My Dad’s a Goldfish – Doing the mash up

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I’d only turned my back for a minute to take something out of the fridge. By the time I crossed the kitchen floor it was to see the Goldfish, very carefully pouring his glass of orange juice over his meat and potatoes.

All the rules about what never say to someone with dementia went out the window. “What are you doing? Why did you do that? Your dinner is ruined.”

He looked baffled – and hurt. He may have known why he did it but even so, he wasn’t able to explain. Perhaps he thought the orange juice was gravy or a sauce. Maybe, he just didn’t fancy what was on his plate and the orange juice was a deliberate act of protest?

I always said we were very lucky the Goldfish never lost his appetite but we did go through some strange and often difficult phases at mealtimes. The swallowing problem I already wrote about in my last post. There was also the mashing phase.

The Goldfish liked to mash his potatoes into the gravy on his plate. Fine, I do, too, but for a time he mashed endlessly. He’d mash and mash. No amount of encouragement or persuasion would persuade him to stop. The food not only soon looked pretty unappetising, it was stone cold. It took me a time to understand he had forgotten what to do next, forgotten how to use cutlery – so he carried on mashing.

mince-and-tatties

A good plate of Scottish mince and tatties – unmashed. Not going to show the horrible mashed up version.

He was not yet at the stage when he required (or would accept) spoon-feeding but he’d soon lose weight if I didn’t get him eating. Finger food worked. I gave him sandwiches, toast, cheese and biscuits – anything he could pick up and eat without having to use a fork or a spoon. The memory of how to use cutlery came back quite soon, thankfully, and the mashing stopped.

The false teeth popping in and out, was another phase we lived through for a while. He had a top set – the bottom teeth were his own – which he could somehow push with his tongue until they sort of hung out of over his bottom lip. Then, he’d do another manoeuvre which made the dentures pop back into his mouth again. It wasn’t pretty. Nor was his habit of removing the dentures when food got stuck under the plate and handing them to me to rinse under the tap. I’m a little bit squeamish about false teeth – dread the day I might need them – but, hey, I survived.

Sometimes, even without the mashing and the dancing dentures, mealtimes seemed to take forever. The purchase of a thermos plate helped. It had a compartment underneath which could be filled with hot water to keep the food warm whether we were going through the mashing stage or, most often, simply because the Goldfish ate very, very slowly.

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Ice cream was always a favourite but the Goldfish was never averse to anything sweet

Put a dish of ice cream or bread and butter pudding (topped with cream), chocolate mousse, apple pie and custard and it vanished like lightning. Occasionally, I felt a bit guilty about the amount of puddings the Goldfish devoured. I have to admit, his diet was not always well balanced. His very lovely GP was reassuring, telling me that as the Goldfish was almost 90 and approaching the last stages of dementia he could eat whatever he wanted to eat.

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35 thoughts on “My Dad’s a Goldfish – Doing the mash up

  1. I remember the plastic thermos plates Mary from when the children were small. They were a great invention. In fact, if truth be told, one was found in our garage when we moved from Kent back to Scotland. It had got hidden away by the kids in an old tea chest and forgotten about lol.
    I totally agree with you about not wanting to put a picture up of the mashed up food. I had a massive stomach operation in 2009 and for nearly 6 months I lived on liquids like bovril, tea etc then moved onto liquidised proper food for the next 6 months. Worst year of my life. I kept thinking it was like eating “pig swill.” Not that I have ever eaten them, but it kind of reminded me of old films and what they used to feed pigs. Yuk. Glad that phase didn’t last long for you and your dad xx.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for your comments, Ruth. Yes, those thermos dishes are great. They also have some designed with high sides to make it easier for people recovering from a stroke who can only use one hand so they can eat independently without the food scooting off the plate. My mother-in-law had to eat liquidised food for a while – it looked like sludge. I bet you were glad when you could eat properly again. So much of our enjoyment of food comes from its appearance, doesn’t it?

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Nick was on pureed food for a while as he was learning to swallow again… I remember it well, though I’d rather forget. The day he could have the miniscule smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches I had brought for him was a red-letter day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I can imagine how you felt when Nick managed to eat his first sandwich, however small it was. He must have felt pretty good, too, but for you it must have been really special. The inability to swallow must be terifying.

      Liked by 1 person

      • SUE: I was thinking of Nick – and TBI/ABI cognitive challenges – when I included Feeding Tube Awareness Week
        (February 6-12) on February’s Mental Health Awareness Calendar post. It didn’t even occur to me that my comment underneath might be useful for dementia carers as well. Tho’ so much better to feed the brain before it comes to that, sometimes it is simply not possible, for any number of reasons.

        MARY: since your comment image links to your website, how about adding a link to this blog at the top of your links page – or the bottom, someplace easy to locate? It seems that I keep forgetting how to get here (then I forget how I managed to google successfully, so sometimes move on when I’d rather not). There’s much here I still want to read. Thanks!
        xx,
        mgh
        (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
        ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
        “It takes a village to educate a world!”

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Ha now I have this memory of my father’s mother popping her teeth out and putting them in a glass by her bed. It horrified me too. Occasionally mum would bring tea and take the glass plus teeth to the kitchen where I might pick it up thinking of using it only to be repulsed by the enamelled centipede sitting in the bottom.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m so glad you find my posts helpful – that means a lot to me. Happy birthday to your dad. Although I knew there would come a time when dad wouldn’t recognise me, it was still a shock the first time it happened. I’d told him it was my birthday and he wished me many happy returns. I asked him if he remembered the night I was born and he laughed and said, “No, why should I?” At least, he always seemed to think I was a nice person even when he had no idea who I was. And always, at the core of him, regardless of how much of his memory had gone, he was still himself and still my dad.

