What about a daughter who wants her mother to use a knife and fork to eat at a formal table. She has procedural and declarative memory issues. She is unable to consistently use the utensils. This is insensitive to her abilities and her self esteem . Can you comment?

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I agree that it is insensitive but I’d also add that the daughter is clearly in denial. Most of the caregivers that I’ve met have been so great, so understanding, and so willing to learn more. But, of course, I’ve also met a number of caregivers who just don’t get it: they don’t understand dementia, they don’t want to get it, and they push their loved one to continue to “be the same as they always were.” I think someone needs to talk to this woman and explain (gently at first) how her mom is going to continue to decline. It’s not fair or useful to continue to force her to use utensils. If she wants her mom to eat at the table, let her eat finger foods. It won’t be as clean or pretty, but dementia isn’t clean or pretty. Let this woman with dementia be in control of what she eats and when, but give her the tools to do it.

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Rachael Wonderlin has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. She owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting company.

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