Monday, 25 December 2017

Christmas in the care home

Happy Christmas everyone!

Here is Okaasan in her care home room - opening up the Christmas present I took her (her fave bean jam cake/dried persimmon/chocolates) and a can of sweet rice drink.
The norovirus on her floor cleared and I got in yesterday for the first visit in 2 weeks. 
She was fine - happy to see me, chatty, laughing - very relaxed actually. Sitting right in front of the big TV in the shared lounge. In her wheelchair. 
I stayed an hour. We chatted about TV programs, Christmas, food, persimmons and she was good. Took her to the toilet once. Cleaned her room a little. I didn't get her walking with the frame...I'm still nervous to do that alone with her...she isn't at all steady on her feet.

So - 2017 was a bad year for her and us...but now as it ends she seems fine in her new home. I feel a little guilty that she isn't home with us, but in a public environment - one of 30 old people to be toileted/fed/washed by staff.
But. Having her home WOULD be impossible. And dangerous. And so...

My Christmas is the usual weird one in Japan. I am actually working today, December 25th, and tomorrow. But I will finish early, have time to go to the gym and then come home to open presents sent by friends from the UK, cook myself steak, open a bottle of wine...and watch Season 2 of the The Crown on Netflix. 
Recently was crazy busy at work. I had 26 classes/work parties last week and felt exhausted.
Wonderfully two New Zealand friends have an annual Christmas dinner in their home, which I went to on Saturday - 10 guests and a LOT of food :-)

I feel nostalgic at Christmas for my family in the UK...all long gone now, of course. My mum and step-dad used to do amazing dining table centerpiece decorations - create little worlds of Christmas scenes with cotton wool, sparkly stuff and toy gnomes.... We once went to a Christmas Eve church service with real animals in the dad and his wife did wonderful Christmasses at their home in the countryside...I miss it.

This year I am alone (apart from cats) in a large house in Japan. Netflix is my companion :-) I hardly decorated the house, and tomorrow at the classroom I will take down the tree etc and prepare to close the classroom for the year end. Dear Son is at the ski instructors' winter home, he just Skyped with me from the ski area parking lot....working Christmas.

Not sad, though. This year, finally, I got Okaasan into professional care. And she is happy enough. That is a HUGE happiness!

Saturday, 16 December 2017


All set, I was.
All set for my first winter life visit to Okaasan in the care home.
Our new Normal. Yay!!!! 
No longer do I have to think of shopping and cooking for her at a weekend, and where to take her out for a walk. And sitting, having boring dinner with her....and lunch...and another dinner...

Dear Son is away ski working. Saturday morning - I collect a photo album of memories from the cats' room, take the little side table for Okaasan's room, pick up some hot can coffees from a convenience store, sign in at the care home ground floor desk and paste on my warm-friendly-smile.

Take the elevator to the 10th floor.
The doors open to a strange sight: a tray with a wet towel in it, and a dry towel are on the floor. Odd. A resident had a toilet accident here and the staff are in the midst of cleaning? I step around and make my way to the staff station and lounge.
Bustle of activity....a staff rushes up. In a face mask. Not SO surprising in Japan, when every winter half the nation hooks a paper thing round their ears in the hope of cold protection.

"Oh! So sorry! Our boss didn't call you yet? You don't know? We have a case of norovirus here, since yesterday. We can't let family members in at the moment. Maybe for one week. Can I take anything for your mother-in-law? I'm so sorry - she is fine, don't worry. It isn't her, but we have to close the ward to outside visitors!"

Then I notice the screens and trays and towels etc round one of the rooms and the elevator scene becomes clearer. That was a shoe disinfectant tray and wipe!

So, of course, I come away. Gave the side table and cloth to the staff for Okaasan's room, glimpsed her across in the lounge happily watching TV...and came away. Suddenly with a slightly emptier Saturday morning than I'd planned. :-)


Well, you know - not exactly YAY for norivirus. That's horrible for everyone, and a killer for the elderly. Of course we don't want Okaasan getting THAT. It's worrying....but all we can do is hope that the care home can get it under control and protect a whole floor of elderly residents who all share toilets/tables/chairs....

So. First time for our new Normal. And it isn't Normal at all....:-()

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Still settling....

Another week of new home uncertainties.
The doctor said the evening meds could be delivered in powdered form, so the staff have been giving them to Okaasan in her evening coffee - fine until she declares (as I expect she will sometime) : "Coffee? I NEVER drink coffee after dinner!!"

But for now good.

