Last week I did something that I have never done before in my life. I fed my mom.
Of all the things I imagine doing with mom, feeding her is not on the list. Taking her out for lunch, having coffee with her, giving her a birthday gift, sharing a laugh together, it’s easy to imagine these activities, but not feeding her.
For the past dozen years, her dementia has slowly taken away her ability to reason and to remember. A number of years ago, she forgot how to make a pot of coffee. The condo association insisted that we disable her stove to prevent a fire. About four years ago, the four of us kids moved her into assisted living for her own safety. None of us are in a position to have mom move in; still, that hurt to move her into a “home.”
Since that time, we have had to move her two more times. We hated to do it. We read the literature about how older people grow more disoriented with each move, but she couldn’t stay put either. She wasn’t safe in the condo, so we moved her to a room in assisted living where she had considerable independence and where she could keep Maggie, her cat. Then the staff started finding her outside, disoriented. She had to move again to a place where they could keep a close eye on her. Maggie moved in with my sister when mom made that move.
Four years ago we put her name on the waiting list of a good, Christian home for people with dementia. We knew the time was coming when she would need a locked unit and intense assistance. When her name came up, we moved her there. It was God’s timing because mom needed the level of care they give.
Named after the Good Shepherd, mom’s new place has staff that respect the residents and treat them with dignity. Nursing and dietary keep a close eye on her mental and physical state. At a care conference last week, they even showed us kids a graph of mom’s intake for the past month broken down by breakfast, lunch, and dinner. All three graphs show a sharp decline.
Little wonder, lately mom’s been refusing most food and liquid. She’ll eat and drink only if someone feeds her; she insists that she’s full. Decreased intake of fluids and food shows that she is in an advanced stage of dementia.
The first few years of my life mom fed me, first from her breast and from a bottle, then from a spoon. Not that I remember, but dad didn’t do day to day care for babies, and I didn’t die. Mom must have fed me.
I felt awkward putting food into her mouth, raising a coffee cup to her lips. I did it, because it’s a very, very small way to thank her for all that mom has done for me. Not that I'm bragging; out of the 21 meals mom sat down to eat last week, I fed her one of them.
It hurts to see mom so helpless and needy. We know her end is near. I thank the good Shepherd for his loving attention and care for all of his sheep, including mom. Someday soon, mom’s family will have to say good bye to one of his sheep, and he will welcome her warmly into his green pasture.