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This is really just me needing to vent the incredible amount of frustration I am feeling, but also I can't imagine I'm alone on dealing with this issue: seniors, bless their hearts, are so darn picky when it comes to food!


My grandmother always tells me "I'm not picky, you know that." and boy do I have to bite my tongue for response. As Debbie on Queer as Folk would say: "I'm biting my tongue so hard, I'm tasting blood!" Hahaha.


Because yeah, grandma you are SO picky. Anything I put in front of this woman, she takes *maybe* TWO bites and suddenly doesn't feel like eating. It doesn't matter what it is, or consistency, or anything. There is really no rhyme or reason to it. Believe me, I've tried everything and have posed this issue to the forum before for ideas and nothing seems to work. The only thing she will eat is Ensure and the PB&J sandwiches I make her. And candy/cookies. Mind you, I don't begrudge her any of these. Heck, at 94, she's earned it. But there are so many times where she will ask me for cake or pastry type desserts, but when I get it, she doesn't eat it! URGHHH! I brought one home the other day which she specifically requested, and as soon as I cut it up and put it into little snack baggies for her, she asked me to put it away in the freezer (where she can't get to it, and will of course forget about it.) She wanted fresh cut fruit, which I also bought, and she hasn't touched it yet. She asks me what is in the house and when I offer it to her, she doesn't want it or doesn't eat it.


I can't help but get angry at this, because to me, this is bad behavior. To me, this is what a spoiled 5 year old would act like (which I realize she's in that mindset). I'm just so sick of it! Why bother buying this crap for her if she won't touch it?!


Of course I realize that this is part of dementia: they can't taste much of anything anymore besides sweets (which is why they crave it), and the body is shutting down, so they don't need a lot of calories and the appetite is disappearing as a result. So while I get the ins and outs of it, it's just so frustrating to figure out what the heck she wants that she would actually eat. And I work two jobs, so it's not like I have time to fuss over this.


While she can't help it, and it's not her fault, this is just one of the things about dementia that really pisses me off so much. Sometimes I just want to bang my head against a wall.

You are obviously an intelligent, rational woman, so you will be able, if you decide to do so, to realize that your own thoughts about being a full time care giver may be contradicting each other, and therefore not allowing you to accept your grandmother’s behavior as the actions of a someone whose brain is too damaged to make reasonable decisions and choices, to recall previous actions that pleased her and satisfied her, or to filter her reactions to your efforts.

The LANGUAGE of “picky” is a case in point. YOU consider her a “picky” eater, based on the observations you’ve stated. Yet you say you continue to go to great attempts to procure, portion, and present foods that she asks for. You do this while knowing that what she actually consumes are peanut butter sandwiches and containers of Ensure.

So, you CAN “help but get angry at this”. You can stop doing it.

You point out that there is “no rhyme or reason to it”. At 94 with dementia, it may be unfair to her AND YOU to be waiting for “rhyme or reason” that are no longer part of her abilities. If YOU are buying fruit FOR YOURSELF, can you cut a piece or two serve them to her on a small plate, and remove the plate peacefully in a period of time whether she’s eaten it or not?

Yes to daily Ensure and peanut butter sandwiches. NO to unnecessary purchases, serving, then frustration.

You CAN’T figure out how to please her. Then DON’T TRY.

Are you getting enough time away from her care, enjoying activities that you like, treating yourself well? You fully deserve the opportunity to be kind TO YOURSELF.
PLEASE BE SURE YOU ARE DOING SO.
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Kimmotion Feb 11, 2021
I think that's also a big part of this- I'm in need of some time away to have some fun and needing a break. It's hard to do that between the pandemic and crazy amounts of snow/ice we've had here in NY. But I need to get out and do SOMETHING because I'm clearly in need of a break.

You and the other responders are correct in ignoring the "requests". The requests are not rational or practical and I can't expect someone with dementia to be able to control that. But being in full control of my own faculties, I can choose how to respond to this scenario by not letting her get to me and just ignoring whenever she says she wants cake or whatever. Because I know in the end she won't eat it, so why bother? Why make myself all worked up over nothing?

Yup, I think I need a break!
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Have you tried just giving her the Ensure and PB&J sandwiches everyday, to save you from the aggravation. You say that that is pretty much all she will eat along with her candy/cookies, so why not just give her those. Don't give her a choice, and just ignore the things that she asks for and forgets shortly thereafter. I would try that and see if it cuts down on your aggravation. Best wishes.
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Kimmotion Feb 11, 2021
Yes, I already do this. I prepare PBJ sandwiches in advance and leave them in baggies for her. And she drinks a case of Ensure per week. So at least I know she's getting something in, but it's the other occasions where she'll complain "there's nothing in the house for me to eat"... and it's like you DON'T eat anything besides those two things anyway, even when there is other stuff. She doesn't touch it. So it makes absolutely NO sense to me to buy other crap just to end up throwing it out.

