Thursday, 31 August 2017

Missile approaching...

Not what you want to see on your breakfast Tv screen...missile course over where you live.

That's us, that big green island - Hokkaido, with the north Korean missile flying over Tuesday morning...actually flying about 3 hours south of here...

Dear Son and I were drinking coffee at 6 a,m and watching Kevin Spacey in House of Cards - where as US President he rips up democracy in Season 3 - when both our mobile phones started ringing and vibrating with government alarm systems.
Incoming missile. Take cover in a strong building or basement!!!!

I mean really. What would you do? 

Do you actually get up from the sofa, grab a cat and run for the nearest basement - in our case the local supermarket? 
We didn't. We sat watching TV and checking Facebook...cos that's what we do...

And then you go on the BBC website and send a Contact email so that later in the day a BBC journalist can contact you for a few words of "local British person talking about missiles"....I was in a webpage story and my voice and HORRIBLE LinkedIn photo was used on the lunchtime TV news....very strange to sit here listening on my phone and to hear the programme presenter say: "UN...President Trump....North Korea...Japan....Amanda Harlow in Hokkaido"....

You can read the BBC thing here :-)

Sunday, 27 August 2017


Here we are!
Okaasan and Me Festa! Festa!

The hospital annual summer festival for patients and families was a wonderful WONDERFUL event.

Big and well planned. Staff in festival jackets directing cars, manning game corners and food and performances. Lots of kids - lots of old people in wheelchairs - pajamas - festival coats - aloha shirts - music - balloons - food!
The physical training room transformed, corridors decorated.

We had a blast.

Dear Son was on his last day of bike taxi working with the special customer, so I was the family member with Okaasan for this event and she and I ate our way thru octopus balls, friend noodles and shaved ice with syrup - had our picture taken, pulled lucky strings and chatted to lots of friendly staff and volunteers.

Okaasan had a good time, watching the kids play with their balloons and laughing and smiling. She kept asking me WHEN the commemoration photograph had been taken - "was this a long time ago?"..."No, it was 3 mins, 10 mins, 20 mins 1 hour ago...look you and I are wearing the same T shirts now!"... 

After 4 months of hospitals and stress, it was nice to do something normal and fun with her.  
Can she come home soon? I nurse said she is now walking with a frame....

We had a toilet visit together, and I took off her dirty diapers, but had to get a nurse to help with putting on fresh's strange this - to change from being the friendly family member to saying "sit down, do this, go here, lift your bum, let's change these"....crossing back and forth over the personal line .

Anyway. A good day.

After the festival I went for a long walk by the river, came home and watched TV...went out with Dear Son for dinner, ate Christmas Cake and ice cream - a present from a British was a good day.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Ahhh...who IS that sweet little girl?

All innocent and charming. With her daddy in a garden in London, UK a long, long time ago.
One day young girl you'll grow up and move to a country far away. Meet a man and end up washing his mother's underwear. What a delightful life you'll have! 

Today is the 8th anniversary of my dad's death. Well, actually it is the 8th anniversary of the day I heard he had died. We think he died 2 days before...he collapsed and died in his living room one evening, after returning from visiting his wife in hospital. He was cooking sausages. His dog was with him. The TV was on. His pancreas exploded. The doctor had come that morning to examine him...because of pains....but had gone away with a "nothing wrong, let me know if you feel worse".

I guess dead on the living room carpet is worse.

I miss my dad still. I'd seen him 2 weeks before he died, on one of my trips back to the Uk. Remember that year I went to the Uk...what? 4 times?? It was the horror year.

So. Today I will be doing Okaasan care. Dear Son is busy all day with bike taxies. And today Okaasan's hospital has some kind of summer festival event. I will go and watch her physical training and join her at the event.Daughter-in-law duties.

3 weeks from now I will go back to the Uk. We still don't know if/when Okaasan will come home. The idea originally was BEFORE I go to the Uk...but I wonder if that is possible.

Anyway. Dad. I miss you so much. I'll eat some delicious food in your memory today - a creme brulee. Or a cake.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Physical ability

Here is the physical therapy training room where we spent yesterday morning watching Okaasan being put thru her paces.

Really interesting - stretches and massages, then:

* practice in sitting upright and swinging legs over the side of the "bed".
*  Walking between those bar-rails to the chair at the end, turning by changing hand position and sitting down.
* Standing up right from the wheelchair and remaining standing for a count of 20 - holding onto bars in front.

All of this while wearing heart rate monitors.

Okaasaan enjoyed it. You could really see that she enjoyed the physical challenges and chatting to the young, cute therapist. She did well and we sat nearby and watched and gave her smiles and thumbs up.

