My mother-in-law has developed an extreme appetite for sweets. Has anyone come across something like this?

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This is a serious, genuine inquiry. I'm not just sniping at my MIL. She is 81. She's a handful. Lives in her home, with a full-time caregiver/companion whose main duty is to make a fuss of MIL and pay constant attention to her. It's more personality issues than dementia.


However, MIL has never had a sweet tooth that I remember and I've known her for 34 years. She takes tea and coffee black, without sugar. Not big on desserts or cakes, never noticed her tucking into petits fours after dinner. The most I've ever seen her enjoying is plain, boring shortbread and for a reasonable cook, she's never had any interest in baking or in serving proper puddings at family meals (humph!).


All of a sudden she's almost literally taking candy from babies in her craving for chocolate and it emerges that she flips out if she goes to a house where there isn't Diet Coke and ice cream available. As told to me separately, by my BIL and my son, rolling their eyes.


It isn't that I don't see why a woman of 81 shouldn't have as much ice cream as she likes. It's the radical change in palate, and the somewhat extreme appetite for sweet things that's troubling me. Shouldn't it be reported to her primary?

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Medications can cause changes. One in particular are steroids - not only can it make 'sweets' seem almost as vital as breathing - but nothing is sweet enough. Mum started eating syrup by the spoonful (never even used it on pancakes in the past). It was medication.
Good to get her Dr. to do a good blood check up, and do a medication/medication interaction check as well, as something that had no side effects for years, could now be changing for her.
Other than that, if what she wants isn't seriously hurting her health, let her have it. If she needs a diet coke and ice cream where ever she goes, buy ice cream cups and cans or bottles of diet coke (many diet drinks can cause cravings for sweets and/or carbs) and pack it in a lunch cooler with an ice pack and take her where ever she wants to go.
Though we learn more and more every year with improved MRI's and PET scans, the brain is still a very mysterious thing.
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I personally think you can absolve yourself of any responsibility for her. It looks like she has a number of children, and if they can't get through to her, then you're unlikely to and all of this seems to stress you out a lot. I can't get my mom to go to the doctor for any kind of check-up or to address some issues, most minor, and she's chugging along year after year, a very bustly person. After she doggedly refused to even consider a chiropractor, she has been wearing the waist support thing I got for her three days ago - so minor victory for both of us. But it's her life, she's lived a long time, and she wants to live it how she sees fit, without tests and doctors and stuff. Maybe she doesn't want to know she has big problems - it's her life. Of course, she's in good shape now; I may change my tune in the future.
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Yes, tell her primary care doctor.
My friend had this similar sudden craving - almost insatiable - --- it turned out she had cancer, and her body was craving the sugar for energy because the cancer was 'eating' all her body energy.
It was ovarian cancer, stage 4. Doctor said to let her have all the sugar she wanted. It's not healthy, but there was no viable treatment for her cancer after surgery and a round of chemo, so he said while feeding her sugar, was also feeding the cancer - there was no reason she shouldn't be comfortable and have what ever she was craving or needing.
It could be many different things causing this change in behavior and in cravings. But do let her primary care doctor know.
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Avoidance or rather transference of pain is also in the form of hair pulling out and self cutting. Sad, but true. Golden 23 is right about it being "the basis for one addiction or another. "
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Hmm - avoidance of pain is hard to beat, and is the basis for one addiction or another. Poor sil. Even beneath that is perhaps a need for approval from a mum who will never give it to her. Don't we see it time and again?

Yes, I do see that, ideally, it is not your place. I think watchful waiting is a good thing, and developing as healthy and honest a relationship with sil as possible, so that if the moment opens up you will be heard. I do think mil needs a thorough neuro psych assessment. I never thought that mother would get one, but eventually she did. Prayer helps too.
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Avoidance of pain. That's SIL's pay-off. And I do have to admit that any kind of confrontation with MIL, even the mildest or most benevolent, is bruising, and that's even if you're not enmeshed with her head to toe as SIL is.

Although admittedly I didn't find being shunned for four or five years terribly painful, exactly! But then she's not my mother and I don't love her - or not any more than you do love your children's grandmother + auld lang syne and all that.

I feel a bit defeated; I certainly don't feel hopeful about changing anything; and I'm not even confident that it's my place, if you see what I mean? I'll do watchful waiting, see what develops.
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Sil is in such denial. She is a key person who could bring about change. BB was wise in bringing that up. You might want to read about the science of bringing about change. I have studied and practiced it in the context of community change. At present, sil is not "buying in" to the need for change in dealing with mil, or in any aspect of mil's life. If you really want to work on this, even just as an exercise, find out what is sil's "pay off" for maintaining this position. Find out what change might offer her a pay off. There is more but that is a start. It is about becoming an agent of change. Have fun!!! :)

P.S. You could start sending cake and chocolate, as a sort of reverse psychology. It might promote useful conversation with sil.  ;-D
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You're right, Golden, I do just have to accept that "we'll see."

I know this is nothing new to you, of all people; but it's the... ohhhh, even writing it down seems futile. It's the frustration of this inability to make her understand that it is not only her needs that have to be considered and it isn't only for her sake that the family needs to have some idea of her true state of health.

I could start sending her cakes and chocolates. But that would be a bit evil of me...🐒
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cm - it looks more like a change in inhibition, than a change in tastes, which could indicate a brain change. I guess time will tell.
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Hazelbunn, how awful for your sister to be so ill at such a young age! Where is she living?
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