Am I being an enabler of bad eating habits?

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Background: I am fairly new to caregiving (<1yr), I had to take over the responsibility to care for my mother (mid 60's, diagnosed with SCA [type unknown at the moment], and diabetes-Type II) because my grandma (who's in her late 80's) couldn't do it anymore (for her own health sake). I understand that her SCA comes with a range of mobility problems (she is wheelchair bound, can only stand to transfer), so there isn't much I can expect of her on that field. However, I have a problem with her eating habits (always have). I've had several family members with diabetes, so is not unknown territory, and I try to provide healthy options, but she also doesn't like to eat a lot of healthy things (no veggies, limited fruits, no fish, etc.). When I cook, she only eats a handful and then says she doesn't want anymore. Yesterday she flat out said she didn't like the yellow rice! But place junk food in front of her and she will devour it. Put sweets and snacks and she'll make it a meal. I know she's diabetic and should have snacks handy, but she can't do portions! She'd rather eat popcorn, Ice Cream, bagels, than a proper meal!


She's gone down like 3 clothe sizes in the last year! Since I moved her from her hometown I had to set a new team of doctors and I approached the eating habits with him at the beginning and he pretty much dismissed my concerns and said she'll eat what she wants to eat, as little as she wants! I may need to switch that doctor because he also suggested she do excercises (she has SCA, advanced, can't coordinate movements, balance issues). She takes 6 different medications each day.


Do I really just let her eat whatever and how little she wants? The only meal she does decently are breakfasts (eggs, pancakes, waffles, cereals). Any one else gone through this?

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How did you mother eat when she was at your grandmother's house? Is the problem that she really doesn't like and won't eat vegetables or that she doesn't like the "healthy" veggies you like or the way you prepare them? My approach has been to not try to change my parent's diets too much but to try to moderate the excesses in some dishes. For example, I don't make traditional gravy all that often, but I do cook beef steaks in mushroom soup and add some thickening to create a low fat and low carb gravy that tastes just as good as one flavored with beef drippings.

One reason people often lean toward snack foods (besides the taste) is that they are easy. Most snack food is immediately available finger food that tastes good at room temperature. Ice cream and popcorn take slightly more effort. I try to keep good choices as available as snack food. My snacks include packs of peanut butter crackers, go-gurt tubes and kiddie fruit cups as well as a fruit bowl of apples on the counter. In the fridge there's a clear container of celery and carrot sticks and another one of sliced cucumbers complete with a light dusting of salt and pepper always sitting at eye level. There's usually some tomato slices in there too. My mother won't slice the cucumbers and tomatoes very often herself, but if they're available in sliced form, she will often make a open faced tomato and cucumber sandwich.

If your mother is losing weight from lack of appetite, I think the first thing would be to find something nutritious she wants to eat even if it's not completely healthy - a baked sweet potato with butter and a dusting of cinnamon sugar is better than a bag of chips. Does she like milk shakes? I have heard of adding some ice cream to protein shake mixes to make them taste better - there's a version of shakes without too much sugar made for diabetics.

A lot of healthy eating benefits are realized over a long term. If you LO is older, then the difference between eating healthy or not may be days or weeks on life expectancy. Some eating choices have immediate consequences - like too much sugar for a diabetic or too much salt for someone with kidney or heart problems. I don't try to push the long term healthy eating for older folks and try to stay focused on avoiding immediate bad consequences instead.

Hope some of this is helpful.
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GeminiUnicorn May 9, 2018
TNtechie, my grandmother had the same complaints with her eating. And she doesn't like vegetables...period! I think her tastebuds have dramatically changed because the latest was that she didn't like the sauce on the pizza (and I've tried several different ones). She used to love pizza...
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Can you indulge your mom with yummy treats but without bringing processed junk into the home? I think if your child is there, and sees the food, of course he or she is going to want some too. Heck, I find myself eating processed junk if it's around and I know it's poison.

I was at Target yesterday and so many of the kids were puffy looking, overweight... Junk food has become a serious threat, in my opinion, not the harmless indulgence it used to be back in the day when people were generally healthier.
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GeminiUnicorn May 9, 2018
SnoopyLove, I try to maintain snacks that have protein in them, not high on sugars, the not so junk kind, on her bedside (cause she doesn't move from her room). It's been a trial and error and lessons learned with what I can keep in her room and what not to. She likes nut mixes with cheese...but I need to keep them not so accessible because she'll eat the whole bag in one sitting!
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GeminiUnicorn, is your mom on insulin?

