Nourishment

The list of the Mom-approved menu items is sparse. It includes:

Salami
White bread
Pepsi
Eggs
Frozen Waffles
Cucumbers
Lettuce
Hotdogs
Mushrooms
Pasta
Pizza

You’ll notice that she’s very short on fruits, vegetables, and water. And don’t get me started on the quality of meat she must be ingesting. I know when I visited, I tried serving her grilled chicken, lean pork chops, and vegetarian dishes, all of which were met with disdain.

I don’t pretend to understand what she’s going through–how she likely sticks to the foods she’s most comfortable with because she knows what to expect from them. I also don’t understand, but wonder about, her ability to taste. If a brain is degenerating and said brain takes care of processing taste, then shouldn’t her sense of taste change?

No sooner had I written the above statement than my sister posted an article on a person suffering from Alzheimer’s whose taste in food has changed. The article is a part of a series on NPR called Inside Alzheimer’s. I’d listened to the other installments of the series, earlier in the year, and I had hoped to let my father know about them. Sadly, along with so many other things this summer, telling him of the series got pushed to the wayside.

According to the subject of the article, Greg O’Brien, some of the food he now eats tastes like “rolled up newspaper.” Other foods, like sweet corn and tomatoes, “taste like toilet paper.” I wonder what my mom would say about corn or tomatoes. Last fall, she refused to eat black beans at my house, stating, “I’ve never liked black beans!” The woman I know as my mother loved black beans for many years. But apparently, the woman she is now, does not.

I remember being at the senior center with Mom in June on the day she had her evaluation with the clinician. Mom listed, verbally, her favorite foods and what she ate on a daily basis. The nurse practitioner, Anne, prodded mom for more information until I said, “According to what I’ve seen over the last several weeks, that’s it. Those foods are what she eats and likes.”

Anne’s lips pursed in disapproval. “You’re dehydrated, for sure. Look how little water you consume. And you don’t get enough by way of fruits or vegetables, either, since you eat so few of those. Your brain needs water to work, you know.”

Anne went on to describe all the ways one must nourish the brain in order for it to work properly. I understood everything the she said. I nodded my head in agreement. I looked at Mom, hoping that a third party could get through to her what I had tried to tell her many times. Because a dying brain, much like a normal one, cannot possibly work in the way it is supposed to when it’s not nourished well. Yeah, my mother might have listened to the words then, but she didn’t take them to heart.

So now, I have to wonder. Has her sense of taste been warped yet? Should I bring the subject up
with Mom herself? Would she even admit that her tastes have changed, when admitting anything with respect to this disease takes a
fortitude she doesn’t possess?

But maybe I’m not giving Mom as much credit as she deserves. Maybe I should mention the interview and try to explain, again, why she should eat well, emphasizing that I have sympathy for what she might be going through. If I do so, will my words continue to fall on deaf ears?

I don’t have an answer to that question but I suspect that even if I do try to speak to Mom about her diet, she’ll continue down this path of malnourishment. And that rocky path will only make her brain function–what’s left of it that is–worse. As with almost everything these days, we are at an impasse.

Written by

Christina Consolino is a mother, dreamer, author, editor and teacher from Dayton, Ohio. She's a member of the Plot Sisters and teaches Anatomy & Physiology at Sinclair Community College. She writes women's fiction, young adult fiction, personal essays, and more.

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