A Movable Feast
This is what I tell myself: Don’t get upset, it’s not worth it. This is just Mom’s way. If you are frustrated, don’t let her know it. If she doesn’t want to eat, don’t worry, she’s not starving. If she wants to play with the food, moving it from here to there, mixing and adding it on her plate in random patterns, let her. If she won’t take the spoon from you, perhaps you can feed her. If she won’t accept you feeding her, let it go.
I am having a hard time controlling my frustration as Mom eats her dinner. I notice that she is the only one of the 20+ residents who is not interested in eating. There are three other women at her table. They eat with purpose and gusto. Sonya manages with only one arm. Dina finishes almost her entire plate in a steady few minutes. Dinner consists of salad, a soft tuna patty, a slice of bread and yellow rice. There’s a bowl of sweetened porridge on the side, a glass of lukewarm tea, and if she wants, a vanilla pudding for dessert. Mom tastes the porridge, takes a second spoonful, then begins her casual combining of foods as she puts the salad and rice, some porridge all on the bread. I take the spoon from her, fill it with porridge and offer it back to her. She dumps the porridge in the tea. I try again, this time lifting the food to her mouth. She eats a few bites then begins cutting and shaping the bread with the spoon, all the while keeping up a patter of conversation.
I laugh. I remember that scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind when Richard Dreyfus shapes his mashed potatoes into a mountain, his family staring in utter shock. Maybe Mom is receiving messages, too. Maybe she knows something we don’t. More likely, though, she’s just not hungry. I make a mental note to check on reducing her drugs. Perhaps that’s what’s killing her appetite.
Mom employed these tricks when she was living at home, too. This is not unusual. Sometimes it took her an hour to eat a sandwich. It was part of her personal shtick. She’d tell us that parts of her meal were for someone else, that she was saving them for an unnamed individual. Here in the home, she doesn’t have that luxury of time to finally decide to eat. Everything here is run on a schedule. I ask the nurses to help. They try to cajole her, too, but Mom doesn’t want to eat. I am relieved that they don’t force her.
When I realize there’s nothing more to assist with, I take Mom back to the main room, sit her down with some of the other residents who have finished their dinner, and say my goodbyes. This is where they wait as they are taken, one by one, to their beds. As I’m heading out she calls to me by name and I rush back to give her an extra hug and kiss. I place her favorite book of nursery rhymes in front of her and walk away.
We are all getting used to the new reality, to the guilt we carry at leaving her there, and the relief that presents itself at leaving her there. A friend asked me if Mom knew where she was. I would have to say no, she doesn’t. Perhaps that’s a good thing. Mom is not unhappy in her new surroundings. And she is well cared for. I guess I can live with that.
Last week I visited the island of Malta with an amazing group of people. I learned many things, not only from our local guides, but from the individuals in our group. Alzheimer’s came up in conversation many times. One fellow had left his wife in the care of her caregiver and was having a brilliant vacation. I took note to tell my dad that he, too, could potentially take a vacation. I hope I’ve planted the seeds in him of future travels. Thank you Dennis and Daniel.
The other thing I learned was an easy-peasy recipe for no-bake chocolate peanut butter clusters. The funny thing about this recipe is how Israeli it is. It calls for a handful of soup nuts. These are crunchy yellow squares of dough that are apparently baked and fried, and they are great in any soup. If you can’t find soup nuts (or soup almonds as they are called in the US), add chopped pecans or peanuts, or how about sunflower seeds or sesame seeds. Actually, you can add anything you want to the basic chocolate peanut butter “batter.” Yeah, simple, and scrumptious. Hat tip to Judy!
No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Clusters
It doesn’t get any easier than this. Two of my most favorite flavors in an exciting new combination. The soup nuts provide an extra crunch to this dessert.
1 package chocolate chips (300 grams or approximately 2 cups)
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup craisins
½ cup slivered almonds
½ cup soup nuts
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp water
Pour chocolate chips, vanilla and water in a microwave safe bowl. Melt on high for 40 seconds. Stir and return for an additional 30 to 40 seconds, making sure the chips have really melted. Stir in peanut butter. Add nuts and raisins and mix well. Using a spoon, place small amounts on a covered cookie sheet. Makes about 30 clusters. Refrigerate at least a half hour. Voila! Caution: these soften quickly in warm weather.