alt=a table is set with plates and food, except for one seat with an empty plate.

Accepting Changes with Eating in Late-Stage Alzheimer's

When my mom was in the later stages of Alzheimer's disease, it was a challenge to find foods that she was still able to eat. She had begun having more difficulty swallowing and choking became a concern. Her hospice nurse advised that she should only eat soft or pureed foods.

Changes with eating and Alzheimer's

It sounded simple enough, but my dad struggled to accept the fact that my mom could no longer eat "real" foods. He was constantly trying to find foods for her to eat. He would often text me and ask for any suggestions.

"Hey, Laur. I'm trying to find more foods for Mom to eat. Any ideas?"

"She can have yogurt, applesauce, oatmeal, cream of wheat, baby food – stuff like that."

"Yogurt and oatmeal? That's it? What about for dinner?" he asked.

"Sorry, Dad. That's all she can have now."

A limited food list

My dad really struggled with the fact that my mom would no longer eat things like meat and potatoes or spaghetti for dinner. Yogurt and oatmeal didn't seem like enough. I agreed, but those were the only foods that were safe for her to eat. We even had to cross oatmeal off the list when we discovered that my mom was pocketing it in her cheeks instead of swallowing it - creating a choking hazard.

No more regular mealtimes

My dad also had a hard time accepting that my mom didn't eat a full meal at regular meal times. Toward the end, my mom would only eat a few bites of yogurt or baby food at a time. My dad would get upset when her caregivers didn't try to feed her more, but that was all she would take.

I explained to my dad that we just had to offer her food at various times throughout the day because we never knew when she might eat. A few bites here and there would add up instead of one big meal.

Eating in late stage Alzheimer's

When someone is in the later stages of Alzheimer's disease, all of the normal eating routines and rituals go out the window.

Your loved one no longer participates in the preparation of the meal or sits at the kitchen table to eat with the family. They no longer eat three balanced meals at certain times of the day – namely, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Instead, your loved one sits strapped in a wheelchair or positioned upright in bed for their meals, which no longer consist of meat, starch, and vegetables. Their meals now consist only of what is safe for them to eat – anything soft or pureed. And they may only eat a few small bites at a time, rather than a full meal in one sitting.

There is no more gathering around the table to eat a homecooked meal and share stories about your day. This is extremely hard to accept for many caregivers and families. It signifies yet another loss and an indication that the end may be near.

Food symbolizes love

Although it was difficult, I knew that we were doing all we could for my mom. If she would only eat a few spoonfuls of yogurt or baby food, then that was all we could give her. Her safety and comfort were more important than how much she ate.

I reminded myself that one thing would never change – food symbolizes love. And there was no greater act of love I could give my mom than feeding her, regardless of what she ate. Tell us about your experience in the comments below, or share your story with the community.

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