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My elderly mom with mid-stage dementia is currently living with us while we wait for a spot in the local memory care unit to open up, and mealtimes are becoming a huge expense, a tremendous waste of food, and a huge difficulty for my husband & I. Today is a good example. While I was finishing dinner, my husband went into my mom's room to ask her what she wanted to eat for supper. As we've learned to do through trial and error, he gave her two options: First he showed her what I had cooked & then he showed her a can of her favorite soup. He asked her which one she wanted. She told him she was still full from lunch and her afternoon snack & didn't want dinner. He tried to encourage her to eat on schedule with the rest of us but she declined again and he backed off because the doctor has okay'ed her skipping dinner if she's had at least one good meal during the day. However, fast forward two hours. I'm ready to head up to our bedrooms to tuck in the kids and relax for awhile. I poke my head into mom's room, say good night & ask if there's anything she needs before I head upstairs. She asks for rice and beans. *Sigh* I remind her of the time and tell her that dinner was hours ago. She said she wasn't hungry and we've already cleaned up and closed up the kitchen for the night. She replies that she has a "craving" for rice & beans and will just cook it herself. Now, we've got the kitchen locked up pretty tight so she can't cause any serious damage (as has happened before). But now she's up & I'm certainly not going to head upstairs & let her start making a mess of the kitchen. So now I have no choice but to start cooking at 8 pm. I gently tried (as I've tried before) to point out to her that she needs to have meals when the rest of the family is eating. I cannot accommodate her whims because both my husband and I work full time and cooking at night needs to not happen. But no matter how gentle I am in delivering this rule, she gets angry and then we'll get days of her refusing to eat and not speaking to us. I know - dementia - she's not going to understand. She's not going to have a good grasp of time. This is no win-win situation for anybody. I get it. But for those of you with live in dementia loved ones, how do you handle mealtimes? Do you just serve it up and not give them options? Do you simply cook whenever they want to eat and not follow a routine (please say no!) How do you handle the cravings? I feel like trying to figure out what she'll eat - even from meal to meal - is a moving target (I'm spending a small fortune running to the grocery store every other day for the latest laundry list of cravings!). Any advice for this burnt out short order cook / daughter / wife / mom / full time working woman / caregiver? I absolute HATE cooking for her and I've always loved to cook. Help!

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I understand defending your kitchen, but I vote for using locks to defend the kitchen and offering Mom the same dinner everyone else in the household has. Did your mother cook separate meals for you as a child? Is the MC going to cook a different dinner at 8:00pm? Why isn't Mom joining the family for dinner?

I recommend getting a dome that covers a plate and make your mother a plate at dinner time. If she doesn't eat it place the covered plate in the fridge and if she wants to eat at 8:00pm then reheat the dinner plate. Or let her eat snacks. I keep fruit and a container of animal crackers on a table in my mother's bedroom.
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Reply to TNtechie
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I should let ready meals be your friend. Keep some in the freezer, and then you can defrost and microwave them as and when.

If this offends the nutritionist/ecologist in you, how about cooking in bulk over the weekend and freezing individual portions in containers? Living alone, I often do this for myself and many dishes cope with the process pretty well.

Longer term, it would be better for your mother to ease her back into the family schedule. Better for her diet and her socialisation/mental stimulation. For example, rather than presenting her with those (well-intentioned, I'm not being critical) options, you or your husband go to her room and state (not ask) "it's dinner time, mother, let's get you to the table."

You will immediately spot that the downside is that you and your husband have to cope with having your mother present at mealtimes; and I remember and sympathise that this does not make for the most relaxing dining experience ever. But it is an important aspect of her inclusion in the family home. How do you feel about it?
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Reply to Countrymouse
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NeedHelpWithMom May 8, 2019
I do this too. Meal prepping and freezing. Helps a lot!
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If it's not possible for you to install a door with a lock in your kitchen doorway, consider going to a home store and purchasing locks for your pantry and anything else that has food, including the refrigerator. It’s drastic, but it’s better than Mom starting a fire. There are also tamper proof locks for stove dials. You can, if you want, leave a sleeve of crackers and a jar of peanut butter out on the counter.

When your dinner is ready, if she declines food, make her a plate of what YOU are eating and leave it in her room. Assure her that this is it. She eats or goes hungry. The chef has retired for the evening and the kitchen is truly “locked up”. Make sure she has some snack crackers or something in her room, but she will not waste away before breakfast.

