“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.