hot soup. Or open the flasks I leave with hot food in them. 

Oh. And boots.
The weather is bad at the moment. I don't THINK she will try to go out. 
But I've started hiding her boots too. In a supermarket box on the top of the hall closet.

*** The sore foot? Blister?
Okaasan was complaining about something on her foot on Sunday. I checked. I can't see anything apparently wrong. And she isn't talking about it now. Maybe I'll ask the day helper to check again tomorrow.

Tomorrow. Day helper coming day.
Crossed fingers she manages to get Okaasan out of the house this time. The weather forecast is horrible - it'll be windy and snowy.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Weekend outings

Okaasan had a great weekend.
Thanks to me :-)
And, I managed to squeeze in a bit of joy for myself here and there too.

Yesterday took her downtown for walking and lunch.
Luckily managed to find a parking space just in the city center. Okaasan willingly grabbed my hand and off we started. Down the escalator into the underground shopping areas around the main subway station in Sapporo.
Okaasan's walking is bad for sure.
She kind of totters forwards all the time. Walking along the walls, so she can put out her hand to steady herself, and holding onto shop display areas to get along.
Downtown was busy with pre-Christmas shoppers, so it was a bit of a battle to move along. I'd hate to think of her alone in all of that. I agree with Dear Son - she can't do downtown trips unsupervised. Her balance and walking style just isn't great.

Lots of Christmas stuff to look at together, shops and displays. People dressed as Santa handing out paper butterflies, kids and families and music. All very stimulating.
I got Okaasan half way down the shopping arcade and then into an old fashioned restaurant where they had sets of fried oysters, with rice, soup and salad. Packed with families. But fast service. 
Okaasan ate mainly in silence and we chatted a little about the menu, the families and oysters. It was a good noisy place with many things for her to watch.
Then I managed to steer her BACK along the underground shopping street, via a few knickknack shops and a magazine purchase. Thankfully, when we got to the station she suggested herself that we should go home - having forgotten of course that we'd come by car.
I got her back thru the crowds, back to the car and drove home.
Successful. Enough walking for sure for her. After a week of sitting in front of the TV with her muscles doing zero.

Did dinner with her in the evening. Her conversation was very repetitive. I guess the outing was tiring.

I went skiing at 8 am!

Glorious weather. Great first skiing. This is 1 hour from home. Yes, I live in paradise!

Left Okaasan's lunch on the table and stove. Told her I'd be home by 2 pm.

Home at 2 for the next round of duties.
Today is Election Day in Japan. Nobody knows WHY Japan has an election now. The government decided to call one at the worst possible time - winter and end of year rush for everyone - to get a majority for 3 more years of awfulness.

Okaasan wanted to vote. She thinks it is important.
So I drove her down to the local elementary school and took hand again to take her inside. Took her up to the first sign-in counter, then pointed her on the next step round the voting area.
I can't vote in Japan. Lived here more than 20 years. Pay all my taxes etc. Own my own business. Can't vote.
I stood back at the entrance area and watched Okaasan go round the voting booths and boxes. There were two areas - maybe one is for the city and one is for national? When Okaasan got to the second area she seemed stuck in the booth for a looong time.
I didn't want to cause a voting center crisis by crossing the floor to enter the important area. Foreigners are probably banned from coming within 3 meters of a voting box - so I waved at one of the staff to go and help her. He presumably knows how much help he is legally allowed to give a confused voter....

Not sure what her confusion was. But she emerged a  few minutes later all smiley. Hope she didn't vote for 3 more years of the awfulness. 

She complained that she has a sore on her foot...I'll have to check that later.

Back in the car I casually asked if she needed any shopping. She asked to go to Macdonalds for coffee time. I delivered her there, then made an excuse and rushed home to clean her room.
BIG side effect of our new regime is that if Okaasan is always out WITH me, I can't get into her room to clean. So it was a chance. Otherwise I have to rush in while she is in the toilet...
Dirty clothes, old lunchboxes, newspapers, peanut shells...
45 minutes later I picked Okaasan back up from Macdonalds and politely turned down her offer of something to drink...cos back home at the end of all of this was a student's home made brandy plum wine.
As I backed the car out of the car park Okaasan said: "Oh...there is XX Supermarket. I could go there for a while, couldn't I?"
You can't.
I gave you 3 hours of my time yesterday. Now 90 minutes more. Plus two dinners. You are not going to wander round the supermarket too.
Of course I didn't say it like that. Just mentioned her painful foot and how it was best to rest it etc How the helper on Wednesday will take her to the supermarket etc.
Brought her home.

In the hallway was some election paper. Okaasan looked at it. "Oh, the election. I should vote today?"

You did. Already. You did. You did.

Time to break open the brandy plum wine.
And relaaaax.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The excuse.......

Why didn't Okaasan want to go out last Wednesday with the day helper?

She says: I didn't need any shopping, I didn't realize it was a walking chance. I thought it was a shopping trip.

Ladies and Gentlemen in the blogging gallery! What do we think of that excuse?
Does it sound possible? Does it sound credible? Does it cut the mustard?

Dear Son buys it. Maybe because he'd rather that story be the reason than accepting the depressing possibility that we're going to have to struggle with Okaasan over these day care visits. Again.

I don't buy it. Cos I'm a suspicious, nasty woman.

Okaasan has never turned down the chance to go out shopping. She adores shopping. Supermarkets and department stores are her playland.

But ok. We'll accept it for now and play along. All smiles. Stop the headbanging. 
DS says he'll write a note for Okaasan reminding her that Wednesdays are walking/exercising trips out and that she should go for the sake of her health.

And now he's left again for a other week of ski work.

** Last night I had a restless night with hungry cats demanding breakfast at 4.20 am. Got back to sleep and dreamt: Dear Son and the care helper were in the kitchen (this is cos he and I were talking about it all last night in the kitchen).
Suddenly I looked up and realised the helper was my old boss from a few years ago. A woman who buggered me around over a business chance and I escaped her craziness by quitting my job...two days later my best mate in the office also quit her job and we spent Xmas holidays commiserating with alcohol all over town.

Anyway - THAT woman was working as the day helper! And in my dream I am pleading with DS:"Nooooo!!! I can't accept HER in my home as the helper!!! Nooooo. We have to talk!!"

Today is Saturday.
Time to saddle up for Oyomesan Duty and take Okaasan out for a walk....and a bit of shopping. And lunch.
She hasn't walked for 7 days. Sat on the carpet and watched TV for 7 days. I can't let her walk alone somewhere, I'll have to be with her and make sure she is safe.

Off to work.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

...and that would be a "No"...

Trip out for shopping and walking with a day service helper?

Nope. Niet. No thankyou.

That would be a "no".

Sounds of Oyomesan banging head on wall....

I kind of suspected it when I got home last night. There didn't seem to be any new food packaging in the kitchen or Okaasan's room. The front door key and shopping money was missing from the day service helper report file.
I couldn't quite decipher the helper's scrawlings...
Okaasan? She nodded when I asked her if she'd been out shopping. No hope of information from her. She probably also believe she had a bath and cooked her own lunch....

So, this morning after I got Okaasan into a bath, I could rush into her room for a quick clean and hunt. I found the key and money envelope in her handbag. There were no new food packaging around.
Took the scrawlings to classes and asked a student to decipher them.
As I thought: "Mrs N said it was too cold to go out, and that she didn't need any shopping. So I just chatted to her. But I couldn't find the key or the money. And the file was in the entrance hall". That was the helper's report.

Yeah. Right. Too cold. And have enough shopping?
More likely: didn't want to be taken out by a helper. Didn't want to feel that she needed an outsider's help. Didn't want to waste money on a taxi.
If Okaasan is given any chance to go out she usually grabs it. Can be dressed and ready in minutes if she wants to go.


