Miya recently spoke at launch of the Alzheimer’s Australia NSW discussion paper ‘Dementia and Nutrition in the Home’ at NSW Parliament House and shared her experience of helping her father maintain a healthy diet.
I’d like to share my experience looking after my father, who is 86 and has short-term memory loss.
After overcoming the reality that my relationship with my father that it has changed from a father-daughter relationship to a carer, I realised I wanted to look after him and not put him in a home, as I felt that he would deteriorate quickly if he was put in a home.
So the journey to do the best I can with dad’s short-term memory loss so he can live on his own began.
Every morning I call him twice, once to say good morning and see how he is tracking on time for his daily activity pick-up and ask him if he has had breakfast and his meds. The second call is 30 minutes later to make sure he ate his breakfast, took his medicine and is ready for the pick-up. I literally repeat myself every morning to remind him of the day ahead.
From time to time when I call him in the morning he says, “I’m shaving”, so I remind him he better be quick as pick up will arrive in 30 minutes. I then call him back 20 minutes later to him saying, “I’m in the shower singing!” It used to stress me but now I laugh, as he doesn’t remember the conversation so it’s pointless getting mad at him and especially when he is happy in his own world. Makes me think he has his priorities right in his life.
During the day he has activities set up thanks to Anglican Retirement Villages and his day respite centre, who support my father’s diabetes requirements and tell him that they have run out of coke every time he asks for it!
My father gets dropped off at his apartment between 3-4pm daily and being a social person he can’t bear to hang out in his apartment alone, so I arranged a tab with a local café where he can go hang out. It was a hard decision but I manage his money because when he had access to his account he was practically living on sugar.
I also made a separate menu as I realised menus for seniors are overwhelming – with too many choices and the type being small. Working with my dad we worked out a personalised menu containing a few things he likes which the staff at the cafe use when my father comes in.
Most nights I have dinner with him, except Thursdays when I have a helper that takes him out for a meal. Dinners are really challenging trying to make sure he doesn’t eat beforehand so I can take his blood sugars but also not waiting for dinner too long or he will become really weak. The days I can’t make dinner I talk him through how to heat up his food in the microwave. Even the most basic microwave is hard for my father to use so I modified it by creating a new sign on the microwave which simply highlights the on and off button.
Because my father eats like my 5-year-old nephew and doesn’t eat big meals but grazes after going through the frozen meals I came across a kids’ brand which is the perfect size for my father, has far better nutrition than the adults varieties and the food doesn’t end up in the bin.
My father practically never cooked in his life so having anything he needs to make is pointless, so it’s been hard coming up with alternative nutritious meals. But the doctors have given me a thumbs-up every time we see them so things must be working.
It’s challenging seeing my father age and having to repeat myself every time I speak to him but seeing that I’m not alone and that there are government organisations working on solutions is really encouraging.
The discussion paper ‘Dementia and Nutrition in the Home’ can be found here.
Miya I’m most impressed with your ingenuity in looking after all your father’s needs while allowing him his independence. It sounds like he is benefitting a great deal from your efforts and tremendous understanding of all his requirements both physically and psychologically. I wish I could have kept my dear father out of Aged Care as it’s a big change for them and in his own home he’s around all that is familiar. I hope it continues to work well for him and for you. I like to think there are always options..
That's great to hear Gordon! Thank you.
I found the paper very helpful and enlightening concerning nutrition and the implications of the latest government initiatives for Consumer Directed Care and the problem that it maybe for the convenience of the service provider rather than the client.
Miya you are coping so well. I imagine not actually living with your father would be a big help as you get time to recover in between the phone calls and visits. Well done.