MIL recently started to eat with her fingers. Any advice? - AgingCare.com

MIL recently started to eat with her fingers. Any advice?

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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!

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You're a loving daughter.

We give mom a tablespoon to eat most everything. She's the same as your mom. Eats with her fingers when we don't remind her.

In fact, last night? I see her messing with her dish of ice cream . . . working hard with the spoon to get what ended up to be a HUGE bite of ice cream with half of it hanging off the spoon. What?? Hanging off the SPOON?? I got up to see what on EARTH??

While I wasn't looking, she'd torn a piece off her napkin, put it in her ice cream and mushed it around until it was glue. And she was going to eat it! OMG!

Your husband would have fainted!

Keep doing what you're doing. Sounds like you're doing all the right things.
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My boss's wife, who had Alzheimer's, stopped using utensils for eating and started using her fingers... no one got real concerned because my boss and his family knew that could happen. So what they did when they went out to eat was order food items that one normally would use their fingers to eat.
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I realize this seems pretty upsetting. Many other cultures don't really use the types of utensils we do. You might try having her use a piece of pita bread or maybe a flour tortilla to scoop up what is on her plate. It's kind of like making a little scoop or spoon out of the of bread, or how people might use a piece of bread to clean out the last of a bowl or plate of liquidy food. Everything is taken into the mouth that way, even unpitted olives. People eat from a communal plate and the use of bread keeps your fingers out of the food. I don't know if she would adapt to this or not. If anyone asks, just tell them she picked up this new habit on her last adventure trip to the Middle East.
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