Alzheimer’s Frustration: Feeding Mr. Q

Alzheimer’s Frustration: A Rough Week Feeding Mr. Q

Sept 18 – 23, 2008

This past week has been a rough one for us regarding Mr. Q. It’s been his eating habits – or I should say his non-eating and choking habits. Probably half the time he either holds his food in his mouth and does not swallow it.

The other half the time we spend half the meal running him back and forth between the table and the patio or the bathroom sink.

Either trip is one where he has a mouth full of drink, food, or both which he has never swallowed. The frustrating part of the situation is that it is often impossible to know he has not swallowed his food. It’s only until his mouth is full and often overflowing with his drink dripping out of his closed mouth we know.

It seems as though his Alzheimer’s problems might be part of the problem because often he seems confused. During those times it seems like nothing registers with him. Other times he seems aware, but will not cooperate by simply swallowing his food.

When this food holding problem occurs, maybe half the time it is probably because either he cannot swallow due to the phlegm or mucus in his throat being so thick as to virtually block any food that does go down to his stomach.

Sometimes I have to run out with him a half dozen or more times just to feed him a tenth of a bowl of cereal. Yes we probably have to feed him about 80% of the time or more. He appears to have forgotten how to feed himself sometimes.

Other times he falls asleep eating, the other twenty percent of the time he is so slow it would take several hours to eat a baby portion of food. It is impractical to spend hours to feed him a single meal.

It is hard to tell if it’s his Alzheimer’s problems causing this or his stubbornness. He is used to having his own way, and it shows – he ignores everyone most of the time and does as he wants. Most of the time what he does is wrong.

Because he is not talking is very difficult to know if he understands anything we say. I asked his neurologist if he thought Mr. Q could understand us when we speak to him and he doubted it. I really don’t know the answer, but I do believe he does still understand sometimes what we say to him.

An example of that is today when I was really frustrated with him for essentially spitting out all the food I had given him, along with one glass of his drink. He was essentially refusing to drink or eat. I had spent over an hour trying to get him to swallow the food I was feeding him. After all that and shuttling him back and forth from the table to spit I was really fed up.

I said some harsh words about letting him go hungry and maybe then he will eat if he gets hungry enough. I said my piece loud so he could here it. He seemed to ignore me as I was talking.

eating problems

However, a few minutes later the caretaker (definitely not me) was trying her luck feeding him and to our surprise he was not only eating, but eating by himself, albeit at his slow pace. That is very rare as of late.

Mr. Q went to bed about 9:30 tonight with some problems following what we asked of him about spitting. He spit all over the sink, floor, and kept grabbing the caretaker’s arms so she could not help him. This is often the case and contributes to hours of wasted time trying to get him to cooperate.

The past week he has not choked in bed at night so that has allowed us to get some tasks done that were a problem doing before when he had to be shuttled between the bed and bathroom to spit several times after he went to bed.

Summing it all up – it has been a very trying week for us. Yes we had some tips on how to keep him from choking, to help him with his bowel movements, and help him gain some weight, etc., but those things only help partially since he generally is not cooperating with most of the things we ask of him or tell him to do.

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