Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Dementia 101: How Mom's Kitchen Can Be a Dead Giveaway

Lucille, 85, loved her house, and especially her kitchen.  But recently that favorite room began taking on some strange sights and smells.  See if Lucille's story parallels your aging parent's in any way.

No fresh fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator.  Unless you count the green things growing from leftovers.   A check of the freezer revealed TV dinners, and ice cream--of various flavors. But nothing else.

Lucille had early dementia.  Her kitchen mishaps--bringing home way too many groceries and keeping cans and jars from 2000, were at least partially due to memory loss.  Items were jumbled here and there in her cupboards in no logical order.  Opening the kitchen pantry brought an array of random things:  toilet paper, panties, a sewing kit. Sometimes Lucille "cooked," but following a recipe was next to impossible.  She tried, anyway.  And her family noticed that her dishes didn't taste the same as they used to.

There are lots of Lucilles around the world.  In her case,  she absolutely refused to leave her home.  So her family compromised by hiring a caregiver/companion named Jane from a home care agency.  Jane came into the home twice a week at first to help with transporting Lucille to appointments, shopping for groceries, going out to lunch, and making and freezing meals.  The family called Jane a "personal assistant," and that's exactly what she was.

As Lucille's disease progressed, Jane came more often, reporting to the family on what they did together, and anything unusual--positive or negative--about Lucille's behavior and demeanor.  They also talked about assisted living as a next step.  When the family broached the subject with Lucille, Lucille asked Jane, "Do you think I should do this?"  Jane had become a trusted friend.

A crazy kitchen doesn't always spell dementia.  But it's an indicator that something might be awry and worth checking into.

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