Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Drifting on....

The days drift by ....for Okaasan.
While he and I spin around in circles in our busy lives. She nestles by the TV and (usually) gets food when she expects it, has a bath sometimes, goes for a walk. 

January was horrendously busy for both of us.
He was out at the ski areas with day after day of work, driving between the ski areas and home for the odd night...change of clothes and gone again. This year is amazing. And Chinese New Year will coincide with the Sapporo Snow Festival, so it will continue into February. Lots of middle class Chinese now getting into winter sports in Japan.

I was barely hanging on to the home front.
The injured cat with his ear. Endless broken sleep and stress. For both cats and me. Most days I operated on about 3 hours sleep a night. I ate rubbish. Have got fat. Drunk quite a lot too. Didn't go to the gym all month. Didn't ski.

It is always a fine balance in winter with DS away. Me doing the Work/Home/Self balance act. This month the whole cat situation just pushed me right up to hanging on to management of it all by finger nails.

So Okaasan just drifted thru it all.

A few more complaints about going to the supermarket with the day helper in a taxi....fussing about the signs in the hall about "Don't Let the Cats Out" and fussing about the bath heater system. For years she has had baths and never mentioned the temperature setting device by the bath - now it is a major topic every time she has a bath - the noises it makes, the temperature - really endless fussing about it.
But at least no bath accidents. DS didn't order any bath assist equipment, and I just get into the bathroom with her and make comments about lunch is ready to get her out.

Last Saturday I took Okaasan downtown for a walk. We went by subway and walked the underground shopping mall. She clutched walls and displays, peering at the bustle of shoppers. I walked her to the favorite coffee shop and left her there with magazine, coffee and cake for 30 mins...then brought her home. She was exhausted.

February next week.
Must be better.
The cat has managed to go 4 days of outside life without fresh injury. DS is away until next week.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Could she? Breaking it down.

Okaasan whinged at Dear Son the other day: "I don't need  that woman, I can go out on my own in a taxi shopping.

"That woman" would be the wonderful, patient care helper from the local authority. Who comes for two hours every week to get Okaasan dressed and out to a local supermarket by taxi.

Dear Son told his mother bluntly - NO, your mental condition is far worse than you know. You need help in going out and in winter is safer with a helper.

I thought about it afterwards.
Could she do it alone?
What could she do? Couldn't she do?

Order a taxi, get dressed, get handbag/phone/gloves/key/money - go shopping. 
After shopping get another taxi and come home. Pay the taxi.

Well, to be honest it isn't that hard. 
What areas would be difficult for her? End in confusion.

Ordering a taxi.

Would she just sleep the afternoon away? After lunch fall asleep and only when we come home at 5 or 6 pm, wake up? So, too late to go out? Probably. Usually her days are spent dozing with the TV, hour after hour blending into the same time. The actual decision "Now I will order a taxi and go out in 30/45 mins" - the ability to make that decision and act on it. Gone.

Even with a taxi company number and her telephone - I don't think she could do it. Have the conversation to tell the taxi company where and what time. And then be ready for the taxi when it arrives.

Get ready for going out - don't think she could do it alone. I think the taxi driver would be hovering in the hallway, with the car parked in a narrow snowy street while Okaasan fussed about gloves, or heater, or key, or phone...impossible for a middle-aged Japanese male taxi driver to come into the house and assist Okaasan.

After shopping - coming home by taxi. Maybe she could get a taxi, give them the address to come home. Would she have enough money to pay each time, or would she have used it all for shopping?
And then if there was no taxi outside the supermarket at the moment when she emerged, would she try and walk home in the snowy, icy streets...

Yes - we could arrange it ourselves. Pre-book a taxi to come every Wednesday at 3 pm.
But we'd have to telephone her at 2.30 pm ...and 2.45 pm to make sure she was getting ready.
And still I worry about the poor driver having to hover while she fussed.

