KAIZEN—Continuous Improvement

Sunday, March 18, 2018—12:50 pm—48˚F (9˚C)—A bright, sunny day

Last week was uneventful as Sumi’s behavior and mood has been steady and predictable. She is very playful.

In the Japanese language, there is the word KAIZEN (改善) which generally refers to the continuous improvement of all functions and processes. With time on hand, I have been practicing KAIZEN in Sumi’s care partnering by looking for ways to improve our daily tasks.

One problem I had been facing was while giving Sumi a shower she would accidentally reach out and turn the knob that controls the water temperature—or sometimes she would wiggle the water hose which would then move the knob. This splashes us with cold or scalding hot water. I looked into buying a temperature control knob which is often seen in European homes and hotels. These controls are expensive, require a plumber to install, and could easily cost $1,000 in parts and labor. After brainstorming with a friend, I came up with a simple solution that would only cost $1.48. I bought a 4” PVC plumbing coupling, cut it to the right length, and glued it to the back plate of the shower knob to protect the knob from being accidentally turned. Now, that problem is solved.

But another problem also needed my attention. While Sumi was eating she would fidget and move her plate, making it hard to eat. Sometimes, frustrated, she would even throw the plate and food from the table onto the floor. While searching for a solution I found a placemat made by a British company called Dycem. The placemat not only sticks to the table but sticks to whatever you put on it, keeping it still. Now, Sumi’s plate doesn’t move. She is less frustrated and can eat from her plate. I highly recommend this placemat for anyone with small children or people with special needs.

I also noticed while eating at night, the interior of the kitchen is reflected on our sliding glass doors. Seeing her own image, my image, and other reflections in the ‘mirror’ Sumi would get distracted. So, I installed a pull-down blind and the problem was solved.

Also, lately, Sumi doesn’t want to drink smoothies from a leak-proof tumbler with a straw. To help, I started giving her smoothies in a bowl mixed with her medications, ground almonds, and ground walnuts to make it thicker. She’s been eating this with a spoon and, for now, it seems to work.

Sumi, also, has not wanted to drink water from a glass. So instead of water, I have been giving her a big bowl of watermelon pieces. Since watermelon is 92% water and 6% sugar, approximately 450 grams of watermelon equals about 2 cups of water. I hope this keeps her somewhat hydrated and perked up with sugar. Luckily, Sumi is not diabetic and her fasting sugar level is in a good range so there is no other side effect from eating watermelon.

KAIZEN (改善) has become a watchword for me. As Sumi changes, every challenging situation provides a new opportunity to become an effective care partner by drawing from my career as a problem-solving engineer to practice KAIZEN (改善).