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Help with easy to use food

(102 Posts)
GracesGranMK2 Wed 15-Feb-17 15:45:53

I have mentioned before that my mother has dementia. Up until now she has done really well with cooking her meals. They go on at the same time each day and are eaten at exactly the same time.

For some reason - possibly because she woke up early - she had put her lunch on (Wiltishire Farm Foods) at 10.30 this morning. She said it was because she was hungry having got up at 5.00 a.m. I am worried she didn't have breakfast and the carers are going to keep a diary for me having checked when they go in first thing but I know she is unlikely to let them help. I did think of putting a weeks breakfast (Cornflakes) in a see-through boxes so we could see if they had gone but I don't know if she would recognise them.

It would be difficult to convince her to let anyone help her with getting her meals and, to be honest, it gives her a sense of looking after herself so I don't want to interfere any more than I have to but I don't want her to be hungry either sad She has Yoghurt Corners in the fridge and similarly packed rice puddings which I can suggest she has at different times. She is very ridged with her routines - at one point she always had Heinz Tomato soup for lunch - but now it is WFF for lunch and WFF for dinner.

Has anyone any ideas about leaving something I can remind her about (or give her fairly quickly) that is easy to open and might fill a gap if she seems to have missed a meal. I will have to work out a way of someone else getting them for her eventually I know - I think we would have to disconnect the cooker because she has just gone on with her routine when she was ill in the past and doctor put extra carers in, but I am trying to work one step at a time.

kittylester Wed 15-Feb-17 15:57:21

I feel for you GGMk2 I made and froze countless meals for mum when she was still living on her own. I'd ring her to tell her to put one in the oven or microwave and to get something out for tomorrow. She'd say 'Oh, it's ok, I'm having cornflakes' and one of us would call in to find defrosted but uncooked meals lining the work surface. Mum also put the gas cooker on and pulled it as far away from the wall as she could because it was cheaper than having the heating on.

None of that is any help, I'm just sharing your pain. Someone will be along with good ideas any time at all. flowers

mumofmadboys Wed 15-Feb-17 16:25:25

Would a visible small bunch of bananas help? Nutritious, eat any time and filling.

Ana Wed 15-Feb-17 16:26:27

I'm not quite sure what the problem is with your mum having her lunch early instead of breakfast, GGMk2. You say she likes being in charge of her own meals, and certainly doesn't seem to be likely to go hungry.

I do understand that you're anxious about her welfare but perhaps it's a bit too soon to be worrying unduly if she misses the occasional meal.

TriciaF Wed 15-Feb-17 17:04:47

Graces Nan you're all you can, (and your Mum too.)If she can still digest it, fruit is a good idea. My Mum liked rice cakes and dark chocolate.
When she was at that stage she still struggled, and I sometimes took her some meals that I'd cooked. But she asked me to get ready meals for her from the supermarket. I wasn't too happy about it because they're rubbish (usually).
Finally she agreed to have a lady come in every day and cook her lunch, something she'd chosen herself, and I bought the ingredients.
She had always been an excellent cook.

TriciaF Wed 15-Feb-17 17:06:24

"Graces Nan you're doing all you can,"

MawBroon Wed 15-Feb-17 17:18:36

No help with things to eat although I agree bananas are good, but I wanted to share something I heard on WH about a lady Dr who had Alzheimer's. She found it hard to remember whether she had eaten or not in the course of the day so learned (?) to put her dirty dishes in the sink instead of washing up and her carer who came in the evening (or family) could see whether or not she had had a meal.

kittylester Wed 15-Feb-17 17:33:59

I've just come back to say that mum's gp says, at this stage, a calorie is a calorie and not to worry too much about the shape it takes.

Sunlover Wed 15-Feb-17 18:23:10

I had a similar problem with my dad. As someone else had said I didn't care what he ate as long as he was eating. I made sure he had biscuits and cake that he could eat at anytime of day. Bananas were also easy for him to peel and eat. Eventually carers came in first thing to warm up his milk and weetabix ( he couldn't remember how to use the microwave), make a sandwich for his lunch and return to heat up a ready meal for his dinner.

GracesGranMK2 Wed 15-Feb-17 19:22:51

Thanks all.

Kitty: I am sure you will have guessed that having someone who has 'been there' really helps.

