In our household, counting calories has taken on a totally new meaning. Dieting by Lean Cuisine has never appealed to me, and I preferred to watch the types of food I eat over the calorie count they may contain. Recent events, though, have us scouring the food aisles for products giving us the highest calories possible.
Last year, I never worried about Mom’s weight. She ate three meals a day and snacked on pudding, cookies, candy, brownies, ice cream and colas. She nibbled on this-n-that all day long. Her chorea meant she burned most of the food she ate, so even though she took in about 3,000 to 5,000 calories a day, her weight stayed steady at 135 to 145.
Six months ago, mom started fatiguing when she fed herself. She’d start a meal and then shove aside her bowl before finishing. She’d insist that she was done—that she was full. I would try to coax her to eat a few more bites, but she would insist that I take her away from the table. Her weight didn’t change much, though, because she continued to snack from the wide variety I kept in her tin.
Within the last two months, Mom could no longer feed herself. She simply didn’t have the muscle strength for a meal. One of us now sits in front of her and prompts her to open her mouth. We watch and wait for her signal before we put another portion into her mouth. She’s still able to eat her favorite foods, and very few things have to be run through the blender, but meals take longer.
I didn’t pick up on Mom’s weight loss immediately. Like many things, it happened so gradually that one day as I pulled up her Depends I noticed she’d lost shape in her legs, thighs, and butt. I decided to really watch her throughout the day, and noticed that she wasn’t reaching for her tin any more. I realized that she wasn’t getting any of those extra calories that she packs into her day with Kit Kats and miniature Milky Ways. She didn’t pick up her mug to sip her sodas, either.
Belatedly, it dawned on me that I needed to ply Mom with her snacks all day long because she no longer initiates eating them. Over the last few days, I’ve lingered on the couch next to her.
“Mom, would you like a piece of candy?” I ask now. Then I take a piece from her tin and offer it to her. Sometimes, she will grab the chocolate and eat it. Sometimes I break off a piece and pop it into her mouth. She’s an eager bird, rarely turning down an offer of muffin or cookie.
Because Mom tires as the day progresses, I have shifted giving her high calorie foods in the mornings. Instead of her two scrambled eggs and a Boost, I started giving her a Boost milkshake with tons of ice cream and whipped cream. She downed a muffin yesterday that contained 360 calories. I added butter and sour cream to every dish served, too.
It’s too early to tell if these changes have made a difference in Mom’s weight, but she does seem more alert. Perhaps some of her recent bad days resulted from a lack of energy from not enough food. Time will tell.
Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman