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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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Check with her doctor first and foremost. But perhaps you could switch the candy to sugarless.
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My mom always baked cakes and pies when we were growing up and ate an average amount of sweets. We did notice she began to enjoy desserts more as she got older, especially after she moved into her assisted living apartment. However, after we moved her to the continuous care unit when she was 92 and were going through her apartment to pack and clean for the next person, we started finding bags of candy hidden away everywhere. We began laughing because she had so much hidden we couldn't help but believe she'd buy candy, hide it somewhere, and forget where she'd hidden it. She became very popular with the aides at the care center because she inadvertently supplied them all with candy for quite a while as we gave the bags to the shift supervisors in her unit. :)
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My sister is 61, has diabetes since 40's, dementia getting worse. She's​ loosing her ability to care for herself. But the eating more and sweet tooth kicked in overtime. I feel the dementia makes her think of mainly food.
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I also could not get enough of sweets as a young kid yet all doctor's visits indicated nothing wrong; just somebody who loved sweets and loved to have fun as I would hop on my bike and go off to who knows where to burn off the calories.
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She should  have her blood sugar tested but I have observed many folks at the hotel California who only eat desserts and ice cream

Mom barely touched her dinner at Easter but then erupted into a chant of I want cake - I want cake - I want cake when dessert was mentioned

Of course she has had a sweet tooth all her life too
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Just got off the phone to daughter 1. She claims that Grandma/MIL has been a sweeties hoarder for as long as she can remember - wine gums, apparently. Well, all I can say is that I never saw it; but if this isn't a change in palate, could it be a change in inhibition? Or is it just that my late FIL is no longer there to criticise?

I asked daughter if she knew if anyone has attempted to get a brain scan done. *Everybody* has attempted it, apparently, including Golden Child. More than once, over about the last five years. MIL won't have it.

I bet they are thinking tenderly that she is afraid that they might find something.

I don't believe it. I think she is more likely afraid they'll find nothing, and she will be caught bang to rights as a BIG FAT FAKE.
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My first thought is diabetes.
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My dad was diagnoses as diabetic at 82. When he developed dementia, he wanted more cake or sweets & chocs. We decided that it is ok as long as it was in moderation. At 86 we saw no point in rationing him too much, unless it made him visibly sick.
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I didn't read the entire thread, but a nurse once sent me a chart about dementia that expressly said that folks with dementia DO start to show a tendency for sweet flavors. My mother certainly has.
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I am 63 years old and I also cannot get enough of sweets. You only go around once in life.
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My mother always had a sweet tooth, particularly for anything chocolate (and not the dark kind, mind you.....just the milk chocolate garbage type) but since she was diagnosed with dementia/Alzheimer's that fixation took off like a rocket. Three bags of candy are now part of what I pick up each week along with some light stuff for her AL room. I cannot tell you how many times she says "I don't know who's eating all of that candy....it's not me....must be the aides helping themselves when I'm not here" and I see at least 6 or 7 wrappers sitting on her end table. Like another poster says, though, mom is underweight and (unbelievably) has no health issues associated with the enormous sugar intake so who am I to judge, I figure. :-)
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CM--you ALWAYS have the answers!! What can we do to help the helper??
Life is weird, and I think we all know that.
My friend's mother, in her final year of life, went crazy for Lindt chocolate (which I understand, those truffles are amazing). This lady would give money to the kids she KNEW would buy her a couple bags of them. (She had grown up as a farm wife and they never had sugary things.) After she passed, my friend went to retrieve her personal belongings from the NH, and found...hundreds of Lindt chocolates in her bedside table. She also discovered that her mother had been eating these to the exclusion of almost everything else. What did it matter, in the end? She went out with chocolate on her face and a smile.
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Guestshopadmin: You spoke volumes with the word narcissist. I am living it with my mother. I want. I need. "Mom, I'm sick. I need to lie down." "But what about my NAILS!!!!" Ignore or walk out of the room is the best response.
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My Mom substituted sweets for the alcohol she consumed for 58 yrs. Made sense to me, both are carbohydrates. Dementia has made her nicer for now than when she was intoxicated.
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I've found the same in my mother and during a Caregiver class I took I found that it's common for them to develop a sweet tooth they never had before. I was told they learned this at an Alzheimer's training the instructors attended.
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That's how my MIL is as well. She's like a child, she won't eat the crust on her bread, says she's too full to finish her food but then scarfs down her desserts. She's 91 & her eyes light up when you mention any desserts. She has certain favorite dinners like crab legs, steak with spinach & corn, etc. But if it makes her happy, (shrugs) why not? Our folks raised us against these sweets, but we were building our bones & bodies & teeth.. It's okay to let her enjoy her sweets..
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My grandfather was never big on sweets, but toward the end of his life he would eat a whole Sara Lee pound cake every day. There was no convincing him not to. In retrospect it was not worth worrying about although at the time my mom (his daughter) argued and pleaded with him about it to no end. At the time I told her that he is an old man so let him eat the cake. I was a teenager then, but I still think it was good advice.
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Is it possible that she has recently started a new medication that causes her to crave sugar?
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I would also like some key words to use in searching for the article on denial.
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I read somewhere that the last taste bud to diminish is the sweet one. My mom is 102 and wants jelly on meat and complains that chicken salad is sour. She wants huge amounts of herbs on everything as she says my cooking is tasteless. Of course she demands no salt which doesn't help. Eats small amounts but ALWAYS has room for dessert.
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