Really makes me want to bang my head against a wall.
But also, I'm not surprised.
Okaasan is so so so bloody independent. She doesn't see WHY she would need a stranger to come to the house and TAKE her somewhere at all. She doesn't know/remember that she hasn't been out of the house since the weekend. Doesn't think she needs exercise - because she firmly believe she is doing the Nishi-guru exercises every day on the carpet to keep her muscles in tone.

So. No thankyou.

Going out with me or Dear Son is different. It's a family together outing - in her mind at least. Maybe...maybe over time she can build a relationship with the helper and think that going out with them is fun. But I am pretty sure at the moment she isn't positive about it.

Dear Son - on the phone from his icy and rainy ski resort - said he will talk to her when he comes home tomorrow night. Talk to her about how fun and good it would be to go walking to the supermarket.
But of course that is fine for tomorrow. Come next Wednesday, when he is away working again....will Okaasan be any more welcoming to the helper?

Bangs head on wall.

And if we go to the trouble of setting up a DVD player on a timer...will she join in the exercise DVD? Or would she just say: "I learned all about that years ago. I don't need a video. I do my own exercises.". And probably unplug the player.??

This kind of thing just makes me feel: why bother? Why don't we just give her some food, clean her room, take her out a bit. And just let her age and be as she wants. Leg muscles weakening and mind freezing into inactivity.
Like that hit movie: Let it go!  I feel like running to the top of a snowy mountain and raging against the storms....

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Winter Week 1

Truckin' into the first full week of Winter Care on Okaasan and Me.

All going well.
The snow arrived - not a lot at the moment, maybe 5 cm, so the roads are icy and dangerous.
NOT the conditions for Okaasan to go walking. Luckily though, she understands that and doesn't seem to be keen to go out at all. I come home and she has switched on the porch light, closed her room curtains and has settled in for the evening.

A year or two ago I'd often come home about 5 pm and Okaasan would then start stirring to go out - of course it was far too dark/cold/icy - but this year she is less interested, maybe less confident, about going out for walks alone. So she'll be down to the twice a week outings: with day care helper on Wednesdays and me on the weekends.
( And no, I haven't forgotten about the Nishi-guru exercise DVD looping idea - just haven't had the time to set it up...)

It's good that Okaasan isn't wanting to go out alone. Before Dear Son left for ski work last week he and I talked about whether I should be hiding Okaasan's shoes to prevent her from trying to leave the house...but it seems there is no need because she is staying put in front of the TV.

This week?

I had Japanese test on Sunday afternoon. With hundreds of eager young Chinese students. Waaay above my level. Level 3. I knew it, and from the very first page of questions it was clear. So I just relaxed and enjoyed ticking random circles on the answer sheet...picking my way thru the stuff I could do as a language practice.
Listening section no problem. Reading and grammar - whooooaaaa!!!
It's ok. I haven't studied hard at all this autumn. So now I know what Level 3 demands. Maybe I'll try next year.

If there was a test in practical language ability I'd ace it. In the past few weeks I've done the following in Japanese:

* entertained and managed the life of an elderly lady.
* interviewed and arranged classes for a prospective student
* negotiated and booked a movie theater for a documentary screening next year (more on THAT later)
* given the Japanese language test room staff a blasting for being noisy during the first part of the test...

Yes. The test staff. They were tramping up and down the classroom during the first 15 mins of the grammar section - shuffling papers, clattering pens on the table and generally failing to Keep Quiet in the Test Room. So, in the break time - I complained to them. In perfectly ungrammatical, but getting-the-message-across Japanese!!
Cos I am bossy. Sadly, got that trait from my mother...

Okaasan and me.
Doing fine.
She had lunch box deliveries. Dinner with me on Sunday and Monday night. A bath on Sunday.
Dinner chat about Kyoto and wartime food. If students give me some Japanese snacks as souvenirs from a trip, I leave them on the kitchen table because then I can use them as a prop to get Okaasan talking about the place they come from.

Yesterday I had my first year end party with students. A friend came in to feed the cats in the evening. She could access the cats upstairs without disturbing Okaasan downstairs.

