(losing) Memory and (losing interest in) Food

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My lunch today: a salted dark chocolate covered caramel. And it was just as delicious as it sounds. I am telling you this dirty secret (not that I eat that unhealthily every day, but the caramels were on sale at the store and called my name; plus it was my birthday) because I may not be the best judge of anyone else’s eating habits given that food looms so large in my life. I love taste and texture, salt and fat and sugar and acid. I eat for comfort and I eat for joy. I am as much gourmand as gourmet (and not a little obsessive about dieting as well). My favorite movie may be La Grande Bouffe, about a group of men who eat themselves to death. It’s one of Ralph’s favorites too.

In fact, I would say eating, along with arguing over politics, has been the activity we have most enjoyed sharing as a couple.

When we first met, Ralph was not terribly into food. He liked breakfast, mainly because it was cheap and fast. But he quickly converted. I was a restaurant reviewer for a while, and he loved going with me to restaurants. He loved the ambience of a fine dining establishment and of a funky, edgy dives. He loved experimenting with new flavors and spices. He also loved my cooking. And occasionally he loved to cook—there was a period when he got into soup making and took over making dinner for months on end.

I still love eating.

Ralph not so much.

We all know that in the late stages of Alzheimer’s, eating becomes difficult and eventually impossible. I dread that time and Ralph, thankfully, is nowhere near that incapacity. But day-by-day his eating routine has been evolving that mirror larger changes in Ralph.

He still claims to love my cooking. No matter what I put in front of him at the dinner table, he tells me it is delicious. Even sad leftovers mixed with canned soup. And he always eats his dinner. But he’s never what I’d call hungry. He never asks for a dollop more than what I put on his plate. He certainly never asks for seconds the way he used to every night. He always has a nuttybuddy ice-cream cone for dessert. Even if we have company and I’ve prepared a special dessert, he prefers his nuttybuddy.

This has been our dinner routine for a while. He also has cereal every morning for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch with a glass of milk. He has lost some weight over the last year or so because he doesn’t eat snacks anymore (unlike his spouse who may have put on the same number of pounds he’s lost), but if anything he looks fit and healthy.

The thing is I went away for one of my babysitting stints last week. Before I left I cooked chili and stew and bought a roast chicken. I divided meals into nightly portions I labeled. I filled out his life list in detail, telling which foods for which nights. He looked it over and we were all set.

Our friend R. came to stay with Ralph for the first few days I was gone. Then for the rest of the time I was away, I had arranged for another friend to “drop by” daily. One day she made him banana bread. The next she used up all the salad greens and pears etc. he wasn’t eating and made him a big salad. Every night when I asked him if he’d had dinner, he said yes he had eaten or he was about to look on the list and eat as instructed.

Nevertheless, when I got home all the chili and most of the stew I’d left was still there. So were the banana bread and the salad. And half the roast chicken. And some spaghetti R. had evidently cooked.

Ralph had found it easier to have a peanut butter sandwich for his supper than microwave a bowl or plate from the fridge.

This is not a big deal in the scheme of things. He remains healthy. He did eat. He can make a sandwich and he did heat and eat at least one bowl of stew. And I froze the leftovers to use another day. From now on, if I am gone I will be even more explicit on the life list and will verbally walk him through heating up his dinner every night.

But I feel sad. Ralph’s disinterest seems to be spreading slowly over our lives. I realize I can’t leave him as easily as I have in the past.  That he needs to be watched over, not because he can’t function but because he’s just not that interested.

 

10 thoughts on “(losing) Memory and (losing interest in) Food

  1. As my husband progressed in this disease he went from asking for food he loved to eating what was put in front of him. The caregivers (when I wasn’t present) had a list of what was available, how to serve it, etc. They were also given cash if they wanted to take my Chuck out for a ride (he loved rides) to see the sights and get a bite to eat. His favorite caregiver took him by the river to stop and see birds, then to “their” favorite place for cream of crab soup served over regular crab soup. He always wanted dessert.
    Those memories are good ones now that he has gone. I spent many, many hours feeding him and loving him and singing to him and dancing with him.
    Present moment is all we have, enjoy every minute. Don’t overthink. Just over love.

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  2. My husband is slowly losing interest in food also. He has lost more than 15 pounds but I can’t really pinpoint when this loss in weight started. It just seems to become a revelation one day that something else doesn’t fit the mold. He was diagnosed with mci about two years ago but I think it may be moving beyond mci. He is talking to me less and less and I seem to be doing more tasks. That’s the way it goes I guess. I am also still enjoying my food and taking on the weight my hubby is losing. Ha. I so enjoy reading your posts. Looking forward to the next one. Carol

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    1. Carol, thanks for writing. Interesting because Ralph too has lost about 15 pounds and I am not sure when it happened. These peripheral issues seem to matter as much or more than the actual memory loss at this point on the spectrum, don’t they?

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  3. My husband is the same way with meals. He fixes his own breakfast and lunch – cereal and a sandwich. He will only eat cookies if I point them out. I am afraid to leave him overnight because if he had a problem I am not sure what he would do. He also sometimes hears voices at night but so far has not tried to go outside to find the cause but I am sure that is next. He walks a lot and does not get lost but gets very confused if he is in a car. I think the surroundings go by to quickly for him to process them. I leave him notes when I am gone during the day and so far there have been no issues. His biggest problem is almost no short term memory and a failing long term memory. I envy you being able to get away overnight.

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    1. Thanks for writing. It sounds as if you and your husband are in a challenging period. This stage is so difficult. The level of competence can be hard to read, at least for me. Ralph’s doctor feels it is okay for me to leave for short trips at this point, but frankly I am beginning to wonder if I should. Even when I am at home, he has a detailed “life list ” ofinstructions that he checks off. He loves having the list, kind of like a security blanket. And it takes a certain degree of need to nag away because all I have to say is, have you checked you list (even when I know he hasn’t) and he immediately does. Take care…..

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  4. I love salted caramel – salty and chocolatey – so I’m not judging you 🙂 People with Alzheimers often lose their sense of smell, which in turn can make food less appealing. It sounds like Ralph is a long way off having problems eating. Dad developed a really sweet tooth (or maybe he always had it but kept it in check) and in the late stages of dementia we indulged him with all kinds of sweet things like sticky toffee pudding or brownies with ice cream and/or cream. He loved chocolate but he would never open a bar. It would sit beside him untouched until one of us asked if he would like a piece. Once we opened it, he soon demolished it.

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    1. That’s good because I am writing this with my birthday chocolate ice-cream at my elbow! The image of your dad and his chocolate is both joyful and sad. Yes, he has no real problem eating. In fact, in a way he has no problems whatsoever. He is completely at peace with his life at this particular juncture. I am the one who is musing and worried.

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