And you are absolutely right- going forward, I think it would be best to just chalk up the so-called "requests" to nonsense and not even bother getting it. She'll forget she wanted it anyhow. Thank you, good advice.
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Thank you all for taking the time to respond to this post, it has really helped me put things into perspective. Everyone had the same advice to offer, which is to ignore the request for whatever junk food item she says she wants.

You're right though- why bother to buy it if it's just going to waste? And for what, on a whim?

I think most (if not all) of this issue of my frustration is the emotional aspect of it: this is just one more sign that I'm losing her. While I accept death for what it is, a natural part of the life cycle, emotionally it's hard because she was such a big part of my life. I can't fight the inevitable, and yet it's instinctual for me to do so (like trying to get her to eat, bathe, do an activity, etc.) But the hard truth is, it's a losing battle.

A few of you mentioned taking a break from caregiving for a little bit and doing something to relax and have fun- again, you are right. I do feel warn out lately and in need of a break. Grandma's dementia antics are starting to get to me and that's not helping anyone.
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Reply to Kimmotion
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Not a day goes by where something my demented mother says or does doesn't annoy the living crap out of me. #Truth. Frustration runs high with dementia and that's the absolute truth.

You work 2 jobs and already have enough on your plate as it is. Buy grandma what YOU think she may like, cut it up, bag it up, and leave it at that. She eats what she wants to eat and leaves the rest. In reality, sedentary humans need wayyyyyyyyy fewer calories to thrive than we THINK they do. Which is why the obesity rate in the USA is as high as it is. Not to say grandma is obese or even overweight, just making a point in general.

Nothing they say or do is 'their fault' which doesn't cut down on OUR frustration levels over their behaviors. I honestly believe some of it is due to being bored while the rest of it is due to the 'broken brain' syndrome. In either event, as long as there is FOOD in the house, grandma is able to eat. Sweet tasting food including fruit will likely be her first choice and like you said, who cares?

Get out and get in some 'me time', even if it's shopping at the mall. Devoting all of your spare time to a demented elder's constantly changing requests, most of which she's unaware she's even made, doesn't make sense. Take some well deserved time for YOU!

Good luck!
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Kimmotion Feb 11, 2021
True, the obesity rate in America is absolutely frightening. I myself am battling obesity and can say from experience how awful it is. And yes, grandma is the polar opposite: she isn't obese by any means, and being on the decline, her body doesn't need the calories. I think it's just a hard thing for me to accept because she's such a big part of my life. She's been like a mother to me. I think this is really just emotionally hard for me to accept. I hate that I'm losing her.
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Are we related?!?!?
Seriously, my heart goes out to you.
good suggestions have been posted. You obviously have good skills, or you wouldn’t be venting. You’ve tried it all, it sounds like.
My MIL is so very picky it’s insane. She’s also a very domineering control person all her life. She’s also sweet, kind, and I love her to bits.
You are right, sometimes sweets is all they can taste.
Personally I learned to use the phrase “OK” a lot! It avoids the power struggle.
I offer her meals that I cook and take. I give her foods she liked in the past and remind her that it’s one of her favorites. If she eats it, ok. If she doesn’t, ok. But she has healthy food offered.
She dropped significant weight, but we can’t force feed her. She has junk food and candy all the time that she doesn’t remember eating.
Family chats help too. Knowing all are doing the best is all you can do. Remind anyone who has an opinion, or want to bash - that they are WELCOME to do differently. See how fast they shut up. 😉
Lastly, be kind to yourself. All of you are grieving - the life you had, wished you had, wanted to have, is not your reality. All we can do is what we CAN do just for today.
hugs - and if you need a pen pal - I’m here.
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Kimmotion Feb 17, 2021
Omg, we must be related! My grandmother also eats TONS of candy and doesn't remember eating it! She actually insists that someone else is eating her candy. I swear one day I'm going to take a video of her eating candy, and when she forgets five minutes later, show her the video just to see what her reaction would be.