I left curry in a pan on the cooker. With a box of pre-cooked rice. As I was leaving the house at 10 am I wasn't sure that the food would keep hot in the food flasks until 6 or 7 pm.
So, somehow Okaasan would have to heat it up herself. Her ability on heating up food is hit and miss: sometimes ok, sometimes half heated, sometimes the food is forgotten in the microwave within a minute or two of her putting it there.

At 6 pm I found a quiet spot near the shoe lockers of the party restaurant to call Okaasan and tell her that I was out - so sorry etc - your dinner - DS's famous home made curry and rice - is on the cooker. Sorry. See you later.

At 7 pm I escaped the party again and by the shoe boxes checked in with Okaasan...
Dinner? No, I didn't eat dinner. I was watching Tv....oh...wait a moment...what's this...oh...curry...yes, I ate it is...

I got home just after 10 pm and could smell the burned saucepans from the entrance hall. Two burned pans. She'd cooked rice with water in one pan. And next to her sleeping form I spotted the other pan: burned curry and a bowl of half eaten curry.

Oh well. She ate something. For one night it is ok. Six years ago, when DS rescued Okaasan from her chaotic home in the Tokyo suburbs, he found many burned pans in her kitchen. She really can't do cooking or reheating. She knows there is a microwave and sometimes uses it...or pans, and burns the food. That's why we bought a cooker that cuts out when the heat gets too hot, or if the pan is not moved for an hour.

Sigh. Oh well. 
Time to start pan scrubbing.

But today! Day care day!!! Yippeee!!!
Now I only have to worry about leaving my kitchen in clean enough state that the helper lady isn't shocked about my housekeeping level.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Walking 二人で

The Saturday helper did her duty by Okaasan.

Trip out in the car to the local shopping mall - walk round the supermarket, walk round the home care center, lunch of noodles and chat, home again. All done in 2 hours 30 mins.

That's Okaasan's outside exercise until next Wednesday.
Unless God throws in a few more hours into my usual available 24 quota.

Wasn't so bad. She enjoyed it. I went with the flow.

Got her ready to go out with advice about suitable clothing and shoes. Gave her money. Put her cell phone in the handbag, in case I lost her.
Supermarket was huge and busy. Okaasan clutched onto the big shopping car and pushed it all the way round. I had some shopping to do, and she either advised me on what I should buy or picked up a few random bits. She asked shop staff if she couldn't find stuff....told me that the fermented soy beans I was buying were no good...insisted on buying two slices of pizza in the baker "for snacks".
We also went round the home center - a long walk via the pet center, the curtain department, the electrical department, the Xmas decorations.
Rather bizarrely, Okaasan stopped a man who was deep in thought near light bulbs and asked him "What's the date today?". And she commented several times that we didn't need flowers because guests don't come to the house.

After all of that I took her upstairs to a ramen restaurant. Ordered for her and we sat across from eachother looking at the parking area and mountains view, and then slurped our noodles.

Brought her home, via the gasoline stand.
She spent the rest of the afternoon asleep under the heated table carpet.

I watched a  movie on TV and went out to dinner with a friend. Left food in a heated pot on the table for Okaasan. She only a little.

All well.


Got a snow storm.

And a Japanese test.......

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Planning for two

Me and Okaasan.
What will WE be doing this weekend?

Under our new regime: take Okaasan out for a walk/don't let her go out alone.
This is what DS really wants because he is worried about her ability to walk safely alone. Worried, but not worried enough to be here...
Wednesdays the day care helper comes to take Okaasan out. Weekends are my duty time.

Makes planning a weekend a bit harder.

I used to be able to plan my own weekend and factor in:

* Bath time for Okaasan 
* Lunch and Dinner for Okaasan
* Send her out to go walking in daylight
* Maybe pick her up from somewhere
* Clean her room while she is out.

Now it is different. I need to GO with her somewhere to take her for a walk safely.

