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Bring Me Sunshine

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Dad’s lunch has to be at one o’clock; there is no flexibility, otherwise his anxiety levels and confusion rise. The clock dictates our lives to an obsessive degree, but it’s worth it for the comfort his routine provides him. If we keep Dad in the place in which he feels comfortable and familiar; if we enter his world, where the stories are cyclical and questions predictable, we can still have some gorgeous moments. ‘You’re mind readers!’ he exclaims, laughing and astonished as we finish questions off for him.

My dad also needs to know before he starts eating that there will be some pudding to follow, otherwise he can get discombobulated and confused. Although devastating to watch and to be alongside, for the majority of the time my dad is happy, singing ‘Bring Me Sunshine’, his favourite song, as he goes about his routines. And it’s this that we are so incredibly thankful for.

Last Sunday, on the excellent Radio 4 Food Programme, Sheila Dillon discussed some of the complex links between nutrition and dementia. As the programme demonstrated, there is a lot still to be discovered around the issue of eating and dementia in order to help both individuals with the condition and those caring for them. The disease is so complex and not everyone experiences the same challenges. But in my mind, one thing is crucial to everyone affected by the disease – we must start a debate about how we can help families, friends and individuals living with dementia through food and nourishment. If we can share stories and work together, I’m sure that we can make real progress.
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At the moment we are noticing that my dad’s sweet cravings are getting a lot stronger, which is so often the case with people suffering with this progressive disease. It’s a challenge for carers as we don’t want our loved ones to consume too many sweet things in lieu of other nourishing foods. But Dad and I were able to enjoy a lovely, simple lunch together on Saturday. I was quickly able to concoct a pudding using homemade custard and the apples I had picked from our garden then gently stewed and served with shortbread biscuits from Dad’s biscuit tin for dunking.

Enjoying that treat together has inspired me to make a trifle this coming weekend based around a tangy apple or Victoria plum compote, a soft Madeira sponge base, cream and orange-infused custard. It will be a perfect autumnal pudding and I suspect it will go down a treat with Dad, as long as it’s served just after one o’ clock.

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