Sunday, April 15, 2012

So back to food…

The story of food in our family is complicated yet simple.  Growing up, if it was grown on the farm, we ate it.  Daddy planted a huge garden every year, first with a horse (before my time) and later with a tractor.  Mom not only picked fresh vegetables and fruit for our daily meals but canned and packaged more every day to hold us through the winter and to harvest of the next growing season.

We also had a milk cow and raised our own cows for beef, chickens for eggs and meat, and rabbits.  Daddy and my brothers did the butchering and Mom packaged it all up for the freezer.  So between the garden, the animals, the walnut and fruit trees and berry and cherry bushes, we ate well!
As all of us kids grew, married and move out, Mom continued putting up food for quite a long time, even putting up enough that we all had some too.  My girls still like only canned green beans and frozen corn because that’s the way Grandma made them!  It wasn’t until Daddy was too far down the path of Alzheimer’s that she quit but she still provided Daddy with wonderful, well-balanced meals.

The gardening, canning and cooking skills eventually faded in the face of Mom’s dementia.  As I said before, we missed the signs for a long time. 
When we finally realized the situation, I thought I could improve things once she moved in with me.  I was able to give her healthier evening meals but I quickly decided to stick with her preferred breakfast and lunch because I found I had to pick my battles.  Her preferred breakfast and lunch may not have been the healthiest but they weren’t horrible.  So I left those alone and instead fought the bathing and other battles.

What I didn’t realize, until Mom moved to the Alzheimer’s facility and began eating their planned meals, was that Mom obviously has some digestive issues caused by particular foods.  Again, we are in some ways too accepting of our situations.  We knew that Mom made many trips to the bathroom every day – sometimes as many as five times in just a half hour.  We didn’t think about looking at the food she was eating, we just thought she had issues with digestion in general.
Now, after almost a year in the facility, Mom’s aide, Tina, and I have come to the conclusion that Mom has trouble digesting milk in any form.  I can always tell now when she has had some type of milk with a meal because those are the times she is constantly running to the bathroom – even in the middle of her meal.  Most days, however, she is able to have several hours between trips.

Despite the issue, Tina and I haven’t made a recommendation to take all of Mom’s milk away.  After all, she’s 96 now and why would we want to prevent her from enjoying ice cream?
Mom's favorite - chocolate!
If we would have known this years ago – hindsight is 20/20 you know – we could have helped Mom make changes to her diet.  For now, we’ll just try to keep the milk intake to things she really likes.  Like ice cream!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

They try to communicate...

Although this is a really large cake, I'll continue my story of food in my next post.  Meanwhile, Mom turns 96 this week.  We had a little party for her on Sunday but I'm not sure that she ever really understood what the hoopla was about.  Life for her is quite often a mystery.

To give you an idea of life for someone with Alzheimer's, there was a video documentary on PBS last week taken in an Alzheimer's care unit and focusing on one particular resident.  I missed it but it is available for viewing online for a few more days and I took the time to watch it there. It depicts the disease very well and gives you an idea of what it is like to have a conversation with someone with dementia.

I recently took a seven minute video of Mom but I was unable to upload it here.  In the video, you can tell when she's trying to find words and she rambles.  She actually managed to stay on topic for a good bit of the video but it was very disjointed, she didn't respond to questions, and she is never able to actually get a point across.  It really makes me wish I had a video of her in the past.  She was so full of family history and knowledge of sewing, knitting and more. 

She's here, but I miss her so much...

I'm currently participating in a fundraiser for the Alzheimer's Association.  If you would like to contribute, it would certainly be appreciated by me and all the others dealing with this disease that slowly takes their life away without taking their body.