Learning to eat again

An occupational therapist called me this week to say that she has been asked to help Mom maintain the ability to feed herself. Apparently Mom is using her hands more often and has trouble using utensils properly. She might use a knife to try to scoop up her food, for example. I have seen both of these behaviors before, but it must be getting worse. Mom is also distracted at mealtime. I have been part of that distraction before, which is why I’m not around during meals anymore.

The therapist needed my permission, which I did not hesitate to grant. Medicare and Medicaid should cover most if not all of the cost. I’m not worried about that. I’m worried that Mom might resist the therapy. I told the therapist that Mom has a tendency not to like instruction. This therapist sees Mom around and considers her friendly. I told her not to take it personally if Mom is mean to her about being told what to do. I’m sure the therapist has seen it all before, but I wanted to give her some advance notice so she’s not taken by surprise. And also so that she might start the process with strategies that somehow don’t appear to be instructions.

If Mom can’t make progress, the therapist said she would design a restorative program so that staff can cue her to be as independent as possible. The last thing the staff members need is another mouth to feed manually. Mealtime is pretty busy at the Alz center. I asked the therapist if I should try to be present at more meals to see if I can help Mom eat. I told her I am not delusional about my usefulness – those were my exact words – but that I just wanted to support the process as much as I can. However, if training is going to be required, I will need that training, too, if I am actually going to be useful. The last thing I want to do is sabotage the effort. So for the time being, I will stay away at mealtime. But I am curious, very curious, about whether this will help Mom learn to eat in an efficient and effective way. I certainly hope so.

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3 comments so far

  1. Jenny on

    I hope it goes well, too. Most therapists understand that, while they have certain expertise regarding skills and training, families know their loved ones better than they do. Hope all’s well!

  2. JenniferJayhawk on

    Emily,
    I don’t even know what to say. You have certainly drawn a picture of Alzheimer’s, and the ramifications, that was never on my radar. It is a complex and complicated issue and you are doing an amazing job discussing the issues.

    If we try to do anything with my Mom she feels scared, backed into a corner and becomes extremely combative and nasty. I just learned that this is pretty typical.

    Thanks for blogging!

  3. momsbrain on

    Jenny: I’m glad to hear you say that; I certainly hope I didn’t offend her with my information. I am a big believer in therapists! 🙂

    Jennifer: I am learning along with everyone else. I knew Mom was having trouble, but I have a hard time thinking Alzheimer’s patients can benefit from therapy – because they can’t remember. I wonder if it involves some sort of rote muscle memory. Geez, I have no idea. But thank YOU for reading and commenting!


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