Before the therapy session started we spent an hour with Okaasan and her wheelchair. All over the hospital, looking at views, looking at prints on the walls and two trips to the toilet with the help of nursing staff.

"Can you stand by yourself?" Dear Son asked Okaasan at one point as the three of us, plus wheelchair, were squeezed in a toilet cubical.
"Stand myself? Of course I can! I couldn't live alone if I couldn't stand on my own!"

Very true.
That is the point!!
Okaasan thinks she DOES live on her own - somehow surrounded by other elderly people in wheelchairs and nursing staff in white and pink uniforms. We know she doesn't - and are trying to judge whether she can even come and live with us again and be left alone for a few hours safely every day.

The hospital did the dementia/life assessment again last week.
Maybe a score of 9/30....two years ago it was 8/30.
It was 14/30 six years ago.
Does this mean OKaasan has improved???????!!! OMG!!!

No. I don't think that interview test is so accurate. But I am surprised if they really think she is mentally the same as 2 years ago. Anyway. That interview result is considered alongside family interview and physical ability - and then the social services decide the level of public health care we can use.

Watching the physical therapy was interesting. Okaasan is getting stronger and can stand and move from bed to chair better. Her walking (aided) is good. Turning so-so.
Turning is important, because that's what we need her to do if she goes to the toilet without us at home. We need her to be able to stand up from the bed, walk thru the kitchen, open the toilet door, go in, turn round and pull her clothing down - and then sit.
Of course we can put in more hand rails - but the basic ability needs to be there.

It isn't there yet. 
Another 2 weeks? I guess that's when we could try and stay at home and see how she is.
To see if we can work it all out.
Or not.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Don't count...

...your care homes before they....are a reality.

Dear Son is not there yet.....

Another visit, another look at the physical training....and reassuring chat from the staff that the diaper use is not constant....really???...and he came away more positive about our ability to have Okaasan at home with us.

I am not so convinced.

But, I am playing the good wife role...gentle, understanding support.....whatever he want to chat about.

I AM being strong in opposition to the point that daily diaper changes are beyond me. And if we can't leave her safely for less than a few hours - home life isn't possible.


Japanese man.

Making a decision seems to take forever.

I am guessing Okaasan will come home. And we all will see how that is...and then eventually....he will understand that a care home is a better option.

He is an intelligent person. Got one of those off the chart IQs, in fact....but sometimes SO BLOODY dense!!
"Oh, I talked to the social worker...getting a place in a care home isn't so easy..."

You think?
Yeah. Right. Japan - fastest aging society in the world...millions of families just like us, all trying to get outside care for their elderly. I know it. I talk to can he not know this??

Am now waiting for him to reveal to me:

Eggs are not round
The world is not flat
Japanese office workers do no meaning overtime
Trump is going to bring America to its knees.


Holiday. 4 weeks from now.....counting the days....

Monday, 14 August 2017

Tectonic shift in thinking

Okaasan's future may not be home with us.....

A shift has taken place in Dear Son's thinking. A huge shift. Tectonic plate size change in thinking.

He is now thinking and talking about a care home future for her.

I'm trying to be gently supportive, not pushing one view or another.

A few days ago we went to visit her at the physical therapy hospital. He'd visited alone a  day or two before and watched Okaasan's training - how far she could walk holding onto bars and how much her heart rate increased when she tried to use a walking frame. He came home fairly positive.

Our joint-visit on Friday. Okaasan was in her bedroom with the deaf roommate shouting annoyingly. We got her into a wheelchair an the three of us sat in the physical training room - watching other elderly people have their training regimes with balls and bars. Okaasan kept saying how being in this room was a first time for her...despite having been in the room doing the very same exercises just a few hours before.

We drank canned coffee and chatted.
Okaasan smelled bad...I knew a diaper change would be necessary.
Then she asked to go to the toilet.
We wheeled her to the toilet and the three of us went inside.

Dear Son was advising/helping Okaasan to stand and move from wheelchair to toilet seat.
Advising her how to move her legs so her body changed direction. She had no idea....
I was pulling down her pants and reaching back and between her legs to catch the heavily soiled diaper as her bum swayed near the toilet seat...managing to catch and lift out the diaper before she sat - and into a handy trash bag nearby.
Then I went to get a nurse to help with cleaning and re-diapering....

We stayed for an hour or so. Wheeled around the hospital looking at pictures. Left Okaasan joining others for dinner time near the TV.
We came away.....for our dinner and life.


I wondered. Could Okaasan come home at all soon, like this? Come home ever, like this?
She has been in diapers for 4 months now, mentally and physically she is used to that. This will be beyond "toilet accidents", to regular diaper changes....even if she decides and activates a toilet visit on her own....I am guessing there will be more diaper use. Much more.
Could she turn in the toilet? Our toilet at home? Would she understand HOW to walk in, turn round, take down her pants and then sit? Could she DO a toilet visit alone?
Could we leave her for more than an hour alone...?