I have trouble with portion control, too. I buy my popcorn in a case of individual bags. I know that each bag has 9 grams of carbs and I work with that. Yes, it is a lot more expensive than popping my own corn or buying a big bag of it popped. But cost is only one factor. Having help with portion control is important to me.
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GeminiUnicorn May 9, 2018
jeannegibbs, her doctor changed her from insulin to Victoza (non-insulin).

It is just a struggle (mind struggle) when all your life you are sort of drilled on healthy eating habits and too much of this and too much of that is bad for you. And now, suddendly we need to throw all that out the window, use no logic and just let be. Quite a change from what we were told growing up. I just hope my child doesn't catches on and starts saying "but grandma gets to eat whatever she wants"...though to set boundaries...but I'll cross that bridge when and if I get to it.
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Jeanne- you made me smile, what you said (I wish someone would tell me to eat what I want. Sigh.)
I wish that too.
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Her doctor says let her eat what she wants.
smeshque's mother's doctor told her to eat what she wants
my mothers geriatrician told her to eat what she wants, but try to get some more liquids in
my husband's geriatrician and his neurologist each told him to eat what he wants

(I wish someone would tell me to eat what I want. Sigh.)

I really don't think the solution is to change doctors. I think the sensible thing to do is to let our elder loved ones eat what they want.

GeminiUnicorn, your mom's tastes sound like my son's. I called the pediatrician office once and asked how long a child could survive on peanut butter and french fries. The answer was "We don't know. We only see them until they are 21!" He is pushing 50 now, and in good health. He doesn't eat veggies other than potatoes. He eats little fruit. No fish. Bread and buns, yes. But mostly he expects his food to have walked on 4 legs. His wife is a vegetarian (!) and it is generally easier to find a restaurant suited to her needs than to his! Naturally I tried to encourage a broader range of nutrients when he was a child, but as an adult what he eats is entirely up to him.

Poor Mom. She can no longer walk, or drive, or get around on her own. I'd say that is enough deprivation for one old lady to deal with. Let her eat what she wants.
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It looks like SCA stands for Spinocerebellar ataxia...is that right?

I'm not familiar with that condition, but, it appears that it may just affect her body, causing loss of mobility, but, not necessarily her brain. Is she still competent to make her own decisions? If so, then, I'd let her decide what she wants to eat. Due to the severity of this condition, I'd probably eat anything I wanted to. Have they given her any info on its progression?

I might offer the more nutritious food, but, not complain if she wants something else. Especially, if her doctor says that's okay. People with terminal illnesses, may approach these things differently than we might.
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GeminiUnicorn May 8, 2018
Yes, that's what SCA stands for.

Her most recent MRI of the brain didn't show any signs of aging (other than normal for her age)...so we are a bit on the unknown still on what caused it. But the progression has been quite fast (from onset to current wheelchair state is been about 10 yrs). Due to the rarity of the disease, doctors are still doing tests.
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I have a similar issue. My Mom seems to only want sweets, or crunchy things. To get her to eat proper and healthy is a chore. She doesn't gain weight just maintains. Dr. Told her eat what you want, I did not like that answer. She eats salad or veggies maybe once every 2 weeks. She has to have strawberry milk everyday. The best meal she eats is breakfast, at least there is a fruit involved. But, I just gave up, trying to get her to eat to live ,not live to eat. But, I guess when you are that age, you have the right to eat what you want. I try not to keep junk food in house. But with our work we have to do a lot of traveling around, and then she and DH always be sure to pick some up.we take her with us.
Anyway, I understand your issue and concern, but if their Dr.s give them a go ahead eat what you want, they really are not going to listen to us. We do our best though, don't we?
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GeminiUnicorn May 8, 2018
I did some reading last night about people in similar situations, and is hard to see how someone is not eating healthy at all, getting the needed nutrients, just empty calories. Is hard to be in the reverse role, cause you remember as a child that eating just sweets and snacks did not fly in the house!
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SCA=Sickle cell?
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GeminiUnicorn May 8, 2018
Sorry...SCA=Spino Cerebellar Ataxia.
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