This weekend, in my life I have:

Saturday, 5.30 pm onwards dinner plans with a friend downtown
Sunday, all afternoon - Japanese language test at a local college campus.

Would also like to try and do some Christmas card/present shopping.

So - how will I fit Okaasan into this equation?

Tomorrow will be hard - the Japanese test will take up from midday to late afternoon. I'll be knackered after that.

So, I'd better take her out today - but early enough that I can rest up a little at home myself before going to meet my friend at 5 .30 pm.
Walk outside and then back here for lunch? That means I'll have to dredge up enough bright conversation for about two hours of interaction.
Walk AND lunch in the same place? Could get away with an hour or so of bright chat...


Walk and lunch seems a good idea.
Sunny now, huge snowfall forecast for later today. Better get her out this morning.

Planning for two.......

Thursday, 4 December 2014


I have a Japanese language test this coming weekend - aiming for 3rd Grade this time.
Won't pass because I haven't opened the kanji book or online flashcards for about 3 months, and I've been doing just enough grammar and diary writing homework to keep my Nihongo teacher sane every week.
Just enough.

So, I should be studying this:

But I REALLY am peering at this, and trying to decipher it!

The day service helper report which was left neatly on the kitchen table yesterday. Big pink folder, with shopping receipts, the door key inside. And short handwritten report about going by taxi to the supermarket with Okaasan.

I wonder if Okaasan opened and read it after the helper had gone? I wonder what she thought about such a report on her?

Think it all looks good. That they went and she chatted about what she usually buys, where she usually goes etc. Receipts for the usual stuff: yogurt and magazines, snacks and dried seaweed.

Kitchen was all clean and tidy when I came home. Dinner stuff washed and put away.
Looks like a successful first day.

This morning I asked Okaasan: "so you went to XX Supermarket yesterday with the helper in a taxi, didn't you? Was it fun?"
"Me. XX Supermarket? I went? I don't know. Did I?"
No memory of that.
I laughed with her about it. She laughed about it. We made light of it.
But, still. Even after 6 years I AM surprised.

Must have been quite a lengthy, unusual experience because the day service people came and talked with DS and Okaasan in the kitchen, signed the contract for service etc and then got ready to go out and went, all the chat, and home again by taxi.

All of that yesterday afternoon -  gone from her memory bank.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

6 years an oyomesan...

It really is: SIX whole years since all this began.
December 2 in 2008 I was a carefree English teacher in Japan with a cool boyfriend and a cat. Teaching and skiing and drinking and......

Full of responsibility. Feel I've grown up a whole lot. Now a middle aged, wife and daughter-in-law/carer/cleaner/cook/planner....
Well, I AM 53 years old. Had to grow up sometime!

Okaasan came north to live with us 6 years ago this week. Poor woman.
Well, no - actually. If she'd stayed in her own home in the Tokyo suburbs she would have been in a sorry state with a confused and dirty life. Fighting with the post office and bank about money and always looking for important things. Going out to the sports center for a bath and to the local noodle restaurant for food.
But - she would have been in her own home, with her neighbours and the area she had known for all her adult life.

Can't get away from that. We dragged her out of her familiar environment and into a place where 4 months of the year there is so much snow, it is hard to go out and walk. To a place where she has no friends or memories.

I guess that is the trade off every family makes: Familiar, but uncared for vs Unfamiliar, but cared for.

And so our 6th winter begins.
DS goes off today to start ski work. Maybe home once more this week, and then gone for a week.
And today the day center helper will come to take Okaasan out in a taxi for a visit to the supermarket and dinner preparations. The weather is really cold and windy, with snow flurries - which should reinforce the idea that "you can't go out alone today, so this nice lady is going to help you".

I hope.
I'm working till after 9 pm today, so I can't see how the day care helper visit goes down. Just sit here between classes....wondering!

6 years.

How long will it all go on? And when freedom comes...will we know what to do with it?
This experience has definitely aged us. Made us better people? Probably.

