When EATing doesn’t work (Five Minute Friday/Day 28 Write 31 Days)

I don’t know when I’m going to post this because I’m writing sat on an Airbus taxiing towards take off, about to cross the Atlantic to New York. With the difference in time zones, my Five Minute Friday is likely to last 29 hours.

As we wait, I’m wondering what the meal will be – lunch, dinner, tea, in what combination. From past experience, I hold out little hope for the quality. But at least we were given a free bottle of water as we boarded so the basics are covered (although the lid is too tight for me to remove).

Back home, my dad is surviving his fourth week of hospital meals; we note how long he has been an in-patient by the fact that the rota of choices has returned to the beginning. During visiting times, I helped him with his menu orders. It’s a strange system, trying to decide what he will want to eat in 2 days’ time. And it’s harder because of his dementia.

One less well known symptom of dementia is its effect on eating. Dad never ate a wide range of food before but now his diet is particularly restricted. He refuses to eat almost any vegetables and frequently turns down even old favourites; he won’t eat sausages any more. A daily Fybogel is necessary to keep him ‘regular’ and unobstructed.

His sense of taste has changed too, deteriorated such that all savoury meals require lashings of salt to give them any flavour. No wonder, when asked, he so often doesn’t fancy anything.

It’s all made worse by dementia’s final blow to eating: his inability to recognise hunger or thirst and his not knowing if he hasn’t finished a meal if it’s interrupted. So all Dad’s meals have to be supervised with plenty of prompting to encourage him to eat and why.

Is it any wonder that he’s lost over 13kg in the last year?

However, along with some weight gain since he was admitted to hospital, there is a light in this cloud that darkens what used to be such a pleasure: Dad’s day centre. Alongside the quizzes and activities, jokes with the staff, and an enjoyable bus ride there and back, this is the one place Dad eats well (better even than when he comes to mine for Sunday roast). Sat at a table with friends, the social occasion prompts Dad to eat, to eat well, and to finish his meal each time. Admittedly, he still doesn’t eat vegetables so they don’t serve him any but fill his plate with meat and potatoes. What matters is that he eats and he enjoys eating in this setting. I think the old fashioned menus must seem comfortingly familiar to him, bringing back fond memories of his mother’s and his wife’s cooking.

*******

Back on the plane, the cabin crew are bringing round menus (a welcome change to my last journey): Tabbouleh salad, then a choice of Teriyaki chicken, Beef chilli, or Mushroom pasta bake, followed by raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake, and finally Afternoon Tea. It all sounds surprisingly appetising. And, even if it isn’t, as I do know when I’m hungry and have fully functioning tastebuds, I’m not going to take this airplane meal for granted.

 

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