My mother has Alzheimer's, and recently I was visiting her when she experienced what I am sure was a stroke. However, the typical signs of stroke weren't reportable: sudden confusion (no, not sudden), weakness on one side (she had weakness left over from the polio she had as a child), severe head pain (she did have that).
Anyway, in the week since the incident I have noticed that she has lost a lot of her ability to communicate, to complete sentences, and she has been upset easily--increased rate of breathing and agitation. I had the chicken and egg dilemma--did the increased respirations cause the agitation, or did the agitation from not being able to talk cause the increased respirations? No one could tell me.
Lately, I have been trying to get to the nursing home for at least five meals a week. Mom needs to be fed and is on a pureed diet, which is not all that bad because of careful planning by the kitchen staff, but the aides and nurses have a tendency to mix everything together to help her eat more expediently. Imagine pureed kielbasa, mashed potatoes, and pureed carrots all stirred in a lump on your plate. Mom once said, "It looks like the cat was sick." That pretty well covers it.
Anyway, I like to be there at mealtime so I can see how well Mom is swallowing, how well she is eating, and what the nursing home is giving her. Sometimes I will ask for some of what the other residents are having--cream pie with graham cracker crust, for example. I am always told, "Now just don't let her have the crust--she might choke." I always nod and then mash the crust up into little bits and give it to her anyway. She has never had any difficulty whatsoever.
Yesterday, I was there for lunch: chili, cornbread, cucumber salad, and some form of dessert for the regular residents. Mom had pureed chili and some glossy brown lump that I could not identify. I tasted it. Not bad, but not good, the unfortunate color notwithstanding, and it was still not anything I could name. I asked the nurse. She tasted it and didn't know, either.
Mom ate a few bites of chili, two bites of the other brown stuff, and eyeballed her Jello with no enthusiasm whatsoever. Since I pretty much feel the same way about Jello, I went to the kitchen for something else to give her, and the staff gave me vanilla pudding, which is also used to administer her ground up pills. Yippee.
However, the lady from housekeeping came to the rescue. She brought in a bag of chocolate chip cookies, completely contraband, and slipped them to Mom. I took the cookies, put them in a bowl, crunched them up, dumped some milk over them, and fed them to Mom. She moaned in sheer joy. We both inhaled the aroma of the empty bag, and Mom laughed when I told her that it made me want to crawl right in there. When we finished and had scraped the bowl, Mom turned to me and said her first complete sentence of the day. "That was fun," she announced.
When I told my sister the story, I said, "'Fun' probably wasn't the word she wanted." My sister said, "No, but 'fun' works when it comes to eating chocolate chip cookies."