And Okaasan? Her condition is a little worse, of course. Not dramatic. But the independence has gone. The variety of every day she used to do. Replaced with a lot of sitting/Tv/sleeping. Conversation style: declining. Walking: declining. Personal care: declining. Interaction with the physical world around her: declining.
Overall: happy day to day.
And when there is a change of condition - whether that is a physical problem or stress with us or the world - oh boy! We see a scary change suddenly.A change into paranoia, aggression and raw emotion.

So. 6 years.....
Thankyou so much if you've been reading this blog for 6 years. Thankyou too, if you are a recent reader. I love knowing there is a support network.

Onwards into winter.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

A subtle change...

There's been a change in Okaasan.

Her walking power/ability/confidence has diminished. She is happier to be taken out and led by the hand round streets or a shopping center. With a kind of mask face....

And Dear Son is right in it.

This week he has taken his mum out several times, walking round local streets and on trips in the car to supermarkets (including Costco again). It's good. He is spending time with her and getting to judge her mental and physical ability more.

He is worried about the walking. He says she is really precarious when she walks, tripping over small rough surfaces or slight slopes. Threatening to teeter and topple at any moment. Holding his hand - and she takes his hand very willingly - gives her confidence to walk.
She is still walking a long way. They walked from home to my classroom one evening for a family trip out to a restaurant, and  she's walked all over Costco.

So, she isn't so weak and incapable.
But somehow her balance? Her confidence? Her coping with a change in surface - all has declined since summer.

So he has taken her out almost every day this week.

One more week of him being at home. Maybe. Then the ski season starts. And she is my responsibility.

I can take her out at weekends, in the car to a safe walking place. And on Wednesdays the day service helper will be in charge. DS doesn't think she should go out alone....and Okaasan's attitude to using a stick is...hmmm....not great.

So. A new stage we've reached.
I see other families doing this a lot. The aged member being led by the hand, or steered by the elbow by a middle aged family member. Sometimes the aged one is marching with determination, but usually they are passively being lead and not really connecting with stuff happening around them.

Tonight we went to a local store and while I whizzed around grabbing our dinner and cat food, DS walked his mum around two floors...she gripped his hand and walked willingly with him.

Will she walk with me like that? She takes my hand if she is getting in and out of the car, and on steps. I wonder if she'll walk with me hand in hand.

When we moved to this house 5 years ago Okaasan took long, daily walks all over this area and regularly went downtown by train.
That narrowed to fixed routes locally and downtown. A few falls. Less and less going downtown. Over ambitious distances locally. Then the past few months less and less actually going out herself....

A new stage of all of this....

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The winter plan...

The plan is: every Wednesday  late afternoon a day care person will come to the house, help Okaasan get ready for going out, take her by taxi to the local big supermarket, walk around it with her for exercise and chat, come home by taxi, cook/heat up food for her dinner and leave her to eat it.
I will be out working. DS will be away ski teaching.

That's the plan.

The day care manager, Dear Son and maybe Okaasan...have agreed to that.

I was out at work. But I agree to that.

It'll start next week. And we'll see if that is a good idea. Exercise/chat/someone apart from me to stimulate Okaasan's body and brain in the long winter months.

DS says Okaasan was a bit negative about it all - of course didn't think she needed outside help etc. But the carrot of "going to the supermarket for a walk" seemed to work.

Crossed fingers.

One side point: she is happy to go to Supermarket A...but not Supermarket B, because "the staff are bullies"......first we've heard of her having a negative about that supermarket. We wonder what happened to her there, or what she thinks happened to her there.... need to see this cat picture...current cat craze sweeping Japan....Neko Montage....give your cat cartoon eyes:-)
Have you got a cat handy now? Pick up a pen and a bit of paper - give it a go!

Saturday, 22 November 2014


Did I ask Okaasan how to cook burdock and carrots?
I came home on Monday at 6 pm after 4 hours of classroom time and NINETY minutes of the dentist chair (ongoing and almost finished root canal treatment) and poured myself a large glass of Chardonnay. Flopped on the sofa with a cat draped over my knees.
Dragged myself upright enough to put the burdock and carrot in a miso soup creation, and heat up supermarket fried fish for dinner. Gave Okaasan 30 minutes of chat time at dinner.
And retreated back to a 2nd large glass of wine and more TV.

