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Heartbroken and Eating

Thursday, August 01, 2013


Some of you read my blog about my father being diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He's only 66.

Two weeks ago he had a a few episodes that could have gone in a way that he could have hurt himself and/or my mother. His mental health has gone down hill so much that the only way he can be safe and cared for properly is in a nursing home. Again, he is 66.

Last Friday I went 'home' (2.5 hours away) and stayed with Mom for 9 days to try to get everything worked out. We moved Dad into a nursing home. I don't mean this blog to be devoid of emotion, but I am literally tapped out. He is a young-looking 66, so to see him in there looking physically healthy with residents who are in their late 80's and 90's and bound to wheelchairs and walkers is extremely difficult to watch. Even harder is when Dad has his moments of clarity and asks why he's there and when he's going home.
I am a mess and trying to understand this new 'normal' in my life, that when I go 'home' I will see only Mom at home and will have to go to the nursing home to visit Dad. Mom is going through a lot of emotions now plus trying to figure out the finances and looking at her new reality to determine her next step, which will mean a lot of changes for her.

And selfishly I eat as if it will deaden the pain. I eat and eat and eat and I am not hungry. I cannot bring myself to step on the scale. My fattest clothes are tight. I see my reflection in glass doors when walking into a store and am disgusted by what I see. I am constantly pulling my shirt down and my pants up so as not to hang out of what is supposed to cover me. The worst part isn't even the vanity - it's that I'm destroying myself and could end up with major issues, possibly like my father's (we aren't sure if his is considered vascular dementia, which I believe is one of the faces of Alzheimer's, due to his heart problems he's had) if I don't take my health seriously.

And I still eat as if it will erase this new reality of my too-young father living the rest of his life in a nursing home. I stay up too late watching TV or playing video games to put my head into things that I have no emotional connection to. Then I'm exhausted the next day, reach for crap food, feel numb yet irritable, and start the ugly cycle all over again.

I'm afraid I'm getting used to being fat and too accepting of the aches and pains that go with it. I'm getting used to feeling 'unpretty' and hiding under long unstyled hair, baggy clothes, and tucking myself into a corner. I know that's not where I belong, and it's not how I should feel. This is getting more and more comfortable than I want it to be. I say I don't want to make it the norm, but my actions do not support that statement.

The questions I have to answer: how badly do I want to feel good about myself again, and how badly do I want to take my health into my own hands? I have to be able to overcome all my emotions, all of my "what ifs", and the drive I have to shove food into my face when I'm trying to cope with the stuff life throws at us that aren't inside our neat little plans. I have to do what's right for me (eat right, get to bed at a decent time, exercise) no matter how painful it will be to start this new habit.

So many of you have gone through even bigger challenges than this. How do you overcome these heavy nearly smothering emotions to make good changes for your life?

Thank you for reading.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Grief and worry are driving your eating. You realize that and you WILL take control of your eating and more importantly, your health. Your parents situation is truly tragic but as time goes by they, and you will adjust to the new normal. Right now there is shock and fear and a huge learning curve for you and your Mom. The friends who have suggested counseling are wise. Please consider it and also contact the Alzheimer's association; they may have support services, educational material, and connection to a local support group for each of you.
    My father also had Alzheimer's; I've been in your shoes. Dad was older but I think the pain for the family was much the same as yours.
    Above all, take care of yourself and your health; you can't help your mother if you become ill.
    2016 days ago
    If you're still feeling this way after a few weeks, I hope you consider speaking to a counsellor. You don't have to go it alone.