You would not, or should not, be preparing a menu of options for meals for anyone, her, your children, your husband or even the dog/cat. I have to think that there is a part of her that is enjoying having her own personal Door Dash.
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Reply to Ahmijoy
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gdaughter May 9, 2019
The only thing I worry about with all the suggestions to leave a plate of food out, is that some food items after a couple hours will be in the danger zone for food borne bacteria and god forbid some elder ingests that and gets sick and then there is more to worry and clean up!
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Mom ate what we ate and on our schedule. I did, however, have one drawer in the fridge just for her and a basket in the pantry with her snacks - and she was able to get them any time she wanted. I asked her not to eat in her room but she did keep her chocolate and hard candy in there. I kept a close eye on that just because I didn't want ants, but she seemed to do ok with that. She loved those Ensure drinks and would have one of those if she didn't want what we were eating. No way would I have become a short order cook!
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Reply to TiredSue
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Serve it up, no options. I'm not a short order cook. Supper is what I cook and when I serve it. If it's not what Mother wants, there is always cold cereal or pb&j. Luckily, she hasn't refused what I cook or when I serve it. She doesn't always eat it all, but at least she takes a "no thank you" bite if she's not interested.
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gdaughter May 9, 2019
Really very much like when we were kids, if we didn't like what SHE made!
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Just offer what you have - no such thing as cravings medically unless some deficiency. This is purely self , unfortunately a result of dementia, she doesn't understand timings so you have to fit her bodily requirements to your life. If she doesn't want to eat I wouldn't make her, just give her a small (amount as she eats) of whatever you have when you have it, if she doesn't want it she can have it later. If she hasn't eaten at all during the day and you are going to bed then make her a sandwich of something she likes that doesn't have to be eaten instantly and leave the covered plate with her. The fact the "cravings" change so often is simply that she doesn't remember, they are a way of getting your attention, leave it a few hours and she would forget she had asked. Yes I sound like a hard bitch, but this cannot dominate your lives and is making you ill so think about yourself and accept she doesn't know what she is doing. You wouldn't let a child behave like this so don't let an adult with the terrible illness. Its hard to be logical when its a parent one cares about but we have to accept they are not the parent we knew, and care is necessary, waiting on hand foot and finger is not.
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Reply to TaylorUK
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Isthisrealyreal May 9, 2019
TaylorUK, you don't sound hard at all. Boundaries are the key to surviving this awful disease and that is what you are pointing her too.
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How about not running to the store and just telling her that you don't have that in the house? That you'll get it "next time"? And I suggest locking up the food but keep out a healthy snack that she can just open and eat like pudding cups or a snack bar? She may not be happy about it and if she stops talking to you, so be it. Sometime you have to use tough love.
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Reply to whaleyf
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I never gave Mom an option. She got what I cooked. She liked homemade soup so I would pick that up at the diner for her for lunch. Breakfast was cereal or what I made. If I had leftovers, like sausage gravy, I gave her that for lunch or breakfast.

I guess ur problem is ur afraid she would get food on her own. I was able to gate Mom into her room. She was too far gone to figure how to get out. Try not asking her if there was anything she needed. Just say good night.

This is what I didn't like about CG. The constant worry about Mom doing something when I was sleeping. When she went into the AL, it was the first night in 20 months that I had a good nights sleep. Having her was like having an infant again.
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Reply to JoAnn29
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gdaughter May 9, 2019
As I've mentioned, my pup is a bit reactive and protective...so the good news is living with the elders, that should ANYone get up...for ANY reason beyond using the bathroom off their bedroom LOL, dare they walk into the hallway...my pup will bark and alert me!
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I usually ask what they want for lunch, and for breakfast it's easy, because they only eat one of two things. I told them I was not running a fast food restaurant. At dinner, they get what I fix. Usually eat most of it, but now and then, half of the plate is untouched - which means at 8 they will be eating sugary snacks most likely. It's something I don't have any control over. My mother will fix a bowl of cereal sometimes at night ( it may or may not have milk, or something else like orange juice - yuk) My mother likes soup also, and I do give them leftovers if it was something they like. If your mother has some type of snack or maybe even those microwave soups, they might help. Any way that you can lock the kitchen door, or take the knobs off the stove? Lock the microwave and oven. I am planning to get refrigerator lock because tired of having expensive food left out to thaw.
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Reply to LivingSouth
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When she is in memory care she will have the same problem. This goes if she was hospitalized and wanted something after the kitchen closes too Offer her 2 options that you have readily available with the family. No cooking of full meals just for her. Instead offer her a sandwich and or fruit. Many ILs and ALs provide lhe larger meals ant lunch and the lighter at dinner so I am not surprised in her appetite. Plus she won't starve
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Reply to MACinCT
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