Mom is in AL against her will after a fall, hospital stay and rehab. The facility is rated among the best here, but because it is a religious facility there are some restrictions. Meat and dairy are never served at the same time and Saturdays are cold meal days.

She has been there since October, and early on I made her favorite soup for Saturday or when she didn't like what was being served. The aides said they would be more than happy to zap it for her if she wanted them to. Kind of as I expected, it sat in her fridge for 2 weeks, untouched as she continued to gripe. What I have observed is that she is eating FAR better than she had at home even if she only likes half of the things on her plate. My visits are at lunch time and I can actually feel my heart beat somewhere around my throat wondering if she is once again going to get up with her plate (and no walker) and scrape all the veggies and whatever into the trash while stating that she pays good money for this awful stuff. I usually eat what she doesn't want and always ask if she tasted it. Nope! it's shiny with oil.. "Mom, that's margarine" then she tells me that she never ate margarine before and isn't going to start now.

You can see her face getting red and her eyes starting to change as they do when she's angry. At this point I always divert the conversation toward others at the table. I don't want to address her griping. All of this is her usual routine at lunchtime. But there are many days when she eats everything on her plate. All in all, it's still better than what she ate at home unless I brought her meals. Even those weren't always something she would eat.

The first thing I'd think for you to recommend to me is not to go at lunchtime. I've tried that, but sadly, we sit in her room while she complains about everything, tells me that I don't understand, says she hopes I'm never in this situation, refuses any and all decorations/pictures/little tables from home because I'M NOT STAYING HERE.

I welcome anything anyone wants to say! Even if it's a joke, riddle or limerick... One thing that I'm thankful for is that I'm a happy person to begin with and she's beat me down to only far less happy. I can only imagine how awful this must be for a depressed person.

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Hi Amy,
I think not addressing the issue is best. You've said yourself that she's eating better than before, so it sounds to me that she's using food as a weapon to make you feel guilty. Offer to bring her something occasionally (even if she doesn't get around to eating it). But do so as a treat. If you don't "buy into" her gripes, eventually she's likely to get over it, though be prepared for another kind of complaint.

As far as you going to see her at noon - that's your choice. See what works. Just try to ignore her food issues. If she's complaining a lot, just say, "Well, should we go up to your room since you're finished?" She'll probably stay and pick at her food, but if she doesn't, the staff will likely work with you to make sure she doesn't go hungry.

Good luck. This is terribly hard but it's part of the dynamic that often takes place in these situations.
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"The food here is terrible!"
"Oy, yes, and such small portions…"

Isn't complaining part of the ambience? Are you picking up any vibes from the other diners? It sounds to me as if what you're hearing is part of your punishment for allowing (hem-hem) her to have ended up in this place. Which obviously is not your fault. This is white noise.

If she's eating better, as a matter of fact, cross that worry off your list - nothing you can do will help, you've tried the extras option (I'm impressed that was allowed - didn't you need a certificate?!), clearly the food is not the real issue.

The unhappiness with being here is the issue; so then it's a question of what you can do about it. You can't make her better. You can't make her younger. You can only keep loving her, and keep keeping her company. If the centre's as good as the one I wish my mother would try for respite care, ask the staff what they think and if they have a forward plan or any suggestions for helping her adjust: they'll know their job very well. I'm sorry, it is depressing; maybe her mood will lift with the seasons? It's still early days.
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