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Feeding in Dementia

I know dementia is more than a mental deterioration as it is also accompanied by physical losses. Gradually and inexorably, abilities are lost. The ability to walk, talk, toilet, swallow…

I’ve often been told how lucky I am that Mom has a healthy appetite. She would eat her meals and snacks in between mealtimes. Though before she came to live with me she was actually losing weight. I suspect this was because she forgot her meal times rather than due to any loss of appetite.

With readily available hot meals she gradually regained the weight. I remember the surprise I felt when the geriatrician asked, “Does she chew her food and spit it out after extracting all the juice?” I said, Not yet. Apparently letting dementia patients spit out the hardest bits is okay.

Anyway we’re not there yet. However, over time, she has lost the ability to use her utensils well. She spills food, she slows down. Sometimes she is unable to swallow her food, and keeps it wadded in her cheeks. When she stops chewing or swallowing, we check if she’s still hungry, because we are not sure if she stopped swallowing because she can’t or because she is already full. Very often she nods and indicates she is still hungry.

We’ve taken to feeding her and reminding her to swallow, encouraging her with mouthfuls of water. We cut all her food up to small pieces. She can still finger feed when we offer a sandwich or fruit such as grapes.

Neighbour Walking

There’s a gentleman in my neighbourhood who I see walking some mornings. I first noticed him about a month ago. At that time, his appearance was very worrying.

He was large and breathless and lumbered along. Unsteady on his feet, he leaned forward as he walked and I was afraid he would trip over and fall flat on his face. So I watched him until he was out of sight. Every now and then he’d wipe his face with the towel draped around his neck. He had no mask on. A tiny lady, probably his domestic helper, walked two paces behind, so he wasn’t alone. One third his size, she would be of no physical help if he fell. But she probably had a handphone or she could run home for help.

I saw him again this week, and to me he seemed much improved. His gait was steadier, though still wide as he is slightly bow-legged. He didn’t look as breathless. His helper followed ten feet behind and was swinging her arms as she walked. She looked more relaxed too.

I wondered about his story. Was he a sedentary businessman, staying at home for months during these covid times and deconditioned from lack of movement? Which doctor told him he must walk no matter what or die? Was it a wife who sent him out walking with the helper, or a daughter or a son who nagged at him? Maybe all of them, together.

Maybe he is self-motivated after a health scare. Maybe it’s all himself.

Sri Krishnan Temple

Sri Krishnan temple, Waterloo Street

Singapore is full of interesting sites that are noticed more by tourists than locals. This colourful Hindu temple is one example that I came across last November that I didn’t know much about and I was prompted to find out more.

Sri Krishnan Temple was gazetted as a national monument in 2014. As it was situated quite close to the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, a practice of cross-worshipping developed where devotees at one temple crossed over to worship at the other. When I saw the Chinese worshippers in the picture above I had mistakenly thought it was a Chinese temple with Indian-looking deities. The internet tells me the entrance statuettes depict the major incarnations of the Hindu god Vishnu and a wedding scene.

In the late 1980s a large Chinese urn for joss sticks was donated by a Chicken Rice Seller. Perhaps it is the urn pictured above. I must go and check if the words “Waterloo Chicken Rice” are inscribed on it when I’m in the neighbourhood again.