Didn't have the warm, relationship building joint cooking thing at all.
I have a dream, that if I wasn't working full time I would be spending lots of quality time with Okaasan chatting to and doing things with her to build our connections and give her fun in life.
But - too many days are like this Monday. Work comes first, and Okaasan care is limited to getting some kind of food on the table by 7 pm every day.
In between work we fit in the bathtimes/the walk times/the laundry/the cleaning/the lunches left on the table or ordered in for her.
Two people working don't have much extra time to give to quality caring.

We do what we can fit in, without feeling too guilty.

Meanwhile - DS is back from Tokyo and getting ready for his ski season.
I've turned up the nagging level so that he has been forced to call the day care manager and arrange a home visit for next week to discuss what they can do to help Okaasan this winter.
We are hoping for a friendly woman to come every Wednesday afternoon and take Okaasan out to a local big supermarket, let her walk and shop for snacks and magazines, bring her home and maybe cook some dinner for her. If that happens mid week thru December to March, then I can take her out at weekends.
If she gets out of the house and walks at least twice a week - it is a good enough basis for life.
Plus - if I can get that Nishi Guru exercise video set up....

Have to give up on going to day care for now. She is too negative about it. And DS isn't eager enough to push her.

We did a big clean of her room today. Got the carpet back from the dry cleaners and threw away a lot of papers and stuff in her room. 
Found more #$*?<" in a supermarket flyer...left on the heater in the kitchen :-( I'd noticed the paper there for a few days...hadn't realised what was inside the fold....


We really HAVE to check and clean her room and areas more now.....

Dear Son has realised that his mum's walking isn't steady at all. He doesn't want her going on her own to much. In fact she hasn't been out on her own for a walk for a week or two, and she has been downtown on the subway for maybe a month or more.
With winter coming her life is about to get much smaller...

and my life is about to get....BUSY!
This blog, which has been comatose during summer will probably liven up.

Monday, 17 November 2014

#$%* Happens

Hope you're not eating breakfast.

Cos it's unhealthy for you to eat breakfast and surf the Internet at the same time!

And you might find topics like this.

Found a nasty little parcel in Okaasan's room yesterday.
Casually left next to the sofa and the recycle newspaper box. A supermarket flyer crumpled up. ThankGOODNESS I didn't grab it.
Something brown and squishy inside.

Set me off on a hunt for the pants or pajamas that she'd been wearing at the time. Soon located the nice flowery jimjams I bought her this spring. Squishy and probably stained beyond rescue.

These "toilet accidents" at more than before. We use to find them in winter, or when her legs painful. Times when maybe she hadn't got to the toilet in time.
DS also has a theory that sushi is to blame. He's stopped taking her to sushi or buying it for meals at home. I think that's sad - she loves sushi and sashimi. A little is ok. But gorging out at a revolving sushi bar is probably a bad idea.
Maybe slightly old food in the fridge is also a bad idea?

Old people and their digestion? Or something more? We'll never know if it is something medically wrong. Cos she will never go to a doctor.

Anyway. About once a week now.

Can't talk to her about it. Tried that in the past. She doesn't remember the incident afterward.
Could try putting a toilet style trash box by the door in her room? Would that be enough of an association to get her to put soiled things there?

Onwards thinking.

Peaceful Sunday.
I got her into a bath, gave her lunch and then went out myself for a long walk and a movie.

Came home with a small amount of raw fish and tried to cook the burdock and carrot dish. It didn't look so good and Okaasan told me I'd done it wrong - I used to flare up at her advice. Now I just let it was over me and nod, and aplogise for being a bad cook. I have learned to control my flare up feelings over the last few years!
If I am home early enough tonight I might ask HER to show me how to cook it.
Or I might come in thru the front door, pour myself some Chardonnay and watch TV.