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Is seeing and smelling food a determent or a comfort? Family members and I are not in agreement on this issue.

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No, IMHO, it's not because the person with dementia will not realize it's a real food source.
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knomadik, how was this handled, and how did that work out for everyone?
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Personal opinion here I would not have placed a feeding tube in someone with advanced dementia.
There are problems that can arise with feeding tubes.
As the body stops requiring food and you are still providing food it can cause blockages, vomiting, and the food can just sit in the stomach, not being digested and this can cause pain as well.
With a feeding tube you may miss the signs that the person is stopping food and drink and continue to give it when it is not necessary.

To answer your question.
If the person might have a tendency to try to eat but can not it might be best to leave the person out of the dining area unless someone can be a constant companion for this person. (some people with feeding tubes can partake in "pleasure feeding" so some food can be taken orally)
If this person will not try to eat and can participate with the family then having them at the table would be nice. If this person will not appreciate the gathering it might be best to plan the meal around a time when he or she may be napping.
Or change the meal to a buffet and people can eat when and where they want so some can eat while some visit with this member of the family.
Smaller groups at a time are better than a large group all talking at ones with all the noise, extra people, different routines there is a lot of confusion that may upset someone with dementia. If this is the case it might even be a better idea to do the gathering as an open house and people can come and go so as not to overwhelm a person with dementia.
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My mother had a g-tube for four years. She did not have dementia and was completely aware. She enjoyed attending family events with or without food being served. For her it was about being with family, she knew the deal with food and had accepted it, and she was much happier to attend and be surrounded by family than to be left out. I can see how the experience could be painful but for us it was a happy time to have mom with us.
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Anticipating the family event is more anxiety producing than the actual event. I often dread going, then find I enjoy myself and it all works out fine. A nice smile and a positive attitude helps. A little wine helps, too.
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Well they might bring pleasant memories. Or not. That is hard to say.

There are at least two types of dementia where the person loses the sense of smell. Are you positive this person can smell anything?

You are miffed because the routine is upset? You want the nice holiday dinner the way it has always been? I'll bet there are lots of things his wife wishes were like they used to be. She should be the decision-maker in this situation.

My advice? Get over it.
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Thank you for your thoughts. He is not going to a big party. It is simply a small family gathering (4 familiar family members). His wife doesn't want us to have Christmas dinner. I'm kind of miffed-that's part of the routine. My thoughts are that since olfactories bring positive memories, the aromas of Christmas dinner might bring fond memories.
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People with dementia need familiar routines, I think taking her to a big party is problematic even without the food issue. Will she really remember anyone there, or will she feel surrounded by strangers? Will she have a place to sleep or at least get away for quiet time? What about bathroom problems?
And as for the food, my mom doesn't have a feeding tube but she is on a pureed diet, I think it is a disappointment to her when the menu is read to her and she makes her choice, only to get a plate of puree that often bears no resemblance to the food others are getting. Just one more indignity.
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If the person has "advanced dementia" are they even aware of the food? My mom has stage 7 Alzheimer's... Advanced dementia... She is not even aware there is food around. She doesn't have a feeding tube (and never will). We do hand feed her and she will eat whatever I put in her mouth. Maybe your LO is not as advanced as my mom, but I really can't see it making any difference.
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I think it would be a determent to see and smell food that you cannot actually eat!
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