Monday, February 29, 2016

July 18, 2013, thru July 24, 2013

Current: Happy bissextus! According to that is another name for February 29th.

When we leave Kohala we usually take an early afternoon flight in order to have time to close up the house and do a dump run. While I was doing the dump run I saw Mom's friend Pat; she and her husband, Travis, stopped by the house as I ran one final errand. We had lunch in Kona on the way to the airport. When we got to Honolulu it was late afternoon and Dad was glad to see us!

Much of this trip was spent observing. How much was Mom forgetting? Was she repeating activities? Was she cooking and when she did was she able to remember all the steps that were needed? Was there lots of unopened mail? Could she still remember her e-mail password? Could she find things she did not use often? Was she taking her medication regularly and able to fill her pill pack without help? And more.

I also checked to see if there were house repairs that were needed and either tried to repair them or make arrangements to repair them if it was something I could not do. But Mom insisted that she would have them taken care of after I left. So I left them undone. I also checked to see what was in the refrigerator and freezer. Were there many things past their expiration dates? Was there a lot of food getting moldy? Were there unusually large amounts of items? I also checked the pantry for the same kind of thing.

While I was there, their friend Stanley stopped by for a visit. Stanley and his wife, Min, had lived in a house near Mom's parents house in Kohala. The day before we arrived in Kona, Min had died at a hospital in Honolulu. This had affected Mom while in Kohala since Min and Stanley would visit them when they were there. (Pat was also a friend of Min's so that was a positive meeting for Mom.) Stanley had stopped by on his way to the airport, he was moving to California so that his daughter could take care of him; Min had been his primary caregiver.
Dad, Stanley, Mom

The other thing I did was check around the yard and garage for other signs, as well as to look for hazards. Mom was still pretty stable with walking but Dad has a bad limp from an injury he sustained in World War II. I found several areas where there were grade changes or uneven surfaces. I also checked out what plants were producing fruits; the jabon was full! Jabon is also known as pomelo or Japanese grapefruit.
Jabon (Citrus maxima)

I had originally not intended to go to Honolulu and had made our reservations to come and go via Kona. I thought Dad would be there on the Big Island, too, so I would not need to go to Honolulu to see him. However, according to Mom he had stopped making the trip a long while back. I think the stairs down to the shower had become too much for his injured leg to handle. So we added the trip to Honolulu, but since it would cost us a whole lot more to rebook the flight to leave out of Honolulu, on our last day we flew from Honolulu to Kona to Kahului to Honolulu and finally to Seattle!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Catie's Critters, Part 2

Happy Birthday to David, Winnie, Peggy, and Roger! Since it's my blog I decided I can do whatever I want. So I decided I would include Happy Birthday wishes to family and friends, even though they might not read this on their birthday. Or ever. I just like to acknowledge their existence to the Universe.

Mom and Dad are on their way to Las Vegas with Curt. They love going there and make a couple trips a year. This means for the next week, while they are with my brother, I won't have to call 3 times a day to remind Mom to take her medication.

Besides the cats and dogs, of all Catie's critters, the bearded dragon is the most interactive. At least during live meal times (it also eats vegetables). One thing I noticed is that these roaches are not that fast. They also don't seem to have the Hawai'i roaches survival instinct. Here's Lela checking out breakfast and some of Catie's other critters.
What's for breakfast?
A roach! Yum!
Roaches for Lela
Rats want to come out & play!
Betta & neon tetras
Corn snake (droppings only)
Cake wants breakfast!
Stella getting ready for a nap


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Catie's Critters, Part 1

I was intending to post only info about my previous experiences with Mom and dealing with her dementia until I was up to date. But I see that I will have to intersperse posts about current events with posts about earlier events. Like what I am doing this weekend, since I know Catie's critters have generated interest in the past. It's a mental health vacation!