Dear Son continued his visits because there is a slow start to his work season. Some days Okaasan was in a good mood, other days the demons were raging and she was angry about going into the lounge, or even using the walking frame.
He came home depressed.
She will start physical training again tomorrow. It's taken the system almost 2 weeks to get THAT going...frustrating. Dear Son has taken her for walking frame walks along the corridor...otherwise she would have been inactive again for 10 days.

So. Fairly ok. A few more things are needed for her room. Things to do.

Last week should have been a week of freedom. But it wasn't because one cat got a bad urinary infection and had a high temperature for days. Vets visits (and bills) and general sleeplessness. An exhausting week.

Christmas party season is starting....

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Settling in ups....and downs...

The cat is settling into Okaasan's old room nicely....along with wintering house plants, drying laundry and the debris of a person's life...
It IS strange. She hasn't died. But I'm 90% sure she will never live in this room again, or use the things that are in it. Actually, she may not ever even see this room again - bringing her to the house may be too confusing.
But there are loads of her things - pink and red little towels, old clothes, hair pins, Hawaiian dance dresses...

This winter I will spend some time - when Dear Son is away at the ski areas - sorting thru stuff and getting rid of a lot of it. 
Is there a word for it? This appropriating of someone's possessions when they've died, or left the home? The kotatsu/heated table blanket that Okaasan lived under every winter has become a cat gym shirt is one of her old T-shirts...there are a million little things here and there which we might use, or throw away.

How is she?
I've been busy with work, so Dear Son has gone every day to the care home to visit Okaasan. Mostly fine - she was always sitting in her wheelchair in the main lounge - either watching TV with other residents, or looking at a magazine. Happy to see him...basically ok.

The staff said the bed sensor may be too sensitive - she moves in the bed a lot at night, and her alarm song "Hear comes the sun" was playing a lot in the wee hours. Moving in bed is fine, it's the standing up from the bed which is dangerous - and this may have to be changed for a mat.

She will see the doctor next week and start rehabilitation training again.

So. We have freedom. And we skied. Up early and out together to do our first ski. He will start work from tomorrow, he needs to practice...I need to get confidence back after a bad fall on the last day of last season - buggered up the deep parts of my knee and spent 2 months in a lot of pain this spring.

So - there we are - a free, relaxed couple at a ski area.....actually THE ski area where we met...oh God...about 20 years ago....a ski area romance :-)

All good.
On the way home we went to the care home...

Took Okaasan out, briefly, in her wheelchair for a walk round the block. Not very beautiful streets near the hospital in early December. Took her twice....the first time she started talking about toilet needs within 20 meters of the care home doors - so DS had to spin the wheelchair round and head back inside. Her standing and turning ability isn't reliable enough to risk a strange toilet where you can't get the wheelchair right inside...

Anyway. She seemed fine. A little tetchy with us about things. But ok. Encouragingly, she was actually talking a little to the old lady who was sitting near her in the lounge...I never, ever saw her really talk to other patients at the hospital. Will she start to socialise? At another table in the lounge a group of 6 women were chatting and laughing...will she make some social contact? She is a kind of proud lady, who dismisses others as "boring/stupid"...but there IS life and laughter in the lounge.

As we left we went to the staff station to talk to the floor manager.
He'd told DS before last week that Okaasan was sometimes difficult to medicate in the he really told us.
She basically refuses her medicine after dinner...and if the staff are lucky they can get her to take it within an hour or two...but she  is getting aggressive with them about it...and it's important medicine for the emotional control of the dementia...she needs to take it in the evenings.

Saying "here's your medicine!" of course is a bad idea...although she has taken medicine mostly acceptingly this year (to our surprise)...but maybe this is a backlash to the change of location/people/routine? The hospital didn't say they had problems with this.
Is it because the hospital staff looked like - and of course WERE nurses? But the care home staff are wearing casual clothes and Okaasan wonders WHY they are trying to give her medicine?

The manager said he will talk to the doctor about whether the medicine can be crushed up and hidden in a drink or yogurt...and I wonder whether the staff who gives it to Okaasan should wear a white jacket, and LOOK like a nurse....

Anyway. A bit of a downer. Dear Son was worried and apologised to the manager.
"I felt so relaxed at the ski area...and now this..." he sighed as we headed for the elevator.

I don't think it's a big problem. There must be a way round the problem. But she does need the medicine...

But it is a little worrying. The  anger is JUST there, lurking in the wings of the smiley, friendly old lady - a situation that isn't what she wants and it steps center stage and starts to perform....and it is a very scary anger. We saw it on the weekends she was home this summer....and we were unable to cope with it. I guess the care home people have more experience with it...but hopefully a way to get the medication down her throat will be found.
I am NOT going to attempt to wrap Okaasan in a towel and hold her you do with a cat!!!