These thoughts were in my mind. I talked to friends about my worries...and said to Dear Son that I still thought Okaasn's permanent return to life with us was only a 50% possibility.

And he agrees...thinks the percentage is larger - in the negative.
He doubts we and she can manage together at home. Even with day service 5 days a week.

I guess this IS the hoped for/expected result of putting her in this kind of hospital/home environment - thinking by the social worker to get the family and the aged person accustomed to the reality of care outside the home.

Dear Son said he is going to talk to the social worker this week.
He is starting to believe that Okaasan may be generally happier and safer in a care home....

If you've read this blog for a while, you'll understand what a change in thinking this is for him. From not wanting any outside help - to accepting and coming to the realization that the time for us being able to care for his mother alone is coming to a close.

A new chapter is ahead.
I am relieved. I think so. 
I can't see how it would be here...specially how it would be for me in winter alone with her. Impossible.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Birthday at "home"

Happy Birthday Okaasan! 87 years old and getting stronger and stronger.
Our birthday cake visit went well. Just got the timing right:  at towards the end of dinner time in the hospital lounge. She enjoyed the cream and strawberry cake with her nearest and dearest...and only family members.

Still in a wheelchair, but she can stand and move to the  toilet or bed much easier. Blank memory about most things and confusion about place.
"Do you want to stay at my home?"
"U(m, this isn't your home, this is a live with us at home..."

Doesn't matter. It just means she accepts the hospital as the "now" and ok place to be. It makes leaving her and coming away much easier.

Most years for her birthday we go out and eat her fave crab. This year was different. But happy enough :-)

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Hospital Visit

I did the daughter-in-law/wifely duties yesterday - the hospital visit.

AFTER I remembered which hospital she was in. I drove blithely to the wrong hospital...and minutes away realised my mistake and had to turn the car round and head in the right direction...

DS was busy all day driving a bike taxi at a city event. So I finished work at 4 pm and went to visit Okaasan in her latest hospital.

She was in a wheelchair in the day room, parked right under and in front of a huge TV. Engrossed in the later afternoon local Tv show of cooking and housewife things. A nurse and some other elderly residents were behind her doing simple handicrafts at a table...folding bags...

Okaasan was happy to see me. Chatted happily about the TV program. Enjoyed  me wheeling here around the ground floor of the hospital - looking at all the paintings and flower arrangements. Friendly, positive. Happy.

NO memory at all of physical therapy - the room nor the activity. Never mind.
Aware of her own birthday tomorrow..after some prompting.
Quite accepting that DS was at work, and that when I came to leave that I had to go shopping. She seems perfectly accepting of being in hospital - whichever hospital it is. This bodes well for the future I think - whether that is regular day service or longer care.

Tomorrow is her birthday. 87 years old.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Final hospital before...

We moved Okaasan to the 4th hospital yesterday - two cars, two adults....a lot of running around and coordination. I had an unexpected window of 3 hours between classes - so was able to give my morning to the whole operation.
He took charge of Okaasan and wheelchair - and all the paperwork and consultations. I brought up the rear by packing all the stuff, carrying the bags, unpacking all the stuff. Amazing how much "stuff" Okaasan has...considering she has lived in pajamas for 3 months.

Okaasan was happy and cooperative throughout. She accepted it all. No chat about "want to go home"...maybe she doesn't know where IS home? Or, she is so in the moment that she thinks this is always just a temporary place?

The new hospital is a big place, currently undergoing major expansion. Half the site is a building site with cranes and men in hard hats. It's linked to one of the big care home groups. The hospital has a large physical therapy room...I was reminded of a training room for war injured people...there was even a group sitting in a circle throwing a big beach ball around - the classic scene of any physical therapy.

Okaasan is in a two person room. But sadly she is near the door.....where it is darker and the view through the doorway is to a busy corridor with all sorts of people walking up and down noisily. Not a great situation. The other occupant is a shell of an old woman...attached to an IV...who moans "mamama" every 90 seconds....


We'll see if we can get a better room....

The physical therapist came to visit and asked Okaasan what she'd been doing up to now. Okaasan was a blank. DS was away with a nurse doing admin...I filled in the missing details as best I could. The staff were surprised that Okaasan can sit up and swing her feet to the floor by the bed - they will use a sensor to make sure she doesn't try to walk herself...

We get the feeling she will be here for a short time...and then...come home....

Our freedom time is going. So we are heading to a beer garden after work today.
Dear Son had better drink sensibly.....