      Liked by 2 people

      • My Dad’s second wife Eva (Mom died) remembered who he was to the very end, and always greeted him with a huge smile and, “There’s my handsome husband!” – even when she believed he was traveling from another state for some odd reason, always asking about his trip.

        It was one of his few fond memories, toward the end, as she began to lose memories of knowing anyone else – even of her doctors and nurses. I am grateful that she passed before she lost all memory of who my father was. He would have been shattered, even though he expected it every single time.
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Mary, it just feels so damn wrong to like the post; as it I am trivialising it. What I do like though is the way you write, what you write about and what I am learning from reading it. I am sorry to tell you (as in feeling a bit guilty but with no regrets,) the bit about your dad’s trick with his false teeth had me howling with laughter… To do so felt most inappropriate and somewhat naughty!

    Liked by 2 people

    • No, I don’t feel at all that liking the post trivialises it and I’m glad you enjoyed it. I searched for a photo of him doing his false teeth trick but couldn’t find it. I think I may have deleted it thinking I wouldn’t ever use it on the blog. It did look funny but was infuriating when he did it at mealtimes!

      Liked by 2 people

      • I can imagine. It is one of those terrible things that is funny when you hear it from someone else, or even tell it to someone else, but while it’s hapening you just want to scream out FOR GOD’S SAKE DAD!

        Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Lucinda. Life would have been a bit easier had we known these things in advance instead of always running to keep up as dad’s condition changed. I’m glad you;ve learned a lot but I hope you never need to use what you’ve learned!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m rather looking forward to eating whatever I want! It’s so sad. Reminds me of dealing with my father if we went out for a meal. He had Parkinson’s but could be equally ‘strange’ about the physical act of eating. Mind you, I was lucky and didn’t have to look after him as I’d arranged a wonderful carer, which he was able to afford.

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    • Me, too, Sarah. I would watch him wolf down a sticky toffee pudding with ice cream and think abut the three inches it would add to my waistline if I had a portion. We had carers coming in and one or two were really excellent but not able to take on more shifts with dad.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment, Hilary. The Complete Care Catalogue is stuffed with useful things like the thermos plate and specialy cutlery. Although we were always looking for items useful in dementia a lot of it can be used for other reasons. Again, the discovery of the catalogue came late on our journey and I wish we’d known about what was available sooner.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Oh heavens, food. My poor mother forgot how to use cutlery. I found her literally lapping cornflakes out of her bowl. Sometimes she sucked the filling off a sandwich and left the bread. As for teeth – the stories you hear in care homes are hair raising.

    It’s none of it pretty, is it?

    Liked by 2 people

    • No, it’s not pretty, Jenny. But sometimes it can be very funny and I think often the only way through it is to hang on to the humour – however dark it may be! Not sure I want to dwell on care home stories about false teeth. My imagination is running riot already.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. My Dad had always had a sweet tooth and was a real chocoholic! In a strange way, it was a triumph over the dementia that it could not take away every single thing that gave enjoyment. At a time when Dad was forgetting so many things, unable to even do up a Velcro shoe, he was still able to select a Thornton’s chocolate from a box. His fingers hovered with anticipation above the different shapes and for a moment the old times came back, it was as if he was fine again, as he was when he was tucking into his beloved Malteasers and joking ‘ I’ll be glad when I’m fed up with these!’
    Chocolate 1
    Dementia 0
    You did a marvellous job looking after your Dad, Mary. You would be the nurse that we would all hope to have caring for us if we were in a similar situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, yes, Julie, I like that. The dementia couldn’t take away dad’s love of sweet things either. Brilliant to think they triumphed over dementia in some aspects.
      As for me being a nurse – I don’t think so. I’d spend too much time being angry about all the paperwork!

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  8. My mum loved ice-cream and carried on doing so until her final days, Mary. Getting her to eat anything else, during her last few months, was impossible…unless it was ice cream. Had to be plain vanilla. Nothing else would do. It was ice-cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner. She loves biscuits, but not even those were tempting enough in the last few months. I once crushed some biscuits over the ice cream and she flatly refused it. The look she gave me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for commenting, Hugh. I hope I will retain my love for ice cream! I can imagine the look your mum gave you trying to sneak in some biscuit crumbs. We sometimes powdered dad’s pills and mixed them with his ice cream but if he suspected he wouldn’t touch it.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I agree with you that at a certain point, they can eat whatever they choose as long as it’s food that they enjoy. I just found your blog and have been reading. What a great writer you are. I have 2 close family members who have Alzheimer’s/Dementia. It is a sad progression for which there’s no cure. Some heartbreaking challenges come with the territory.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, thanks so much for dropping by and for your kind comments. I’m sorry you are having to cope with two family members with dementia – as you say some heartbreaking challenges come along with it. On the other hand, there are also opportunities to share some precious times.

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  10. So much to know and then when you do, it’s on to something else you have to learn. But the part about the mashing really struck home for me – the not knowing what to do next. I suddenly was overwhelmed with sadness. how difficult for him and for all of you. This is going to help so many people, Mary. thanks, Clare

    Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I have a friend at church who is dealing with this right now and one whose husband died of Parkinson’s Disease with lewy body dementia. I know there are so many clinical trials going on to search for a cure, but right now, it’s difficult and people grasp at anything (like your coconut oil and grapes) to help their loved ones. Writing is a gift when we can share our ideas and experiences with others. Thanks, Mary.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I think it gets to a point where we’re just happy they eat.. whether it be ice cream or mashed potatoes.. it’s tough to watch those we love aging and becoming frail.. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us xx

    Liked by 1 person

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