Carol Howell Talks Dementia: Life Is Contradictory

Life is contradictory…if you haven’t noticed!

Life…it is a challenge. It can be joyful and seem to have a logical order. In a moment’s notice, it can be tough and full of contradictions. Let me explain.

Momma has mid-stage advancing Alzheimer’s. First of all, I hate I must use the adjective “advancing.” When it relates to my Momma’s Alzheimer’s it makes me sad, but back to my point. Momma’s actions don’t always relate to her words. Here is a most recent example.

Recently, my husband and I invited Momma to have Saturday lunch with us. We were going for a barbecue (and if you know my husband you know it is his most favorite food in the world). Momma had enjoyed the barbecue the Saturday before. Since success was achieved the previous weekend, we decided to go with what worked. Momma said she wanted to go, and we had a nice drive to the restaurant. She ordered the pulled pork with slaw and hush puppies. (Do you know why “Hush Puppies” are thusly named? It seems a man would often fry fish outside, and the dogs would bark. He would pull off pieces of fried fish batter and throw it to the dogs while saying “Hush, puppy.” You learn something new everyday!) But again, I digress!

After her food arrived, Momma got busy eating…for about three bites. She then announced she was full, thought she would be sick if she ate anymore, and did not seem the least bit happy. How did the situation change in just three bites? The food was good. We were our usual cheerful selves, yet Momma was suddenly not happy.

I retrieved one small dish and made some quick decisions. In the small dish I placed some of the pulled pork and a spoonful of slaw. Momma ate a few more bits, but she certainly did not overeat. What we are learning is Momma does better when there is only a small amount of food placed in front of her. Her brain goes on overload when an entire plate of food is presented. She feels overwhelmed, frustrated, and she looses her appetite. If her food is in a small bowl, she feels she can handle things. Once that bowl is empty, we refill. Easy peasy.

Momma’s mood improved somewhat on that Saturday barbecue trip, but it would have been better if I had remembered the small bowl technique at the beginning of the meal.

Why is this contradictory? When you sit in front of a large plate of your favorite food, does it take your appetite away? Usually not. We eat first with our eyes, and then our nose, and then our mouth. With Alzheimer’s type dementia, the eyes see too many things to handle, the nose has lost the ability to smell, and the mouth has no desire to participate. Contradictions!

Reach out to your loved one in a way that understands the contradictions and does not try to change the person. It’s a better approach.

Hope that gives you Something to Ponder.

Photo by John Tornow via Flickr

Avatar photo
Latest posts by Carol Howell (see all)