Mumofmadboys: she goes on and off bananas but good idea I will get a small bunch with her shopping.

Ana: I just isn't that simple. Of course I will try and ensure she has what she decides she wants and no, lunch instead of breakfast would not have mattered. However, I am already having to weigh her each week to check she isn't loosing weight (as advised) and cottoning on to changes with the dementia are really important. It isn't a choice she was making; I wish it was. She was very confused about it. It is more to do with not joining the dots as bits of information disappear. Yes, I could let her starve but I just don't think it is a great idea.

Tricia: I think we are moving to the stage of her not being able to cook but I will help her keep going as long as she can. She is a lot less agitated if she has the same food or it comes in similar containers so will look at those I think.

I saw that MawBroon! - it was such a good example of why Alzheimer's isn't just about memory loss as so many people think and is certainly not particular in who it attacks. Sadly mum is well past that stage.

Kitty: totally agree. Mum loves her meals but ask her what she had half an hour later and it would be 'roast beef and Yorkshires' (her 'safe' answer.) We don't ask of course but she does still volunteer what her lovely meal was. I think the actual cooking is becoming more of a problem. Today the time of the day was definitely an issue so we need to find a way to check she has had enough whenever that is.

Sunlover: I think we will get to more care before much longer. It's always the bits when things take a dive away from what is working that cause you to scratch your head!

Thank you all. Lots of help and support and I can't tell you how grateful I am. Mum was diagnosed five years ago and we realised she had been coping with it for several years before that. I know we are lucky that it has been possible to keep her as safe while feeling she is in control for as long as we have. I know some of my upset this morning is mine not hers as I loose a little more of her but I will keep her safe at home for as long as I can.

MawBroon Wed 15-Feb-17 19:25:50

She's a very lucky mum GGMK2 !

Ana Wed 15-Feb-17 19:52:00

Yes, I could let her starve but I just don't think it is a great idea.

Did I suggest that GGMk2? shock

Sorry I spoke! (and I actually have had experience of an elderly relative with dementia)

Sunlover Wed 15-Feb-17 20:16:48

Your mum sounds very lucky to have someone like you to help keep her safe. Both my parents suffered with dementia and I know how heartbreaking it can be to see them gradually disappearing. I now look back and remember them before the dementia and can smile and be glad I had many wonderful years with them.

travelsafar Wed 15-Feb-17 20:40:05

I remember so clearly when I looked after people with dementia who didnt eat or drink very well a GP said to me it is natures way of slowly shutting down a persons body.

As long as food and drink are made available for them to use if they want it. Also let them eat what ever they want as sometimes a persons taste buds can alter with dementia.

Maybe not helpful in this case but just another persons insight to dealing with dementia.

hildajenniJ Thu 16-Feb-17 00:13:33

While my Dad was still able to manage, he always had soup for his breakfast. Heinz of any description. The carers made sure it was heated for him when he foirgot how to use thgthge cooker.

Bluebell123 Thu 16-Feb-17 04:21:22

My parents had dementia. I stocked the fridge with various cheeses which my father loved. It helped to have foods which were easily identified. eg illustrated cracker packets.
Bananas and grapes disappeared quickly because they'd be spotted in the fruit bowl.
My father began to lose weight as the illness progressed so I bought anything he particularly liked for snacks... crisps, nuts, chocolate, Jaffa cakes. It was a matter of ensuring a high calorific diet.
My mother's taste buds changed. She developed a liking for sweet things yogurts, creme caramel, individual fruit pies. She had been a wonderful cook and convenience foods were new to her and she really liked them. They also liked fish and chips and pub lunches at their favourite and familiar pub.

kittylester Thu 16-Feb-17 08:03:10

I think that Bluebell is right. A couple of people living with dementia that I gave met lately prefer snacking to proper meals so try to have the sort of snacks that your mum likes in an obvious place.

Unreasonably, I was upset at the waste of food, time and effort but it was a fact of life.

Look on Alzheimers Society to see if there are any aids that might help. A white board with a daily plan on it for instance.

I do feel for you. It was such a relief to us when we persuaded mum to go into a home and we knew she was safe and cared for.

