A Year in Review

A couple of weeks back, I noticed one of my posts was getting a lot of views from unknown persons. That post was “What is a Snack?” and it gave a snapshot of how Mom was about a year ago. She was confused, disorientated and gave the impression that she would only get worse and the end was near.

Fortunately for us, she stabilised, and amazingly enough, she probably even improved slightly. She’s still frail, but seems less confused, and she doesn’t get as agitated or wake up at night.

I’m not sure what helped the most. And I am very hesitant to report this…. but we started her on coconut oil. Just one teaspoon everyday. At the same time, we slowed down on snacks and rice as she was more sedentary and gaining weight.

It is all still very controversial and the theory goes like this – Alzheimer’s is a kind of diabetes of the brain. The science on this is still in its infancy, and more findings are required. Now Mom doesn’t have diabetes, but she does have mixed dementia (combined Alzheimer’s and vascular), and she has vascular disease similar to those found in persons with diabetes. So in theory, if she has something like diabetes, she may benefit from a diet that’s good for persons with diabetes.

There’s a huge controversy on what’s good for a person with diabetes today. One idea is that a high fat diet is good, and to avoid carbohydrates and excessive protein. It’s hard to believe that the minor change we made to her diet made any difference, but here we are. I’ll say no more.

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Early dementia or…

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Early in the flight I heard the stewardess checking on the dietary requirements of the passenger in front of me. “Hello, Mr K, I’m confirming that you requested a vegetarian meal?” “No no,” he said, “I didn’t make any request.”

“Are you Mr. K? It says on your ticket you need a vegetarian meal?”

“No no, I didn’t make any request.”

“Okay, can I bring you a vegetarian meal? Will you have that?”

“No, no. I don’t want vegetarian.”

“Are you not vegetarian, can you eat meat?”

“Yes, anything is okay”

“Would you like me to cancel your vegetarian meal and get you a normal meal then?”

“Yes, ok”.

Half an hour later the lunch cart came round and a different stewardess asked, “Pork or chicken?”

“I can’t take that”, he says, “I’m vegetarian!”

And the stewardess says, “Did you request for a vegetarian meal? There’s no sticker on your seat for a special meal. Ok, let me check with my colleague.”

As she goes off to check (thus delaying MY lunch), I was incredulous at the behaviour of the chap. Was he forgetful or plain bad at communicating or a sociopath out to create trouble?

Update. Touch wood.

I know it’s been a long time since I last wrote. There’s not much change in Mom’s status, which is a good thing.

She’s a Happy Camper.

She wishes me Good Morning with a huge smile.

She laughs because exercise tickles.

She sleeps when she feels like it.

TV is fun or not, it’s still watchable. 

Occasionally she spits out chewed food. 

Occasionally she thinks afternoon tea is breakfast time. At times I’m her sister.

But on the whole, it’s peace and love. Life goes on. Touch wood. 

What is a Snack?

Mom lost a lot of weight earlier this year, when she was hospitalised for an infection. Of course once she got home, we made reparations. She had 3 square meals with morning and afternoon tea! We overdid ourselves, though, and she has become a bit too round. Especially since nowadays she mostly sits around not doing much.

In the last year or so, a lot has changed. Although she can still find her way around the house and brush her own teeth, she is getting increasingly more forgetful and confused. She brushes her teeth three four times in a row, because she forgets that she has just done so. Afternoons become mornings, and nights are times to toss and turn and change the bedsheets. A son becomes the husband, and a grand-daughter becomes a strange girl who stares at her. She’s also searching, searching; for what nobody knows.

One blessing is that she considers the live-in helper her own special friend. They get along so well, and the helper can always make Mom laugh and giggle. But sometimes nobody can help Mom settle down and sleep when it is time to sleep. If it gets worse, I will have to consider sleep aids.

When talking to Mom, one never knows what she will say next. One moment she is wise, and the next she struggles to understand our words. She can still read, she automatically reads signs and labels. But I think she can no longer fully grasp the meanings of words.

Mom, would you like a snack?

What is A Snack?

Well, something like a biscuit or some food. Are you hungry? Would you like to eat something?

Oh, I don’t mind if there is.

I feel she is going adrift. Losing her anchor, losing sense of time. What is this place? What shall I do? Who is there? Where is my friend? Is it time to eat? Is it time to shower? I want to lie down. Why wouldn’t they let me go to the room and lie down? Why must I wait? I need to find my thing. 

Adjustment

I’ve spoken about the new home help for Mom in a previous post. As some of you have mentioned, sharing your home with someone new can take some getting used to. Well, I think I can get used to it…

I find cooking is a lot easier when there is someone else to do the chopping, dicing, frying and whatever else needed doing as well as washing up. So all I need to do is decide on the dish, get the ingredients and recipe, and give instructions. Then hang around the kitchen making little tweaks, tasting and adjusting.

Yep, I can get used to this way of cooking.

 

Mango

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABack when I was young, we had a couple of mango trees in our yard. They didn’t fruit all that often, but when the combination of weather and fertiliser was right, they would be covered with mango blooms. If our luck continued to hold out and we remembered to cover the young fruit with newspaper, the trees would be laden with luscious mangoes, to be shared among friends and family. Of course, the birds and worms would get the ones we missed, and there were also the passing strangers who helped themselves from across the fence.

Nowadays at the supermarket, I have to shell out good money for mangoes, imported from Australia, Pakistan, Thailand. We almost always have some at home. Mom loves them.

So when one night Mom took off for bed too soon after dinner – we could persuade her to get up and come out again for mango and her medicine! It was really lovely seeing her enjoying her mango.

I think we are beginning to accept the new “normal” Mom’s condition. The words are so few that she often supplements them with sign language and pointing. She walks deliberately and cautiously, and takes off for bed without so much as a “goodnight”. Yet, it is wonderful that she keeps to a normal sleep wake cycle. I say this because the memory of one of my babies topsy turvy sleep times haunts me to this day.

Not anything

I was struck today by a change I saw in Mom. This happened at dinner time. Before I tell you what the change is, let me describe what Mom was like a year ago.

I would ask, “What would you like to eat?”. There would be a short pause, and I could see her expression as she struggled to think about it. In the end, the usual answer came, “Anything. Anything will do.”

It got to the point I would automatically give her two or three choices, just to avoid hearing “Anything”. With the choices, she would choose one or the other, almost at random. It seemed she could barely remember the two or three choices, and would grasp at one, and choose that.

After a while, I stopped asking, and decided for her instead. Let’s eat this, or that. Mom would be quick to agree.

Today, however, there was a change. A big change.

I brought her to a food court and asked her what she would like to eat.

She paused to think, and looked around. As usual, I prompted. “Rice of Noodle?” Noodle, she replied without hesitation, and she told me which type – beehoon, or rice vermicelli. I looked over the stalls that were open and told her there’s no beehoon here today.

“In that case, rice,” she volunteered. She answered quickly when I told her the types of rice dishes available, and she mostly said No, firmly. In the end, I took her to the variety rice stall, and let her pick out her dishes. She chose one vegetable confidently, and agreed after consideration when I suggested another two.

You might not think it much, but I find it a huge improvement from “Anything!” She did not say “anything” a single time while we were deciding on dinner.

We must be doing something right 🙂