“The Incredible, Edible Egg!” sang through my head this morning as I poached some eggs for Mom’s breakfast. Every morning, I ask her what she’d like to eat: scrambled eggs, fried eggs, hard boiled eggs, poached eggs, French toast, or pancakes. Nine time out of ten, she’ll request eggs in one of its variations.
Today, as I prepared her meal, I realized we rely upon eggs so much because I can fix them so quickly. When Mom’s hungry, she wants food immediately. Pancakes yesterday turned into a farce as she continually asked, “Where’s my breakfast? David said he was fixing me pancakes. Where are my pancakes?” I explained he was beating the batter and teased that I didn’t think she’d want to soup out her pancakes with a spoon. She laughed, but her impatience bubbles to the surface more frequently now than in the past. When she queried once again on the status of her pancakes, David stepped into the family room, bowl and mixing spoon in hand, to show her the state of her meal. She laughed.
With Huntington’s disease, chewing and swallowing become compromised, so finding the “right” foods sometimes proves difficult. Most of the time, we don’t rely upon pureeing dishes because I cook meals that I know Mom can eat—right now. Things could change quickly. When she moved in last year, she could eat anything I cooked. Within a few months, we began cutting meats into smaller and smaller pieces. I’ve shifted her meals to ground beef, ground sausages, or ground turkey as an easier alternative to running meats through the food processor. Often, I’ll bake a roast until the meat falls apart in moist splendor. We’ve discovered the dark meat of chicken (leg and thigh meat) is easier for Mom to chew and swallow than the white selections. I never thought food would become such a focus in our home. In order to accommodate her changing needs, I rely upon making huge batches of the foods she can easily eat, freezing portions for her so I can pull them out and zap them in the microwave when hunger hits her.
Last night, I prepared a can of chunky beef and vegetable soup. It’s been a while since I’ve opened a can of Campbell’s since I’ve been making most of our soups lately. It never occurred to me that the chunks in the soup would prove too big for Mom to eat! I ended up pulling the vegetables and meat out, chopping all of it into fine pieces, and mushing it with a fork to blend back into the broth. I will change my stash of “emergency” canned soups from the chunky choices to ones like split pea. These little adjustments occur all the time with Mom’s diet. We’ll discover something she ate effortlessly a few months ago now gives her a little trouble.
I try to keep Mom’s calorie count high, but that’s getting harder. She spends an entire afternoon sipping one soda where last year she’d drink both juice and soda during the same time frame. She starts her day with a chocolate supplement that she drinks along with breakfast, but often she leaves some behind. She loves milkshakes and ice cream, so I offer one or the other each day. Fatigue factors into her calorie count. Mom can still feed herself, but anything not eaten within fifteen minutes won’t get eaten. She’ll shove aside the bowl and say she’s finished. It doesn’t mean she’s full. It means she’s eaten all she has the energy to eat. Her leftovers get scooped into a small tub for her to finish later in the day. Within two hours, she’ll ask for something else to eat. Sometimes she’ll crave something sweet. She can eat the soft cookies many companies market, or she’ll ask for a piece of chocolate, or the small bite sized brownies our HEB bakes. And she never refuses the offer of a banana.
Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abramas Chapman