Jun 6, 2011

I'm Hungry, I'm Starving and Looking Alzheimer's Right in the Eyes

Odd as it might sound, in Alzheimer's World the bizarre is the normal. Once you make it into Alzheimer's World, instead of getting bent out of shape when the nuttiness starts, you more or less, shake your head and think, here we go again....

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Looking Alzheimer's Right in the Eyes

We have a few good comments under the article, Alzheimer's, Red Plates, Mirrors, and You.

This one by Donna G made me laugh (at myself),
What color can we use to get them to STOP eating? Like Dotty, my Mom is always hungry - because, of course, "I never get fed around here".

For more than seven years I have been hearing those famous words every single day, "I'm hungry, I'm starving".

For years, those words were driving me nuts. Not only the words. The eating.

Near the beginning, I took my mother to this fantastic buffet dinner on Easter Sunday. They had every thing you could imagine to eat. Dotty was eating every thing in site. She started with a two egg omelet, then switched to roast beef with a pile of potatoes. She finally stopped after polishing off two giant deserts. I couldn't believe my eyes.

Then it got crazier. We get home. Dotty takes off her cloths and comes walking out into the living room eating a bowl of cereal with banana. Yes, I tried to explain to Dotty that she could not possible be hungry.

I was uneducated and inexperienced back in those days, and yes, I would try to explain to Dotty that she just ate and she couldn't possibly be "starving". I did this maybe a 1,000 times?

Yes, Dotty still tells me she hasn't had a thing to eat all day and tries to guilt trip me. Well, the Alzheimer's tries to guilt trip. Alzheimer's guilt. Alzheimer's will try to make you feel guilty all the time.

Yes, Dotty once called her friends and told them I was starving her to death. They actually sent someone over to ask me why I was starving her.

Of course, in my usual smart mouth way the first words out of my mouth were, does she look to you like she is starving? At the time, Dotty was a nice svelte 5 feet tall and 152 pounds.

I then proceeded with a tour of the kitchen cabinets, refrigerator, and freezer. Does it look like I am starving her? The answer was no. About four years later this same person finally realized for the first time that my mother was, indeed, suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

That finally happened after my mother told her she was driving herself to the store and the mall everyday. And, in fact, had just come back from the mall. The fact that my mother hadn't driven in about 5 years or so was not lost on her.

Yes, when my mother would eat and eat and eat it would drive me crazy. And when she would say over and over and over, I'm hungry, I'm starving it would drive me crazy.

To this day, my mother might eat three bowls of cereal in a row. Then wash that down with a pretzel stick. Go figure.

My caregiver life was saved by two complete strangers that listened to me vent one day, and when I stopped after 20 minutes told me, their mother was always hungry. They had already gone the full round trip ride with Alzheimer's.

While I was venting away they listened, smiled, shook their heads up and down affirming that they understood exactly how I was feeling.

Later that day, I finally understood that I was not alone. It was not just me that was experiencing the craziness of it all. This understanding, that you are not alone, is imperative to good and effective Alzheimer's caregiving.

I started to work on getting control of my feelings. I learned to accept that what is real in the mind of an Alzheimer's patient is real. I finally found the door to Alzheimer's World.

It took years but I finally learned how to move seamlessly between the real world and the real Alzheimer's World. When you step into Alzheimer's World you go in with the understanding that what is, is. It is normal. You learn to accept the craziness of it all as if it is normal.

Odd as it might sound, in Alzheimer's World the bizarre is the normal. Once you make it into Alzheimer's World, instead of getting bent out of shape when the nuttiness starts, you more or less, shake your head and think, here we go again. After learning to separate real world behavior from Alzheimer's World behavior, you learn to laugh and smile when you tell your stories, instead of venting.

There is going to be a day when I miss hearing Dotty say, "I'm hungry, I'm starving". Oddly, it is likely to be one of the things that I will miss the most.

DonnaG, take one big step to your right. Enter Alzheimer's World. You know you fed your mother. We know you fed your mother.

We understand how you might be feeling from time to time. Smile, you are an Alzheimer's caregiver.

We all have to learn that when a person suffering from Alzheimer's does the odd, strange, or the hard to understand it is a product of the disease and the way it affects the brain.

Me? I decided to look Alzheimer's right in the eyes and think to myself, gotcha.

Note: I knocked Dotty down to around 135 pounds through exercise. She has been around that weight for several years.

Related Content
Bob DeMarco
Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized expert, writer, speaker, and influencer in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community worldwide. The ARR Knowledge Base contains more than 4,600 articles. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

About Author
Alzheimer's Reading Room