When I first started doing critter-sitting for Catie and her family they were renting a place a couple houses away from us. I think the first time I took care of the animals they had 5 cats, a bunch of gerbils, a Chinese water dragon, and perhaps a couple of fish. Later they added 3 dogs in place of the Chinese water dragon. And over the years they have also had a parakeet, finches, and love birds. After they moved in to their own home on one occasion they had 6 cats, 3 dogs, 23 chickens, 3 ducks, a turkey, 2 rabbits, and I can't remember how many bettas. Catie always leaves very detailed care and feeding instructions (sometimes with illustrations).

This weekend there are 2 dogs, 7 cats, 1 hamster, 2 rats, 11 bettas, 5 neon tetras, 1 blue gourami, 1 bearded dragon, 1 corn snake, and 1 red-tailed boa. And a bunch of roaches (the 6-legged kind) for Lela the bearded dragon. Here's Lela finishing off her 3 roaches for the day. She can tell when the roaches are being removed from their cage, she is instantly out in the open looking for them. She looked like she was ready to jump to the top of the cage to get them if I didn't throw them in quickly enough!
Lela the bearded dragon

Catie's fish have taken over her closet. Previously the closet has been used as an incubator for chicks.
The Fish Closet

One of the cats has to stay inside. He has a neurological condition where he has trouble coordinating his limbs. He wobbles when he walks, as if he is drunk. He's doing a lot better than when he was younger.
Uncoordinated Kitty

Friday, February 26, 2016

July 11, 2013, thru July 18, 2013

My first trip back after discovering that Mom had dementia was in July for Obon. This Buddhist celebration honoring the ancestors has always been an important part of Mom's life so I talked to her about meeting us in Kohala, where she was raised and where her parents are buried. Because she had talked about selling Grandma and Grandpa's house, I also wanted to spend time there to check out the house. I was thinking about buying it and wanted to find out how much work it needed.

We arrived in Kona in the afternoon about an hour before Mom. I went to pick up the rental car while Kai waited for her to arrive; the timing was perfect with very little waiting around. We had dinner in Waimea and did some grocery shopping. By the time we got to the house it was dark. The first thing we saw in the headlights as we pulled in to the garage was the old water heater, with a pair of vise grips rusted to the control knob and a big sign saying, "DO NOT ADJUST". Oh well, no hot shower tonight. And since everything in the house was covered in plastic because of the termite and gecko droppings, we had to clean up the house and 'unwrap' everything before we could sleep.

I was awakened the next morning by Mom yelling about not being able to turn the water off at the kitchen sink. Repair #1: replace handle for hot water faucet, solution: vise grips. On the plus side, we discovered that the water heater was working even if it did look very scary!

The gas stove looked pretty scary, too, so we made a couple pans out of foil and cooked some eggs and bacon in the toaster oven. It was sort of like camping indoors. Kai later found out that another toaster oven of the same era, which was almost twice as old as he was, was selling on eBay for $80! We discovered that the termites had been busy munching away; we had to carefully move chairs around to avoid punching holes in the floor.

Grandma raised anthuriums on the north side of the house; tree ferns provided the shade and proper microclimate for them to flourish. She had set everything up so well, even with no one caring for them for 20 years or so they were thriving. We cut a bunch of flowers to take to the cemetery along with the chochin to put up at the graves for Obon. While there Mom met up with a couple of old friends.
June, Sally, Mom

We had called Mom's cousin Doreen a few times to go over for a visit but were unable to reach them. When we called Doreen's daughter we found out she was in the hospital in Waimea. Mom thought that was too far to drop in to see her but it was only a 30 minute drive, which for us is not very far at all since we are used to it. When we got there Lem, Doreen's husband, was at lunch. He was very surprised to see us, but he knew Kai right away even though it had been 20 years since Lem had last seen him. Doreen also has dementia (she's much farther along than Mom); we made time to visit with her every day she was in the hospital since it seemed to cheer her up.

Halawa Camp, c. 1966
Mom had a great time at Obon that night, she saw even more old friends from Halawa Camp, where she was born and raised. Here is a map of Halawa Camp from the book, Kohala Aina. (The original family houses are in the upper left quarter of the map.)

While on the Big Island, we also went to visit other friends and relatives and do a little sightseeing since we had not been there for 20 years. We started out by going to see Uncle Kazu and Mrs. Keliikipi. I zipped right past Uncle Kazu's house because we were talking so much, so we decided to go see Mrs. Keliikipi first. As I turned down the dirt road to go to her house Mom said, "Where are you going? She doesn't live down this road." According to Mom, Mrs. Keliikipi moved out of that house "a long time ago", which turned out to be about 10 years earlier, so it was a "new" move to me! Fortunately her "new" house was right at the highway end of the dirt road. Mrs. Keliikipi was now nearly blind but still lived by herself; a grandson came by once a week from Kona to do grocery shopping and check on her.

Uncle Kazu still lived in the same house, I just missed it because all the trees and shrubs had grown so large I couldn't see the house. He had to have a leg amputated due to diabetes and was waiting to get a prosthesis; he now had a caretaker 24-hours a day. He was watching a John Wayne movie marathon on his big screen TV.

We also went to Laupahoehoe and Hilo. We visited my friend Pam who was renting a house in the hills above Laupahoehoe that was powered by alternative energy. Here's a photo of the solar panels and windmill. There is also a cistern for collecting water. She has an amazing view!

On the way to Laupahoehoe and Hilo, we stopped in Waimea at our cousin Leilani's bakery.We picked up goodies to share as well as for future breakfasts while we stayed on the Big Island.

In Hilo, we visited with Mom's cousin Doris and her husband Tom. Mom had lived with Doris' family during high school to help Hilo Auntie (her mother's sister) with the 6 kids at the time (they had a total of 11 children). Hilo Auntie was a tailor and, prior to having her own children, would sew dresses for Mom from the scraps she saved from her work. Later, Hilo Auntie would sew matching hapi coats for her daughters and son who danced at many of the Big Island bon odori (dances done during Obon).

Because it had been 20 years since we had been to the Big Island, we did a very quick tour. We went to the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park one day. On another day we drove along the westerly portion of the Akoni Pule Highway, stopping at all the old fishing places I could remember. We also went down to the Upolu Airport, the first place I remember flying in and out of; I don't remember what the Honolulu end of the trip looked like when I was a kid, I don't even remember landing there. The road down to Upolu is now bordered by a wind farm, making use of the almost constant breezes that blow through the area.   
Hawi Wind Farm

We also visited Lapakahi State Historical Park. I remember visiting the park when we were last here in 1993. It is a restored Hawaiian village; you can take a self-guided tour along several trails through the area. At one of the stops there is an 'ulu maika course; we have old photos of Mom and Kai playing 'ulu maika. This time Mom made friends with the 2 State workers there while Kai and I walked one of the trails. One of the workers is married to Mrs. Keliikipi's granddaughter and the other one's mother was a classmate of Mom's brother, George; I wonder how many degrees away Mom is from Kevin Bacon?

On July 18th we went back to Honolulu with Mom.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

About My Summer Vacation

In late 2012, during a phone conversation with Mom, I noticed that she asked me a question that I had already answered about 20 minutes earlier. Later, when she asked me a third time, I just assumed she was very concerned about the issue (which I can't remember now). During my next phone call, there was another question that she repeated about every 20 minutes or so. By the next phone call I was wondering if she would do it again; she did. I immediately called my brother and he told me she had been diagnosed with dementia a year earlier and was on medication to slow down the progress. During my next visit home I went to a doctor's appointment with Mom, talked to my brother and father, and spent a lot of time observing her. To make a long story short, yes, she had dementia; it was also apparent that Dad would need help caring for her in a couple of years.

Fast forward to fall 2013. An administrator who had heard about my situation suggested I submit paperwork under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in order to have more flexibility to go back and help Mom and Dad more frequently and to also use leave without pay to do so. My request was approved and the 3 or 4 trips per year began. On my return from the trips friends and co-workers would ask about how things went and thus started a series of e-mails that reminded me of the "What I Did on My Summer Vacation" assignments at the start of the new school year when I was first learning how to write. One thing led to another and here we are! I've been asked to repost everything I sent earlier, so I will begin by catching up.