by Anna Loengard, M.D.
One thing that makes the holidays special in the islands is all the great food. Sharing special foods with family is one of the ways we show our love. If those you love have advanced dementia or another serious illness, they may not be able to enjoy this part of the holidays. People with dementia may only be able to eat pureed foods and eventually may not remember how to eat and swallow at all. If your loved one has advanced cancer or another serious illness, they may have little or no appetite.
What can you do to support loved ones who may not be able to sit down to enjoy a huge meal?
1) Follow their lead: we may see feeding someone as comfort, but for someone with advanced illness – it may cause pain, nausea or other symptoms. Give small amounts and check in regularly to see if they want more.
2) Ask what tastes good: People with serious illness may have changes in their taste buds. Even things they used to love might not taste good anymore. And, tastes may change by the day, so always ask what they are craving – and don’t be disappointed if after a few bites they are done.
3) Find other ways to show your love: give a shoulder rub, play some music or just spend some time talking. Let that person know you want to support them in whatever way feels best for them.