    My thoughts are with you.
    2018 days ago
  • KONRAD695
    Just letting you know I'm still thinking of you. Hang tough. There will be good days. emoticon emoticon
    2018 days ago
  • no profile photo BUCKEYEMOM8
    I am praying for you and your parents. My mom has dementia and I am struggling with how best to care for her. Please know that you are not alone and that your eating is a reaction to a very stressful situation. Do not let being perfect with food be an added stress right now. Just try to do the best you can and nourish your body. emoticon
    2025 days ago
  • 68ANNE
    I am so very sorry for the change in your father. It is very hard when the mind is gone and the body is still here.
    Until food stops being 'comfort' we can't change a thing.
    2029 days ago
    I feel for you. My mom spent her last years in dementia - many times she wasn't even able to remember earlier days (as most Alzheimer's patients can). She'd have days when she couldn't communicate at all... and then other times she'd be perfectly lucid. It was an extreme emotional roller-coaster, for her and for me. I was so stressed I buckled and "let" my dear mother-in-law (who lived just blocks from the nursing home) take over for me. I absolved myself by saying I was 3 hours' drive away... but that wasn't the real reason. I know you can relate to that, too. The worst part for Mom was that I could see she still was able to "connect;" she understood (most of the time) what was going on, what was being said, and had intense sessions of frustration and anger when she was incapable of transferring what was inside her head to the outside world. I could clearly "see" the things happening in there. Even so, she was sweet and complacent and the staff loved her. Thankfully. She passed gently in her sleep... I hope my life ends so simply.

    For you, it's truly grief. You've lost what you knew as "Dad." Your relationship with him and your mother is irrevocably changed. BUT! it can still be good. One thing you might do to help everyone in that equation is to go visit your dad as much as you can. Take him out and walk around on the grounds. Get him out of the environment. Tell him you need to go out for your own health if he balks! That's not necessarily untrue. Most facilities will allow you to sign out your family members to go places. Take him to a favorite restaurant. Go shopping, take him to a park and watch the kids. Does he fish? take him. What does he love? Be a part of that for as long as he's able to still enjoy it, and have those wonderful memories to call up when the disease takes him beyond those simple pleasures. It will mean the world to him now (even if he grumbles) and will mean so much to you later. I still wish I'd had one more good day... one more moment to show Mom how much she meant to me. My chances are all gone now. Don't set yourself up for a lifetime of "I-wish-I-hads".

    Not to pile on more stress -- but I want to give you a "heads up" about the dietary in places like that. I was in rehab in a care/nursing center for 3 months last year as a result of a broken knee. It was an ongoing harangue and fight to get them to feed me anything beneficial. I understand that many of the people there were in their final days, and weren't able or willing to eat much. So the meals were very high on carbs and processed foods. I backslid terribly while I was there, and they never did get it right. Luckily, the facility is in my home town, so my husband (bless him) would come by as often as possible - sometimes every day - to bring me things I could keep in the patient fridge for when I just couldn't get any cooperation from the kitchen.

    You need to assess the meals they're feeding him constantly. If it isn't right, keep on them. If his doctor will underwrite a personal diet, get it on file, and then check it check it check it!!! Most places have a small fridge and at least a microwave where patient items can be kept. If your dad has favorites, bring them! But make sure they're labeled and don't stay more than a day or two (the residents in the facility where I was were as bad as any I've ever encountered in work atmospheres: you lose your meals regularly!).

    I will offer for speculation that I have read some articles recently which relates the development and progression of Alzheimer's disease to diet. I don't know what regime you follow, but what I've read is that all the high-carb and processed (frankenfood) junk we eat contributes. This will be tough to work out, considering long-term care centers usually rely heavily on carbs in their meal plans, for reasons already stated. But do some research if you can - perhaps you can get them to modify for him, even if it takes a doctor's orders to accomplish it.

    You will feel better to be involved in this difficult transition. It will make it less troublesome for him, and may help you come to terms with it too. I think it would probably help your mom to be able to be with him, if you could take her with you. I agree, it's really tough watching the other residents, knowing your dad's needs aren't physical ones. But there's no getting around it. Think about it from his perspective too: he's going to be immersed in that environment 24/7. You will be able to leave it. He has no "out," unless you give it to him.

    I am so sorry to hear this has happened in your life. You will adjust to it. Don't allow it to destroy the good changes you're making for you. Instead of immersing your sorrow and stress in eating, maybe learn to make your dad's favorite foods. For that matter, without "Dad" in the house, "Mom" may not be eating as she should, either. If you don't already know your family's favorite recipes, now would be a good time to learn them, so you will never lose that connection. And you can cook and take some to Mom and Dad, and have a little home-comfort for yourself while you're at it. If food is your comfort, let it be its preparation and sharing, and not just mindless snacking in the face of depression.

    Keep posting and in contact with us here. The greatest thing about SP is that we are a family, too. We care, and we feel your pain or your joys, and we'll be here for you.
    2029 days ago
    Oh! I really do feel for you!

