Eat Up Nicely

“Oh, and now you’re here.” Mum’s greeting on Tuesday wasn’t the warmest welcome I’ve received but I had arrived as they were preparing for lunch so there was plenty of to-ing and fro-ing. Mum is easily distracted these days and too much movement around her can prove disturbing.

And so it was that I sat with Mum while she had lunch. It was very appetising – steak pie, chips and peas. I know because I had a couple of mouthfuls myself in a vain attempt to encourage Mum to eat. One of the ways in which Mum’s dementia manifests itself is in her relationship with food. Until recently, her appetite has been very healthy indeed but sometimes, it’s as if she forgets how to eat. She sat there, picking up the odd chip with her fingers. I gently suggested she try some steak pie and offered her a fork, but Mum seemed non-plussed.

“I don’t know what these are,” Mum pointed at the peas on her plate.

“They’re peas Mum and they’re lovely.” 

Wind back the clock more than 45 years and the fork was in the other hand. I’m told I needed little encouragement to eat as an infant but like most children, I had my likes and my dislikes. The dislikes were often more vegetable than animal. My father’s response was to tell my sister and I to remember the starving children in China – why China I never knew – but Mum was more patient, cajoling us to take another mouthful. 

And so, on Tuesday, I did the same. 

“It’s chocolate sponge for pudding Mum. Eat up….. .”

“The steak pie’s delicious Mum….. .”

I looked around the rest of the dining room. Some whose dementia seems further progressed than Mum’s were eating contentedly. Briefly, I found myself feeling slightly ashamed. Why can’t Mum eat up nicely like the other residents? I chastised myself – my shame was now directed at myself for thinking that way. 

Eventually, I gave up. Mum had eaten a few chips and one small mouthful of steak pie. I’d had more than her.

I didn’t really need another reminder about what dementia means but I had one anyway.

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4 Responses to Eat Up Nicely

  1. So familiar, Duncan. Have spent many hours recently *feeding* dad. I decided during one meal that the experience was wretched and rewarding in equal measure. Just because , yes, you’re repaying a parent’s loving care from years before, I guess. Best wishes to you and your mum.

  2. Anna connolly says:

    I had the same problem with Mum and discovered over time (she now lives with me) that somewhere in the illness non eating became an endeavour to control something (when obviously many other things were going out of control). We had a lot of problems with this. I took Mum out to a coffee shop, when she was in the nursing home, and bought her cake and when she said she couldn’t eat it I replied it didn’t matter. She ate it all. She was malnourished so it did matter. When I brought her home to take care of her she said she couldn’t eat the first meal My reply was that’s OK the dogs will eat it and I’ve never had that problem since. I’m not sure how you can turn it around maybe take her food but bring in something else? It is not easy. You are not alone.

    • Thanks Anna. I hope this isn’ too much of a problem with Mum. I wonder if my being there was too much of a distraction. The staff at the care home have told me that she went through a spell recently of apparently not remembering how to eat but that, on the whole, her appetite is OK. It’s just heartbreaking to watch though.

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