My aunt (her daughter) was actually bashing my skills and when I insisted that she move in to take care of her, there was a very loud HELL NO and I didn't hear any bashing since. The nerve of that woman, here I am caring for her mother in the midst of multiple crisises (pandemic and health issues) and she complains to me about the job I'm doing. Okay, I'll move out and you can do one better. Here's your chance. amazing how she backed off.
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My elderly aunt's caregiver was freaking out because she only wanted to eat Campbell's Chicken and Rice Soup. Like at every meal. I said so what, she's 98 and has advanced dementia...let her have it at least she's eating! We can't know what your Grandmother will be willing to eat, so just make her what she is most likely to eat or eats consistently when offered. Doesn't matter what it is. Ensure is better than nothing. I agree with Funkygrandma59 to ignore what she asks for — make up a "therapeutic fib" if she asks why you didn't present what she asked for. "The store was out of it" "It went bad" etc. You are a dear for taking such conscientious care of her!
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Kimmotion Feb 11, 2021
Thanks! Yeah, I'm beginning to realize that the "requests" are just more BS... in the same vein as "I wish you would stay home from your job". I just ignore those things, and this is one more thing on that list of ignore. Because I can't keep buying things just to end up tossing them out.
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Why is everyone so afraid to just say no, or not cater to every whim? I’m curious, not judging.
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disgustedtoo Feb 15, 2021
If dealing with dementia, it is better to agree than say no.

Often the care-giver is concerned about the LO getting enough nutrition. In a case like this one, it would be easier to agree, tell the LO you will get it and wait for her to forget.

IF the items are nutritious AND are items one would eat oneself, buy them and at least offer some, even a small amount. If they choose not to eat it, then the care-giver can eat it rather than let it go to waste. If it isn't nutritious and generally it isn't eaten when purchased per request, just promise to get it and let it go!

If dementia isn't at play, you could still agree to get it, but perhaps hold off and see if the request is repeated. If they turn it down every time, then just stop buying it, unless someone else in the household can eat it.
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Some older folks don't have the same taste for food they once did. Loved raising bran, ate it all the time, then suddenly it didn't taste right. Salmon patties, tuna salad sandwich - all favorites and now doesn't eat them. Would ask for pears, but then they ruined. Started buying canned pears or those little snack sizes. Only a few on the plate and keep remainder in frig or pantry shelf.

Keep the candies/snacks on the shelf. Unless she is diabetic, at least she is getting some calories. And who wants to deprive someone of what they want? (unless jeopardy to health...and then....there are times when it really doesn't make a difference at a certain point). My great uncle smoked like a chimney. Found out he had cancer and already spread everywhere. Offered no treatment of any kind and said it was a matter of days, weeks. W/pain meds, he tried to put the IV line to his lips as if to smoke, straws on the trays, etc. I finally took him outside to smoke. He was very coherent and smoked it. Why deprive him at that point???

For the cakes she likes - get smaller portions from bakery. Cupcakes, cut them in half, freeze or refrig half. Even Walmart often has small sections of a cake. Probably costs more, but equivalent if you have to toss it.

If anyone else in the family cooks, get them to prepare you some meals from their leftovers. Small portions/meals sealed well should keep in the freezer. You aren't wasting any food and it probably food the relative would have tossed out anyway.
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Hi Kimmotion
There are a lot of great answers here and mine may not help but my husband just passed away in Dec with Frontotemporal Dementia. Not the same as Alzheimer’s but many of the same symptoms. I cared for him for almost 6 years. When he started to exhibit the issues you describe, I started only making the things he loved. I also noticed when we ate out how he responded to meals that were plated to look enticing. So I decided to try that at home. I would make him a waffle or a muffin for breakfast and always load the top with sugar free whipped cream and blueberries or strawberries. He would literally eat it saying, “this is so good” several times. Sometimes for dinner he wanted pancakes at Cracker Barrell.... so we did. So for him, catering to his sweet tooth really helped him eat more. Perhaps that would not have been healthy in the long run. However as it turned hot he did not live very long and I’m thankful he got to enjoy the foods he loved..... stay strong
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Kimmotion Feb 17, 2021
Hi NeesaLee. I am so sorry for your loss, my sincerest condolences.

It's funny that you should mention plating, because I have tried that, too. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. My grandmother has even commented at times "that doesn't look too appetizing" and will push the plate away. I do my best to make things look good because I know the influence that can have, but sometimes she just doesn't have an appetite. But there's really nothing I can do about that, which is hard to accept.
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When I called the Alzheimer's Hotline, they eventually and nicely told me that my mother's bad behavior didn't seem like Alzheimer's. They told me that for some people with personality disorders the personality gets worse with age. Just a thought if you want to look at past patterns of behavior.
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