Mainly the problem is Okaasan WANTING to go out or not.
I can easily imagine a pre-booked driver arriving at the front door - and Okaasan peering out at the snow and saying: "Oh, a bit cold today, I don't feel like it, thankyou....I don't want to spend that money".

Part of the day helper reason is the cheerful conversation and interaction she gives Okaasan. Monday to Friday in front of the TV alone isn't good. If I am working nights, the amount of conversation with me is limited to a few sentences about the weather or the heater as I rush in and out.

So. We use a day helper.

That is the breakdown of why we don't think Okaasan could order a taxi and go shopping herself. Impossible to explain that all to her, of course. 
And in fact, we are VERY lucky that - until now - she hasn't tried to do any of this. She has a phone, she usually has some money, there is probably a taxi company number on a city public service newsletter - she could decide to head out independently. But she doesn't. Usually sleeping with the TV.

* And in happier news today.
I managed to get her into a bath, then she climbed out of the bath alone and I got the timing precisely right for me to go into the bathroom and start washing her hair. While she was sitting on the edge of the bath.
Just marched in, took the shampoo and set about it with what I hoped was a day service helper kind of brisk, friendly efficiency.

Now I've given her lunch.

And I am going out to a local cheapo steak place to gorge on steak. I have a cold coming on and my European body-in-the-land-of-tofu is craving MEAT. That will make a difference.

Head cold. Injured cat. Old lady and her bath.
Happy Saturday.

Will just have to open up yet another Adam Lambert video on YouTube and make myself happy.

Monday, 11 January 2016


Okaasan helps me.
She tries. She understands that I am on my own at the moment - and she tries.
That's good - isn't it? That she can understand and empathize with another's situation.

Amazing really. Because she lives pretty much in her own bubble.

So she comes into the kitchen when I am cooking...hovers and washes up a knife or a plate. I make sure to thank her. And twice she has washed up all the plates after dinner. Wonderful.

It is surprising though - that she remembers that Yujiro is away and I am doing it all.

I took her out on Saturday. In the car to the subway station and she went downtown alone for about 3 hours. Came back exhausted.
A few hours later at dinner: NO idea she had been downtown at all.
"Really? Me? Today? I went out?"
That must be so strange - to have  someone tell you that you did a whole lot of things today - subway, coffee shop etc...and to have NO picture of any of that. Even as we stood there in the kitchen talking about it - just no memory.

Life ongoing.
One cat has terrible ear injuries from a fight and I am trying to nurse him back to health, keeping him home and being kept awake at night by yowling. This morning I cleaned his gungy ear before I applied the medicine cream - and while I was in the kitchen getting my coffee...he shook his head and spattered blood all over the wall.
Kind of like a CSI episode - blood spatter crime scene.
Gawd. Pet owning is fun.....
Gives me and Okaasan something to talk about at meal times - the cat and his injury and the huge plastic collar he had to wear.

Because really, her conversations are getting smaller and smaller.
I talked about Korean food yesterday - some Tv program - tried Korean food/New York/Great food etc etc...her old memories of that have vanished.
Tried talking about her husband and golf...she looked blank. More and more recently she has no memories of married life - everything is "wartime/we had nothing"...even if you try to say that marriage and husband was after the war - she insists that it wasn't - he didn't play golf, it was wartime....

So, ANY mealtime conversation points - the cat and his ear or the flower on the table - anything is useful.


And I escaped.
Went with two friends to Sendai in north Japan and went to an Adam Lambert concert. 4th time Adam.
Really small venue, we had great seats - but we didn't sit down at all. Non-stop dancing. 

AND!!!! he shook my hand!!!!! I rushed to the front and he came along at the end of the show...and SHOOK MY HAND!

God. He is sexy. And funny. And an amazing singer. Maybe I will never be that close to a singer of that level again. Amazing.

Me and two crazy friends.

Oh sad. I am sitting here writing this while listening to Bowie music. Heard a few hours ago. Just so sad. Loved Bowie. Part of the music of growing up in the 70s and 80s UK. So many memories.
Can't believe it.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Byeeeee 2015!

