How do we balance senior mom's bad eating habits against what we feed our kids?

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Mom has recently moved in with us. She's 90 and we're starting to suspect undiagnosed dementia. One of the minor issues that I'm trying to get a handle on is trying to deal with the differing nutritional values in our household. Mom has always been a big junk food eater. Her nutrition has always been horrible, shockingly so. I was unhealthy and severely overweight until I grew up, moved out of mom's house and learned about proper nutrition. These years later, when we started planning for her to move in with us we expected that there would need to be some compromises on both sides of the food issue. And I was very much willing to compromise. I just don't see a point in denying a 90 year old whatever she wants to eat. But her eating habits are far worse than I anticipated. She's addicted to sweets, pastries and frozen dinners. She won't eat a home cooked meal that I prepare because she wants frozen mac and cheese dinner instead. As I've mentioned, we suspect dementia is in play. She misunderstands things - A LOT. And she can't remember new information. So the discussion on this topic that I had anticipated having with her probably isn't in the cards. The kids are seeing all this junk food in the kitchen and they're constantly upset when I won't let them have what grandma is having. When I try to ease back on the junk food, my sugar addicted mom has a hissy fit. And I mean it. She's like a child. She gets so angry if she doesn't have her junk food. I just can't win. My husband and I have worked so hard to established good nutrition in our home over the years. I'm not trying to control mom's eating habits but I don't want them to exist at the cost of my family's nutrition either. Especially with summer right around the corner, I'm really concerned that the kids are going to start picking up grandma's terrible habits. (As for how she's getting the food, she goes shopping with her aide.) The aide suggested that mom keep her treats in her room. Husband pointed out how she leaves her used incontinence underwear all over her bedroom, we don't need her leaving food all over her room as well. Food needs to be stored in the kitchen. How do I strike a happy balance between moms food cravings and our nutritional values for our kids?

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Thanks for all your suggestions, everyone. :) Feeding her at a different time. D'uh. Why didn't I think of that. And just to be clear, mom can eat all the junk food she wants. I'm long past the point of trying to encourage healthier eating habits. My kids are under the age of 10 so they understand the challenges with grandma to a certain extent. But they're little. So we keep our explanations brief and don't get into too many details. It's not that I never allow them a sweet treat. But certainly not just before or in place of dinner time - or at breakfast, for example. So yeah, the questions are coming in from their shocked little faces as they see grandma navigating through the kitchen completely differently than how they've been taught. We had a conversation last night as I tucked them in and I think they understand better now. But yes, feeding mom at a different time is a genius and easy to implement idea. I think that'll make a big difference so thank you! (And yes, mom is on a waiting list for a facility)
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Reply to Scout0421
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My first thought on reading this is: she's 90 and has eaten junk food all her life--why am I eating steamed vegetables instead of Little Debbie cakes?
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Reply to Agingmyself
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jeannegibbs May 14, 2018
Why, indeed! :-)
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You don’t say how old your kids are. Are they old enough to understand “Grandma doesn’t eat the right food to be healthy.” You can explain grandma’s poor choices to your kids without making it a college course in nutrition. Grandma can eat her meals earlier so the kids aren’t witness to her indulgences and keep her snacking in the kitchen and not as she travels through your home. Give Mom something to occupy her while you eat. If your kids are young, tell them they will eat what you and their dad prepare. Period. Grandma can have a locked cupboard so the kids won’t help themselves when Mom’s back is turned. If you make a big deal out of Grandma’s food choices, your kids will find that junk she eats oh-so much more fascinating. I would also speak with her aide about those choices. Encourage her to use some bait and switch with Mom. “Would you like the chips or the cookies? The ice cream or the cake?” I’d also address the idea of mom’s dirty underwear all over her room as well. Doesn’t the aide take care of disposal? If Mom’s not concerned about that, her hygiene may be lacking as well and she could spread germs to whatever she touches.
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Reply to Ahmijoy
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I keep trying to answer your question more politely but the answer keeps coming up the same. Get your mother out of your house.
She’s not going to compromise. She wouldn’t do it for her own children. She’s not going to do it for yours.
OMG. I just looked at your profile and said to myself. This is Scouts mother we are talking about!
I know you have her on a waiting list already. You may need to move her into interim housing before you get the room you are waiting on. She can take the “ aide”  with her.
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Reply to 97yroldmom
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Scout, one thing we need to remember that as we age we tend to lose our sense of taste to a point where we can only taste sugary food items.

