I just finished a piece of wonderfully decadent chocolate pie.  Life is good!

For a few months we are providing a place to stay for the Pastor who is now the Senior Pastor at the Congregation from which I retired nine months ago.  His children are finishing the school year before the family moves to town.  The Congregation is bringing a meal a couple of times a week so that he can have real food once in a while.  Cooking is not one of my gifts. What a treat it has been to greet people at the door, loaded down with containers of nourishing food, providing an entire meal including dessert!

What was the norm for meals before he arrived, and what will be the norm again when he and his family settle into the home they have found here, is not so lavish and nourishing.  On a good day, there may be a relatively nourishing full meal.  A good day does not usually come more than once or twice in a week.  I like vegetables, and I can steam broccoli and will do the same with the freshly picked asparagus I hope to find at a local country market in the next few days.

The reality is that our normal does not include daily home cooked meals, far from it.  There are some dynamics in our pattern of living that do not make healthful eating an easy thing to do.  I suppose that Caregivers who have had food preparation as an element of their portfolio prior to the addition of the chronic illness to the family, do a good job of providing regular.  Cooking was not part of my portfolio.

Among the dynamics of caregiving that works against eating regular, balanced and nourishing meals, is the impact the chronic disease has on the appetite of the one receiving the care.  In the case of Parkinson’s Disease and Lewy Body Dementia, one of the early signs is the loss of the sense of smell and taste.  I have in the past asked Mary Ann how she determines what she likes and dislikes since from long before she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s those senses had diminished.  I don’t know exactly how she answered, but my memory of what she said is that there are some flavors she can pick up, then there are textures and visual cues and just a general awareness of what she likes and dislikes.

One thing that many of the Lewy Body Dementia Spuoses online group say is that their Loved Ones like ice cream.  One said that a health professional told her that the taste buds that sense sweetness are the last to go.  Mary Ann could easily eat two large servings of ice cream a day if it was available.  I need to add quickly, that when I was growing up, at least during the summer months, I remember my parents and I heading to the Oatman Dairy for hot fudge sundaes (topped wtih salted pecans) pretty much every evening.  My taste for ice cream is legendary among those who know me.  Don’t start a conversation with me about ice cream unless you have a substantial amount of time to give to that conversation.

Here is one of the problems Caregivers have in their attempt at healthy eating and weight control.  It is the needs of the one for whom they are caring that take priority.  Especially when there is some level of dementia in the picture, food issues emerge.  Just finding foods that are acceptable is no simple matter. The house ends up filled with what the one affected by the disease will eat.

Sometimes there are diet restrictions placed on the one with the chronic or progressive disease.  He/she may have diabetes or heart disease added to the primary illness.  It would seem then that it would be easy to maintain good eating habits.  Not so!  When your Loved One is suffering from some sort of major debilitating disease that steals them much of what brings them joy, how can they be denied a few simple pleasures.  If Mary Ann likes ice cream, that is what she gets.  The ice cream may be a couple of scoops from Baskin – Robbins, or a Sheridan’s Concrete, or a Turtle Sundae at G’s Frozen Custard, or a Dairy Queen Blizzard, or a Pecan Caramel Fudge Sundae at the Braum’s Dairy an hour away.  She likes Glory Days’ Pizza.  She gets a couple of slices of all meat pizza once a week, providing her with two meals.  She likes burgers and fries and KFC and Long John Silver’s and Steak and Shake and a Steak Burger and Cheese from the Classic Bean. She loves sweet jello dishes with cool whip and sour cream or cottage cheese.  She likes bratwurst and sour kraut and beef and potatoes and pork roast and chops.  Lunch at home almost always includes handfuls of Fritos and a regular Pepsi.

Yes, she has heart issues and should not be eating red meat or anything with cholesterol.  Yes, she has had congestive heart failure suggesting a diet low in sodium.  But she also has Orthostatic Hypotension (low blood pressure episodes) that is controlled better when fluid is retained allowing blood pressure to remain at a higher level.  Salt provides that fluid retention.

After weeks or months or years of trying to negotiate the mine field of evil foods, after fighting endless battles on what should and shouldn’t be eaten, this Caregiver, and most with whom I interact have concluded that there is more to be lost than gained by continuing the battles.  What is the point of denying someone simple pleasures just to add some more years to avoid those simple pleasures.

One thing that militates against a Caregiver eating a healthy diet is that the house is filled with food that is not helpful to maintaining a good balanced diet.  Of course the presence of that evil food does not force the Caregiver to eat it!  Isn’t the obvious solution simply to have healthful foods in the house to eat as well as the evil foods?  It may be the obvious solution to the problem, but it doen’t work.

The real culprit that sabotages efforts at healthy eating is the stress that comes with the task of living on a roller coaster going at breakneck speed completely out of control.  Food is the drug of choice for Caregivers.  We may not be able to stop the roller coaster, but we can head for the kitchen and eat a bowl of ice cream followed by a handful (or two) of cheddar cheese flavored Sun Chips.  We can slather the back of a a couple frozen cookies spoonfulls of Nutella.  We can eat a heaping spoon of chunky peanut butter dipped in a dish of chocolate chips.  Caregivers’penchant for late nights provides plenty of time for more than one foray into the kitchen. If we can’t stop the roller coaster, at least we can treat ourselves while we ride.

This is where suggestions for solutions to the problem usually come in these posts.  If I had a solution to this one, I wouldn’t have 165 pounds hanging on a frame built for 145.  I guess I need to watch Oprah while I eat my afternoon snack.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.