**** Old/New blog - had a major computer crash while writing this on Dec. 31st. Obviously too exciting for the Internets. Have now rescued it on my office laptop.

Done another one - another year!!

Living with my mother in law - living with dementia - living  with two languages in the kitchen.


Getting calmer.

December was just non-stop - both work and play. By end of year I was knackered. I enjoyed a lot of it: two jazz concerts, a rock concert, two parties with friends, food and drink....and ...and...but the downside - as always - is trying to meet all the demands of two festivals.
The Christmas - increasingly celebrated in a commercial way in Japan, and then the Japanese New Year, with cards to be designed, written and sent - and foods.....this year foods to be bought.
I am not going to make anything traditional this year.

Okaasan continues fine.

I finally did give her a bath on my own. Thought: if I can't do THAT, I really am failing. Even if she hits me, I can lift her out of the bath. But it wasn't necessary this time: instead I went in several times and managed to stay calm and friendly while suggesting how she should move her body and legs and hands so that she could turn in the tub and pull herself upright.
But she did hang onto the bath handles for a good 20 minutes - shouting "I'm ok!" to my thru-the-half-open-door questions. She held onto the handles and stared at the bathroom ceiling as if waiting to see how she would get out.

Dear Son came home for two days between Christmas and New Year. We skied with old friends together on one day, and the other precious time was taken up with all the STUFF that has to be done - fix the car headlight, do the new year cards, clean, laundry, shop, arrange things.
We also ate a soba noodles dinner with Okaasan at home to give her the New Year feeling.

Yesterday was the last Day Service visit of the year.
A bit silly as we were both home. But we did't cancel, so the lady came and brightly told Okaasan that she was going to the supermarket "for walking! It's good exercise!". Okaasan obediently put a sweater on over her pajamas and off they went. I took them to Seiyu by car and voiced strict instructions that we didn't need any MORE mochi-rice cake for a Happy New Year. They came home 40 mins later by taxi.

And so. Another Japanese New Year with Okaasan, while her two sons are away. One is in Saitama drinking himself to an early death alone in the family home. The other is out working at a ski resort and will be home next week.

Okaasan and Me - our New Years can be summed up in these two pictures:

Top - me roaring with laughter with lots of ladylike nostril showing...skiing.

Bottom - Okaasan ate ALL of this New Year food for lunch on January 1st! A two person box set, I left for her - thinking she could pick at it daytime and then we'd finish it together later...ALL GONE when I came home from laughing like a pig.

Okaasan got a few New Year cards from the relatives we visited in Kawagoe. She held onto them and studied them for hours. Most miffed that on one of them the kanji in DS's name is wrong. It's pretty rude to get that wrong on a greeting card....she isn't happy.
But yesterday, I did my duty and took her out for ramen lunch and a walk round a big shopping center. I encouraged her to buy some cards - I might get her into writing a message and sending them.
As we shopped and walked in the mall I noticed how bad she is at paying for stuff now - standing hunched at the cash desk while she hunts thru her bag for her wallet. Bringing out other little bags and purses - while the staff wait patiently. Then not entirely sure how many of the coins should be handed over, and then all confused with hands full of receipt, change, bought item and purse....

Aeon staff in Nishioka, Sapporo. Thankyou for your patience.
Then we walked several rounds of the supermarket, and when I realised she was increasingly holding onto display shelves in exhaustion I steered her back to the car and home.
But she is fine. Even did some osouji - big cleaning for New Year! Suddenly Dec. 31st morning she started cleaning her kotatsu table top....amazing. There IS a table surface there. It is good that from TV and the calendar, she understood that it was New Year and that cleaning was the important thing to do.

So. Off we go into 2016!
Thankyou all for reading this. I am surprised that so many of you continue, and also that new readers come and stay. Some people I know, many I don't. And on the blog count I can't be sure who is a Nigerian Prince or a Russian SpyBot. 
But thankyou all for sharing this experience with me.