My Mom insists on cooking but her food hygiene is bad and we can't convince her to follow safe food handling. What do we do?

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I have printed out safe food handling rules for her and she refuses to read them. I have had people in the food industry talk to her but she refuses to listen. She says "I've never killed anybody yet." My father still works and has a long day and has no energy at the end of the day to deal with her issues. If I contact public health can they help me?

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After watching a friend's 7 year old child die from E.coli contaminated food, this is just not a battle I would back down on. I would eat nothing she cooks, nor allow my family (including her husband) to eat any of it either. It's not worth the potential suffering and consequences.

Angel
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LivingSouth, if I recall, your mother lives in her home and you live with her. Is that right? I don't recall how well she functions, but regardless, I'd steer clear of the food she cooks, unless you oversee how it is handled. (Check expiration date, sanitation of utensils, plates, counter tops, etc.) Seniors, and especially those with dementia, don't change easily and she isn't likely to do things differently, even if you ask. That's just what I have experienced.

My cousin would flat out refuse to wash her hands before preparing our meal, EVEN if she had handled kitty litter and/or used the bathroom. I had to refuse to eat the food. That didn't even bother her! If it gets bad enough, I would take measures to prevent her from preparing the food. That's tough, but eventually you may have to go that route. There are suggestions about how to do that on this site.
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LivingSouth, there is nothing in your profile describing your care situation, and I can't remember ... does your mother have dementia? Do you all live together? Does she do the cooking?

Can you ease her out of the cleanup job? "You've done this for so many years, Mom, that we hereby degree you are retiring from cleaning up the kitchen! Hooray!" Make a ceremony out of it. Give her a suitable novelty pin, and "hang up" her dishtowel.
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I am having the same problem - we are all sick and suspect that it has to do with my mother using the same dish cloth over and over. She does disinfect them from time to time, but washes the counter and then used it to wash dishes. She has the counter wipes but refuses to use them. Also having to re wash utensils that are dirty. She does not take suggestions or complaints mildly.
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have you ever saw many pics of a french home kitchen? wood stains, coal stains, pots that have never rested long enough to be washed, and fyi, breadbakers NEVER wash their breadpans. the burned on residue is like neanderthal teflon. no offense but mom can probably cook circles around you.
if she hasnt killed anybody yet thats a pretty impressive record.
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I have to ask how old is your Mom?

I clean out old food from my Mom's fridge when she's not looking... I bleach down her counters as frequently I can, without alarming her... She's 91 and at this point if the germs didn't kill her.... She's made it this long...
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You also Don't Want to stop her enjoying cooking - it'll happen soon enough, one more thing she has to leave behind, don't hasten the day. Gradually you'll find you're having to take over anyway, so ease into it. I think this is a very good example of a situation where you need to pick the right battles - and then don't lecture her, help her.

Besides, she might still have things to teach you, mightn't she? There's more to the gentle art of cookery than infection control alone.
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Somehow talking to a woman who HAS DEMENTIA about germs from the Pacific Ocean and microbes having sex on her counter doesn't sound like a practical approach to me, with or without good background music! :D

But, hey, anything is worth a try.
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Hello@Wheezer 59: Could you approach your Mother as your Mother. You know her as the woman who gave birth to you, brought you home from the hospital swaddled in her arms, and then proceeded to stop living her life so she could do all the right stuff and make all of the right decisions because she raised you to be that woman you turned out to be: healthy, smart, opinionated, a woman like herself who doesn't flinch and won't back down when the tough stuff and the right thing.need to be done. She's doing everything she has always done and "she ain't killed anybody yet." But our world has changed. And this is when you take her into your confidence. If you were doing her job in the kitchen, you'd be in the same place as she is. Life is so fast paced and the easiest thing is really a little more difficult. Then you start a discussion with your Mother: the new bacterias that are found, some mean nothing, others kill outright. Who even knows the difference? Did she ever stop to think that as we age our immune system starts to punk out on us. Something that's "going around" a disease that our bodies would have easily sloughed off back in the 1960s can knock us right out, straining our immune system and sending us straight to the ER. Our kids can be little ticking bombs, the unknown carriers of an obscure germ, the germ itself having migrated here from an unidentified island in the Pacific Ocean, deplaning at JFK in a few dirty little backpacks thall be tossed in the garbage. But not before the germ gets a ride home by Johnnie Lee Smith, the same Johnnie Lee who shares a table with our little Dakota in pre-K. Everyone has to be vigilant and that includes your Mother and yourself, you tell her, because with 330 million people in the U.S. now no one can afford to let beef insufficiently cooked on our dinner tables; the counters in our kitchens, well, even on a good day, they can harbor millions of disease carrying microbes that think nothing of enjoying sex on the formica, this before contaminating the fresh vegetables that have a low threshold of caring for itself. You should personalize the message because it's a matter of keeping the loved ones in the family safe and free from illness; you should treat her as your equal, but as an equal who has been too busy filing her role as matriarch, to learn about, absorb and institute important changes in routines that until have worked for her in protecting the family and its favorite places.

Sorry, I went overboard but I think you get the picture. She don't want to alienate her. You just want to help her safeguard the family and especially have her maintain her health.

Good luck to you. Put on some nice music as you begin this conversation. I am always impressed by how quickly my Mother will go from obvious unsettled anger to humming along and "dancing" in her chair whenever I switch on her favorite hits from the 70s.
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Ah, I see on your profile that you are caring for your mother, and she has dementia. Give up the effort to re-educate her. Ain't gonna happen.

Maybe she can be in charge of planning menus. If you do this a little in advance you will know what to take out of the freezer in plenty of time for it to thaw safely in the fridge. Can she help with the shopping? Then you can say, "You did the hard parts, Mom, planning the meals and shopping. I'll do my part by following your recipes to cook the food."

A person with poor hygiene habits and dementia should not be allowed to put the rest of the household and herself at risk for food-borne illness. This won't be easy, but I think it is worth a lot of effort. Good luck!
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