“He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” –Matthew 8:26
Today’s topic du jour is food, be it by meme or by discussion below. It is a subject near and dear to my heart…and a very serious one for mom and others with dementia. Dinner is served!
And on the serious side:
One of the things that caused mom the most danger when she was really beginning to struggle with dementia was discerning when she was hungry, what constituted food, and how to eat. If you are new to this situation, that third one is a hard one to understand…I get it. Patients seem to forget to chew food and, possibly even more commonly, forget either HOW to swallow food or that they are to swallow it in the first place. As I have written before, the most common way patients under the dementia umbrella of conditions pass away (as much as 70%) is pneumonia often caused by aspirating (inhaling into lungs) their food or drinks. This is indeed a serious topic and one that needs to be considered deeper than I will have time to today.
- Minimize distractions and noises. Plan to take your time.
- Plating and atmosphere make a difference. Encourage him/her to self-feed, but be aware that feeding them will likely eventually be necessary. Actively assisting in the feeding process does help.
- Be sure they are drinking enough through the day and during the meal. A dry mouth has a harder time swallowing.
- Watch their Adam’s Apple to verify they swallowed
- Thicken liquids…ask your nurse if you have questions or need help. Serve dishes that tend to be wet/gave sauce/gravy. Consistency and temperature are very important.
- Consult a speech pathologist and an occupational therapist . They can assist with his or her particular problem.
- “If you’re feeding someone, ensure you’re sitting opposite them at eye level and that they’re sitting upright in a chair. Their head should be facing forward, with their hips, knees and ankles at a 90-degree angle.“
- “Care should be taken to feed the person slowly, placing food in the middle of the tongue and allowing them enough time to swallow each bite before offering the next.”
- “If someone cannot sit in a chair, then help them to sit as comfortably upright as possible in a bed or wheelchair, making sure they’re both alert and responsive. Never feed someone when they’re lying down or in a sleeping position as this can increase the chances of choking. “
- Be mindful of the hidey holes where food tends to be held instead of swallowed (under tongue) and give them plenty of time and plenty to drink to remove this obstacle. We would discover that mom started chewing again quite a while after she ate before we knew this.
- Remember oral health. Are they having denture or teeth problems?
- Last…and something wise for about anything…ask an expert. His/her nurse is a great starting point. The Alzheimer’s Association help line found at 1-800-272-3900 staffs experts 24/7.
Again…so much more could be said here. Pneumonia is a very serious situation for anyone, but particularly for a patient with this disease. Study, learn, ask questions…it is that important.
Thank you all for coming! Please comment ideas and suggestions. There are thousands of folks in our little digitally cornbreaded community that are MUCH more experienced than I. Please share your wisdom in the comments 🙂
Update: We had a really nice visit with mom. She was happy and playful although her words were broken as always. They tried a shield instead of a mask and it seemed slightly less distracting for her. All things considered, it was a very nice time and she is still stable, not in pain… and happy. Who can ask for more than that?
Last note: I do NOT eat other’s food in my work fridge. 😉