I remember not that long ago getting my parent's [in their 90's] groceries, and Mom had on the list pie, cake, muffins, fudge ice cream, Little Debbie treats, Hostess treats, etc. And I noticed that my parents didn't eat as much as they did a decade ago because at their age they weren't as active. I even find my self wanting just frozen Mac & Cheese for dinner than a regular large meal.

If the children understand good nutrition, then I wouldn't worry about them getting into Grandma's junk food. Being your Mom is 90 years old, if she wants ice cream for breakfast, ask her if she wants one or two scoops. Too many times I read on the forums here where some adult children cannot get their parent to eat anything.
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Reply to freqflyer
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Tell your kids if they eat like Grandma, they'll look like Grandma!
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Reply to Lilacalani
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If your brother moved in and he drank beer frequently and the kids wanted beer because he had it, would that be a challenge? If you drink wine with dinner and they say they want to have wine, too, is that a challenge? In our house it was understood that adults and kids sometimes had different needs and rules.

And sometimes people who are very sick have/need special privileges.

It is your job to help your children grow up healthy. Grandma is already grown up, is not healthy, and it is not your job to supervise her food.

I see lots of teaching opportunities here.

And, BTW, if Mom does have dementia, then it isn't really reasonable to expect her to make concessions, especially on life-long habits.
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Reply to jeannegibbs
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Your house, your kitchen, it's up to you.

I have to say, if it were my home - as it was - shared with my mother (so her home too) - and I were in charge of getting the family meal on the table, there would be one meal which you eat or you don't eat, and if you prefer not to then fine. But I ain't cooking twice.

The thing is. I get you about not making a person who's got to advanced age on a terrible diet suddenly discover the joys of wholesome eating. Sure. But... your mother enjoys the advantage of having a family that wants to include her. It's not entirely unreasonable to expect her too to make *certain* concessions to being part of that family. Like, for example, having her treats after meals, rather than for meals.

Was she always like this? When you invited her round long before she was living with you, did she expect to be catered for separately then?
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Reply to Countrymouse
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Agingmyself, I had the same first thought. 90 years old and eaten junk food all her life? My mother ate Southern, you know everything fried, Vegetables cooked a long time in either bacon grease or salt pork. She lived to within 3 months of her 95th birthday.

Seriously, it sounds like assisted living or possible by the time there is an opening, memory care. The unsanitary depends etc. show she probably has dementia.
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Reply to MaryKathleen
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Gosh, I sure am glad I'm not going to be living with some of you folks! :-)

My DIL is a vegetarian. My son is a very committed carnivore. Talk about a mixed marriage! They almost never eat the same meal (although they often eat together). They each shop and cook for themselves. No major crisis has ensued. The mixed marriage so far has lasted 18 years.

It seems like Mother in this scenario shops for herself and can cook for herself (heat up the mac & cheese). Sounds pretty much like my DIL and son, except for Scout's kids. And that is all Scout asked about. How does she handle the bad example Gramma is setting for her kids? I think there have been several good suggestions for that.

It doesn't sound to me like Mother is insisting or expecting Scout to make separate meals for her, nor is Scout complaining about that.

Scout, my hat's off to you for respecting your mother's differences and trying to accommodate them while setting good examples for your children. Gramma may not be setting good nutrition examples, but you are demonstrating love for someone with special needs!
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Reply to jeannegibbs
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