Dementia – Alzheimer’s: Is eating a problem for them?
By Twinty Karat
I just went into Mr. Q’s room to get him up after about a two and a half hour nap. He was awake half leaning against the wall, looking at me with an empty look as I walked in. I could immediately tell he was only half into reality.
He seemed confused or rather his weird position in the bed and against the wall was a telltale sign something was not right. Earlier today there was a problem with him eating.
In fact everyday there is a problem with him and eating. He has, for all practical purposes, stopped eating by himself. Someone has had to feed him for at least the past two weeks – probably longer. Talking to the owner and also the primary caretaker she told me the other caretaker said Mr. Q wasn’t eating today and had refused virtually everything.
He has been acting the same way for a while and as a result he is rather weak. Well, the owner had to verify he wasn’t eating. After some slight preparation (cleaning his teeth, making him spit out all saliva, etc.) she started feeding him. She was amazed when he ate everything she fed him for lunch. Dementia or no, he was eating. That’s better than he had done for a while. Far better.
It’s hard to tell if his Alzheimer’s is causing his eating resistance or change of appetite from poor to terrible. Could be, or it could be just one of those moods he has that seems to last a while then just goes away or changes into some other habit.
As I struggled to get him out of the bed – I had no help from him, it was a chore because Mr. Q was trying to pull the cover back over himself. I did manage to get him out of bed and up on his feet, but not without trouble.
He was barely standing up and was almost wobbly. I was told that he is that way because he refuses to eat so there is little energy left in his body. I think that might be true.
Well I saw he seemed to have a mouth full of spit and I didn’t want him to open his mouth and spit all over everywhere so I rushed him outside on the patio edge so he could spit in the grass. He did, but as we were coming back inside he quickly fell to the floor as I struggled to keep him from falling and secondarily from hitting anything. There was a walker right next to where he fell, but he missed it.
I don’t know if it was because he was weak or sleepy that he fell. I suspect it was part of both, but I managed to get him up and he struggled with me into the bathroom so he could take care of his business there. This is about the third or fourth time he has fallen recently, each time unexpectedly.
Sometimes when sitting on the couch or chair you can tell he could have problems getting up, but none of the times I saw him fall recently was one of those times. It could be a turning point for Mr. Q since he has not been prone to falling like some other residents we have had. But he has fallen more in recent days than probably all the few times previous to now.
What do you do when a dementia or Alzheimer’s person refuses to eat? There are pills (drugs) that supposedly solve that – or rather give the person more appetite. I am not sure if Mr. Q is taking any such drugs or not. Oh now I remember. His doctor was asked to prescribe such medicine and he refused, saying our Mr. Q had not lost weight so he couldn’t.
That might be true, but now it is much worse and for all practical purposed Mr. Q is being spoon fed every meal. It’s not a pleasant chore – and I do mean chore. He doesn’t fight you like in previous months, but doesn’t swallow the food in most cases.
He also does not swallow any drink like juice or milk and refuses to drink water. So feeding him can take a long long time and is so frustrating and time consuming. After all that, often while feeding him, you have to rush him away from the table to spit out the huge mouthful of food or drink, thus wasting so much of your time and still not accomplishing the purpose of eating.
If it sounds like this is a job – it really is, and there is no thanks for it. Mr. Q does not realize anything is wrong, but his weakness in walking, his more frequent falling down, inability to lift himself into bed, etc. really shows. An often spending an hour or more trying to feed him you are batting zero.
I can really notice the weakness he displays when I walk him for his exercise. I used to walk him 10 – 20 times around the big patio. He would barely be tired. Now only one or two times around and he is exhausted.
He also seems not to have remembered how to breath out of his mouth. I can hear him breathing hard out of his nose and he never once ever opens his mouth – which would make breathing so much easier if you are tired. When he was eating properly none of this weakness was a problem.
This type of eating problem may not occur with an Alzheimer’s person you may have to take care of, but if it does be prepared for a long struggle or spending a lot of time – with little results in getting them to eat a proper meal and have it actually go into their stomach.
Yes maybe Mr. Q is an extreme case, but I rather doubt it. We did have one or more residents like him in the recent past. In fact, one resident we have now went through the same stage of refusing to eat – balling the food up in her mouth – refusing to swallow food.
Plus almost the same exact thing as our dementia man Mr. Q. Fortunately she has passed that stage and it is relatively easy to feed her now plus she is not holding the food in her mouth anymore. I hope Mr. Q passes this stage like she did.
She has a bad case of dementia but that is now not hindering her from eating – although we have to also feed her every meal.
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