I have family scattered all across the country including Hawaii and I’m proud to say that we’re very close. At a family reunion, a number of us decided to go out for breakfast and we ended up at a popular “chain” restaurant. To their credit, they didn’t miss a beat but when it was over, our table looked like it had been through a fraternity initiation. My cousin Mike was heard to say… “we’re the Elmer family, we love to eat and it shows.”
For the Alzheimer’s caregiver, one of the areas that they may be having trouble with is eating. Although the biggest challenge can often be how to get them to eat, there are those cases where the part of the brain that tells them they are full is affected so they never stop eating.
There are a number of valid reasons why your loved one may not be eating. Remember that processing is an issue they may have so if they are looking at a plate of food with a number of different colors and textures, they may not be able to make sense of it. Light brown french fries, red ketchup, white bread, a dark brown hamburger patty etc. The easiest answer for them to give you when they don’t understand what the mission is, is “No.” To eliminate them being overwhelmed, simply serve them one food at a time and not in enormous quantities. You also want to make sure you’re taking the following steps to help your loved one at meal time:
1. Maintain a regular dining routine when feeding them. Remember it’s about them, so if they sleep in, fine, they shouldn’t have to be up, dressed and at the table at 8AM sharp unless they want to. 2. Make sure that they are eating in an appropriate environment free of noise and other distractions. Radios, t.v.’s, noisy children or adults can be very unsettling. 3. If necessary, cut their food for them and insure they are using appropriate utensils. Maybe it’s time for a spoon and not a fork or bowl and not a plate. 4. Have snacks and drinks visible and available for them. 5. Rather than ask, what kind of vegetable would you like, ask them if they would like peas or corn?. This works on your kids as well. 6. The time may come when utensils are no longer appropriate so be prepared to serve them finger foods at meal time. 7. Remember to make sure that there are no dental issues. 8. Keep the Doctor in the loop and don’t be surprised if she recommends a dietary supplement that will boost their caloric intake.
If there was ever an area in your loved ones care that requires patience, it’s meal time. Part of your mission should be to empower them as much as you can in all areas of their life and you can accomplish that here by allowing them to feed themselves for as long as possible. Well meaning but impatient caregivers don’t want to wait or don’t have the time to wait for them to eat on their terms so they start to feed them to hurry things up. The result? The loved one forgets how to feed himself. It might be a good thing for the caregiver but not for the loved one.
Finally, always be ready to adapt to their changes. I saw a documentary once where the loving wife was preparing Cream of Wheat with lots of butter and lot’s of sugar for her failing, bed-ridden husband . She admitted that the Doctor wouldn’t have approved but all her husband said with a smile, as he ate every bit of it was “she cooks good.”
If you have any questions you can contact me at repe@Careforcargivers.org. You can “LIKE” my Facebook Page at Care for Caregivers LLC. And as always, remember…Join the Journey.