JackyB Thu 16-Feb-17 08:35:09

This is worrying for me to read, as I live in a different country to my mother. My sister shops for her every weekend, but often finds everything still in the fridge the next weekend when she comes again. I phone Mum every evening and ask her if she's eaten and what she's eaten - she says "Well, there's a plate here with crumbs on but I've forgotten what I had". It's nearly always a ham and tomato sandwich.

The worrying thing is that she can't see well enough to recognise if anything is mouldy or off, but she seems to still be coping with cooking, heating up and eating and still has the grasp of the microwave for her evening cocoa. We are so lucky that she is still fine at 97.

As for the calories she is consuming, she is not moving much - only leaves the house once a fortnight, otherwise sits and watches TV, so she doesn't use as many calories as when she was a busy housewife.

Nana3 Thu 16-Feb-17 08:40:03

Good morning GracesGran.
Issues over food troubled me greatly when I was carer for my Mum and Dad. Problems increased as the dementia progressed. I did my best but they stopped eating and drinking and my father eventually died in hospital. My Mum went into a care home and she is still refusing to eat most of the time but she drinks and I am also hugely comforted by how well she is cared for.
I'm very sorry about how negative this sounds as you are far from this stage yet. More carer visits at mealtimes was the thing that helped the most. Wiltshire Farm Foods were a godsend as I see you have discovered and the carers prepared them.
I wish you and your mum all the very best. flowers

gillybob Thu 16-Feb-17 08:44:04

I looked after my gran in her own home for quite a long time. I used to stock up on those small ready meals from M&S supplemented by whatever we had cooked the previous day when it was suitable (she wouldn't eat curry sauce, chillies etc) . I also made sure she had a few small bananas and she loved those (expensive but delicious) small pots of porridge from M&S that she ate at various times of the day with jam or sliced banana as a snack. She also had a liking for cheese spread so I would butter a couple of slices of bread and cover them with her cheesy spread and wrap them up in cling film for her. That way she could have them if she was peckish. She also loved cake and would insist on having plenty cake in the house. One had to be a "cutting cake". I also bought those small microwave pots of beans and spaghetti that she could have on toast if she fancied a change.

kittylester Thu 16-Feb-17 08:59:00

My mum didn't seem to be able to recognise food that was ready for her, presumably because it wasn't what she was used to.

Mum eats like a horse now having trimmed tomatoes and scrambled egg for break fast, two pudding after lunch and dinner. I think doing what everyone else is doing helps her.

GracesGranMK2 Thu 16-Feb-17 09:26:43

Thank you again from me for so kindly trying to help and I would guess it helps others in the same position too.

Up 'til now mum has rigidly stuck to a routine with the same foods at the same times. Obviously this will change as time becomes even more difficult for her.

travelsafar I am afraid you may be right. With her at 96 I dread any phone call 9.00 a.m. in case it is the carers sad They go on each day to make her medication available but it is also another marker in her day.

Because she is so rigid it is difficult to persuade her to snack but the bananas might do it. At one time mum liked the supermarket ready meals for a change but she only wants the ones from WFF now. I think it is the recognition thing. She sadly (as it would have added to her choices) never got to grip with a microwave.

Mum does, like yours Kitty, have the two puddings sometimes so I make sure there are plenty of those in.

Every day is a bonus at this stage and thank you again for your help with this.

MissAdventure Thu 16-Feb-17 10:26:41

I used to leave my mum a picnic type box, with a sandwich and other bits she liked to eat in it.

MissAdventure Thu 16-Feb-17 10:32:28

Just a thought, oakhouse foods are similar to Wiltshire, and they also deliver shopping as well.

GracesGranMK2 Thu 16-Feb-17 11:06:08

They seem very good MissAdventure. We have another supported member of the family who has used Oakhouse when they had a spell of being more ill. Their presentation seems good which can make people feel they are doing/having what everyone else does and has. The fact that they have a list of shopping items they can deliver is a bonus although this family member currently gets a regular delivery from Morrison's. Delivery does help and for the house-bound it is another face to see and someone with whom they can pass the time of day. I agree that Oakhouse are worth looking at for relatives.

Mum goes through phases of saying the food is not 'right' and she puts this down to me ordering it on the computer. (Leap of logic over the gaps sadly). We did try changing to Oakhouse but she was very upset with the change so I try and ride out these times now by saying I will look into it, or give them a ring or the ever useful 'Oh right' with an upward, positive, inflection - whatever seems to get us gently over the moment really.