My Dad’s A Goldfish – war of nutrition

(Warning – long post)

The Goldfish has been taken into hospital – chest infection/urinary infection – possibly both. He is very weak, from a combination of the loss of weight and the infection, the former contributing to the latter.

He is going to miss his appointment with the dietician. The step-monster is pleased about that. When the appointment letter came she announced she didn’t think she would go this time. She has steadfastly ignored much of the dietician’s advice and the leaflets she was given are buried under other things on the kitchen dresser. She has at least been buying whole milk instead of semi-skimmed, buys butter – the cheapest it is possible to buy – instead of low fat spread. Everything she buys is the cheapest line at the supermarket. I could understand if money was an issue but it really isn’t.

I’ve had a long chat with the doctor and explained the situation with the weight loss. He says they will use the opportunity to check the goldfish thoroughly for anything, other than poor nutrition, which might be responsible for it. He undergoes X rays and provides umpteen samples of blood and urine and ECGs – everything is fine, apart from the chest and urinary tract infection, both of which are responding to treatment.

There’s a chart on the end of his bed on which they record what he eats and because they know about the dementia they check he is eating. So far he has eaten everything apart from jelly – well, he doesn’t like jelly and would never have ordered it so whoever filled in his menu didn’t check – or said: “Would you like jelly?” The Goldfish – never one to make a fuss – would have agreed. It has been agreed the hospital dietician will see him since he is missing his appointment at the health centre.

The Goldfish is very confused and can’t understand why he is in hospital. He maintains there is nothing wrong with him. He seems to have been ‘travelling’ all over the country. He told me today he had to go to Perth in an ambulance and couldn’t understand why they couldn’t do the tests where he was instead of making him travel all that way. He grumbled to me: “You’d think they’d have all the equipment here, wouldn’t you? Where is this anyway?”

“You are in Dumfries infirmary.”

“What am I doing here? There’s nothing wrong with me.”

The step-monster visited with her d-i-l who read his food chart and seemed very surprised the Goldfish was eating well – presumably because she’s been told he has no appetite.

The dietician weighed the Goldfish. He is the same weight as when he came into hospital over a week ago. For the first time in many, many weeks he has not lost any weight – on hospital food, at that! When the dietician understood the situation at home she was reluctant to allow the Goldfish to be discharged. Finally, after long discussions with us and social services (who now consider the Goldfish to be a vulnerable adult at risk) she okay-ed the discharge home – as long as Wee-sis and I agree to take over providing his nutritional needs.

It’s a big undertaking but it seems to be the only way. She nearly killed him by starving him and if we don’t step in the starvation diet will continue. We’re wondering if we could hire her out to people desperate to lose weight – go from a 16 to a size zero in three months with the easy-to-follow starvation diet. Move over Weightwatchers!

DH and I go to see her and it was even worse than I feared it would be. I saw the sweet old lady public persona morph into the wicked witch. Nasty! Bit like a fishwife rolling up her sleeves preparatory to having a go.

DH gave her a copy of a letter from the dietician and explained what she had said and was to happen – that Wee-sis and I between us would provide breakfast, lunch and evening meal. She refused point blank saying she was perfectly capable of looking after the Goldfish. DH tried again and again to explain the importance of the Goldfish getting a more nutritious diet and she said she did feed him properly. DH tries again to say that although the kind of food she is giving the Goldfish is fine the quantity is far too little. She replies, “I’ve been looking after him well for years – you are saying I can’t. Don’t you think I’ve been doing a good job?”

By this time the DH is clearly not sure where to go on this because the step-monster doesn’t seem to be taking in that this is not a suggestion for discussion – it’s what is going to happen. I jump in and point out that the Goldfish has been losing weight – she agree he has but says she doesn’t understand why when she’s feeding him properly. I point out that while the Goldfish was in hospital eating hospital food he stopped losing weight. In other words when his dietary needs were taken out of her control the weight loss stops. But, she just continues to repeat her mantra about looking after him perfectly well. “Don’t you think I look after your dad well?” she asks and I finally snap. I’m not proud

“No, I don’t. And I also believe it’s your fault he is in the state he is in now because you haven’t fed him properly for years. When he was taking part in a drug trial for cholesterol you refused to go to any of the cooking demonstrations, you refused to follow the low-fat diet sheets he was given. You gave him fried food every day and when the trial was over and it turned out he had high cholesterol you continued to fry everything. He ended up having to take drugs to try to bring down his cholesterol – drugs which contribute to memory loss. If you’d fed him properly we would not have to having this discussion.”

“Oh, it’s all coming out now, isn’t it?” she said. “Well, if you think you can do better why don’t you take him to live with you?”

“Because THIS is his home – the place which is the most familiar to him and where he feels most secure. And another thing – you can forget the idea of putting him in a home because he is not going into residential care.”

Finally, finally, she agrees to Wee-sis and I coming in to provide meals for the Goldfish. DH goes off to fetch the Goldfish from hospital.

The step-monster’s d-i-l has sent up a roast beef dinner. DH follows step-monster into the kitchen when she goes to heat it up and sees her remove most of the meat so a little piece the size of her palm remains, most of the potatoes so one little roast and two boiled are left. Despite everything we have said, everything the dietician has explained to her, she simply can’t understand how much the Goldfish needs to eat.