    When my husband and I were first married, we lived with his grandfather, who also had Alzheimer's. It was difficult to say the least.

    My advice to you is to not allow this situation prey on your weaknesses. Instead, focus on making yourself stronger, mentally and physically. Not only do you have to worry about your future health, but you will be a greater help to your parents if you sharpen your mind and strengthen your muscles.

    When my grandmother was dying, I was so glad I had the physical strength to lift her, and make her feel safe and comfortable.

    Take care of yourself. Don't beat yourself up over It. You have the inner strength to get through this.
    2029 days ago
    My heart is breaking for you, your Dad and your Mom. That is one of the cruelest medical conditions on this earth! Especially for someone so young. You are in my thoughts and prayers! Nothing can prepare a person who has to watch a parent be trapped in a condition that they don't understand.

    "How do you overcome these heavy nearly smothering emotions to make good changes for your life?" I wish I could answer this for you. I've done the exact same thing this past month that you have been doing. I have eaten away every emotion & fear I've had in dealing with my mentally ill son. I've gained close to half my weight back that I'd lost...I stopped exercising, stopped being kind to myself. I hid from the world, I lost hope.

    Then I realized none of that helps me or anyone around me. You can't be there emotionally, mentally, physically or spiritually for yourself or your parents unless you are kind to your body.

    I'm sure as you face the next few weeks and the adjustment to the new 'norm' it will be hard if not harder than you have already it with your best food forward. You know what it takes to take care of yourself. Now make yourself that priority. One step at a time. Be gentle with yourself but treat your body with the respect it meal, one fitness session, one pep talk at a time!

    emoticon emoticon

    2029 days ago
    You are grieving, so be kind to yourself. This is a horribly hard time in your life, so you're going to have to figure out the best way for *you* to get through this. There will be all kinds of people who will tell you how you "should" deal with this, but you are the only one who knows what is really best for you.

    When I lost my first husband to lymphoma a decade ago, I found that the best way I could cope was to be very physically active. I had a lot of anger, and found that a kick-boxing class 3 nights each week was a great way to release that anger. I also got in to heavy lifting a few nights each week, and discovered that those were the only nights that I slept well. I basically went straight to the gym right after work each evening and was there for 2 hours - taking any class that was available along with the kick-boxing and lifting. The blasting music, the repetitive motions, and trying to focus on an instructor together gave me the detachment from thinking and emotion that I needed. I did randomly burst in to tears, but everyone in the classes took that in stride and it was never a big deal. Those lovely endorphins from the workouts were the best possible "treatment" for the emotions.

    I paid no attention whatsoever to what I was eating, but apparently it wasn't very much since I dropped about 75 pounds in the first 10 months after he died. This was the 75 pounds that I had put on in the year that he was sick --- I averaged 2 hours sleep per night that year, ate carbs like crazy to keep functioning, and hollandaise was part of every meal in an attempt to keep his weight up. I would guess that this is the point that you are at right now.

    If you want to give this a try, then look in to a local gym membership and see what they have available. Don't worry too much about what you're eating at first, but maybe just try to have healthier foods available at home for now. As you get past the first huge surges of grief and start finding your "new normal", then you might want to start gradually working on making your diet healthier.

    You might find it easier to take wee, little steps at a time (since more can be overwhelming when you're already dealing with so much), or you might find it easier to try for a massive change all at once (since it can be a relief to have something so major to focus on instead of your Dad's situation). It's all about you and what works for you.

    Hang in there, be as strong as you can for yourself and your family, and try to make the best choices you can each day. Give yourself room to grieve in your own way, and think about reaching out to support groups of folks who are going through the same thing.

    Strong thoughts...
    2029 days ago
    SP has a new challenge that starts today .... why not get on board ... today is a new day for a new you. My Mom is going to be 87 next month and has alzheimers for 20 years now .... The last 10 years me and my Sis have been taking care of her -- I totally understand the complications you refer to .... but, you need to be taking care of yourself and your Mom is more than likely going to need your presence more to help compensate for her loneliness as the illness progresses and he begins to live in his world and surroundings. Please be good to yourself ... when you want to eat eat eat ... make it a low cal snack -- something like frozen grapes will slow down the eating process -- I use them lots as you chew and chew and get satisfied. Today you can start making a difference. Roc
    2029 days ago
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