I have watched this site from the side lines for a while and I haven't see anything about Alz. patients not using eating utensils. MIL is 86 and has mid-late stage ALZ. Up until about a couple months ago, she never, ever ate with her fingers. She never ate ribs or chicken if she had to eat it with her fingers although she would eat appetizers, desserts etc. Now, all of a sudden she sometimes forgets what to do with a fork which I realize is part of ALZ. We do like to take her out to eat and to go to parties and family functions where food is served. She enjoys those very much. But, as I said, recently she eats everything with her hands. Salad, steaks, ham, veggies, potatoes, creamy mac salads etc. The first time I saw her do this I was flabergasted, I told her "Mom use your fork" and she did. It was progressive getting worse. We were out a couple weeks ago for brunch (we try to visit and dine out early because of sundowning) and we had talked about her using her utensils to eat when we got to the restaurant. I got her buffet plate put it in front of her, rolled her utensils out of the napkin, handed her the fork and went up to get my plate. I come back and she's eating with her fingers....scrambled eggs in one hand and a hunk of sliced beef in the other! I told her to put it down and she threw the juicy beef at me. Needless to say my pretty blouse was ruined, but anyway... I cut up her meats, handed her fork back to her and proceeded to eat my cold meal. Oh, we don't fill her plate up, only giving her a small portion or we get a side plate for half her meal at a restaurant. Sidenote: Husband had been at table while she was doing this and was so 'freaked out' that he didn't know what to do and he can't stand to see his Mom like this.
So here's what we have done since then: Give her half of the food that comes at the restaurant and tell her the rest is for a doggie bag. Give her the rest if she wants some more. Put the fork across the top of the plate so she sees it. Ask for extra silverware and put several forks around her plate. Cut all her food up into fork sized pieces as it seems that she prefers to hold onto larger pieces of food. Put half her salad on a bread plate, cut it up small, pour a little of the dressing on it and give her a fork and a spoon (she loves Italian dressing and have been known to lick the bowl or the plate if there's dressing left). During our meal we thank her for using her fork/knife/spoon and chat with her. If we see her reaching with her fingers for a piece of food then we found gentle words and distraction work. It seems to be working out well and none of us has had food thrown at us in a week or two.
The weird part of this is....she doesn't do this at her AL facility....ever. I've talked to the other family members and she's done this a couple of times with them but never at the AL? Have no idea why...LOL... She is a hot SH*T for sure.
Question is, would anyone have any other suggestions as to how we can keep her eating like a "Lady" i.e. using utensils, when we're out? I don't find to be a life or death problem because it is the Alzheimers but other diners tend to rudely stare. Like I said she's doing ok with what we're doing but she has her moments. I don't want to ruin anyone else's dining experience so any other ideas, send them my way.
Just let me say, please don't tell me to stop taking her out because during her moments of clarity, she enjoys going out like she used to with us and remembers the restaurants and parties. We want to keep giving her as many happy times as we can before we lose her completely. Thank you all so very much!