Good Evening! What is going on with my elderly mother (94 yrs. old) with food. She has always enjoyed food, but for the past 4 or 5 months, she is obsessed with it. She plans her meals, has me go get her certain foods, will become very anxious if I don't respond to her impulses right away, and she gets worse every week it seems. Food and meals is all she talks about and she makes lists for me to get her things when she already has so much food in the house. She is still of sound mind and she is on hospice for chf and now she has breast cancer. She does not want treatment for any of her health problems. When I speak to the social worker from hospice, I tell him that she is over-the -top with food, but they don't see the anxiety she has with it and it's causing me anxiety now. I have my health problems and it's getting to the point where this is revving up. We cannot have a conversation about anything else. Food will always win out. What is going on? All her meals are prepared. She doesn't cook. She just heats things up or puts together a sandwich. She is not over weight at all. She is probably just right. I just don't understand it all and I see this to be a problem more than anyone else. (She would never take anxiety meds). Where do we go from here? Am I being too shortsighted?

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Thank you all for your replies. I do have to say I see some OCD going on. It also reminds me of addiction. My sister was an alcoholic and she was absolutely giddy when there was reason to party. I see the same familiar things going on. Eyes get big, can’t eat fast enough, once the anxiety has been met, she’s good for a short time and then it builds again. The impulse for whatever food she wants starts to gnaw at her and then I am involved until I fulfill the need. Last week it was 2 for 1 chicken sandwiches at Wendy’s. I got her 6! She freezes them and then heats them up for a meal. This week she’s hinting at Boston Market. Mind you, she has so much food already in the house. The more I bring her, the more she wants. I can’t fill the empty cup.....And I see her every day. Not like I can hide.
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Reply to nymima

My mother will be 94 in January & has become SO super obsessed with food that it's beyond ridiculous. She's always been a gigantic food pusher, and very obsessed with food in general, and weight, etc., but nowadays, it's gone over the deep edge into insanity.

She hates the food at her Memory Care ALF so much, it's sooooooooooo horrible and awful and terrible, that she can't eat. Meanwhile, she's 190 lbs, so guess what? She's eating. And overeating as well. All she talks about is food, how much they're giving her or not giving her, how it's too little or too much, how it's too hot or too cold, too small or too big, and on and on. Today I had to hear for 10 minutes how she's 'not eating' but managed to choke down a peanut butter & jelly sandwich for lunch and eggs/bacon/toast/potatoes for breakfast.

So at 5 pm tonight, I'm going to the local Italian restaurant's drive thru and picking up linguini with sausage & meatball, garlic bread, Tiramisu and I already have a box of chocolates in my car, and will drive it over to her in the MC. I will do that once a week so maybe I won't have to hear about Food for ONE phone call. Maybe, but probably not. And maybe she will have ONE meal a week that SHE won't be complaining about. Maybe, but probably not. She'll 'eat too much' and call me that she's sick & throwing up. I can hear it now.

My mother has moderate dementia and anxiety that's through the roof 100% of the time. Since she's a giant fall risk with over 50 falls under her belt, the doc will not prescribe calming meds. I suggest you speak to your mother's hospice nurse about giving her a mild sedative along with her other meds if you feel that this food issue is causing her all ends of anxiety. Perhaps the med can be called something else, so it doesn't ADD to her already existing anxiety? Sigh.

I don't know what it's all about, probably nothing else to think about and nothing else that they can CONTROL at this stage of the your mother CAN control what goes into her mouth. And is trying to do just that to make herself feel better. It drives US to distraction, though, so I feel your pain

Wishing you the best of luck
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Reply to lealonnie1

Everyone in my family is a foodie with the exception of myself and my DIL. So it’s hard for me to see what the big deal is, but I’m used to it.
I wonder if she is watching a lot of food shows on tv?
So many write in that their loved one won’t eat or drink or only want junk food or have alcohol problems. To me she sounds delightful.
Food brings a lot of people great pleasure. With her age and illnesses, she may be enjoying some of her last holidays. Do you think that’s on her mind?
As long as her budget will allow for her food choices and she isn’t being overly wasteful, it sounds harmless enough. Perhaps you could find a store in her area to deliver so it isn’t so hard on you, especially now with Covid. Nine years is a long time. I’m sure you are tired. Maybe you could set some boundaries with her on one trip a week or sign up for deliveries. If you are having to cook the food, then you could limit that also. My mom had CHF and her food choices were so slim due to the restricted diet. She was on Coumadin so she limited herself on green veggies, which she loved and of course, no salt. She never knew what she wanted to eat just knew what she didn’t want or couldn’t have.
Is it possible that you are so tired and now upset about her cancer that it all just seems excessive? You and your DH are important too.
I make a joke about my DH aunt and her anxiety when we were going to her doctor appointments. I said I gave her 1/2 an anxiety tablet and I took the other half and it worked pretty well.
She is also on hospice so we no longer have to make those trips unless we choose to.
I think I have to agree with the social worker. Let her have her food.
Is it possible she wants to see you more and this is a way to get you over more often?
Perhaps with news of the cancer and the decision to do nothing and then going on hospice, she may be experiencing a bit of cognitive decline.
Hopefully after thanksgiving she will settle down a bit.
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Reply to 97yroldmom

Just my opinion:  she's trying to create a sense of control in her life as it apparently is lessening.  Losing control, and I don't mean in the sense of being a control freak but rather basic daily activities, is frightening and creates a wide range of anxieties.   By establishing an area in which she can succeed, or excel, she's creating a raison d'etre and meaning for her life at this point. 

It sounds as if the planning is a major part of these activities; so help her plan; give her some specific areas to work on, and support her.   Think of how she can help with the holiday dinner?

How would YOU  feel if you were in her position, recognizing that you're physically declining, have breast cancer and were in hospice?   What would you have to live for?  And what would you try to do to make the best of your remaining life, and to keep positive about it?/

I would encourage her, compliment her, and provide support at this critical time of her life.
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Reply to GardenArtist

Thank you. So much going on with my mother, but food is the big elephant in the room. Now that we are cooking for Thanksgiving, she is on cloud nine! This is all she talks about and what we’re going to serve. Then she eats in 30 minutes at the most and then she’s done. My husband just shakes his head. All that build-up and cooking and poof! It’s over in 30 minutes! No staying to talk - she just wants to go home. I’ve been her caretaker for 9 yrs. It’s getting very intense now. Just worn out.
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Reply to nymima
lealonnie1 Nov 22, 2020
Of course you're worn out, who wouldn't be? And just b/c your mother is entitled to feel upset about her situation in life doesn't mean YOU are not entitled to feel worn out and needing to vent about it. OCD behaviors in general are quite difficult to deal with for all of us, no matter what the elders' condition is.
Food is really very personal for some people and it runs deep.  My LO does this same thing and others have observed it as well - "It's always about the food" her son noted.  He joked that she could have met the president but would have only cared about refreshments or a meal at the White House and would probably only want to discuss what was served.  I think in her younger days, food was a comfort and was cozy for her.  Her weight problems as time passed led to "don't tell ME what to eat" and it was again about the food.    At one point, her finances improved such that she could afford higher quality food, so she explored food on that level and loved it even more.  As she declined, I prepped her food according to a doctor's prescribed diet - which led to complaining about the food and telling lies to others so they would bring her the food she really wanted (fast food, junk food - her old comforts from years back).    Now that she's in NH, meals are the highlight of the day so we are still hearing about food.   She never really had hobbies and she wasn't really that involved with her children, church, or community.  As she's declined, all she has to draw upon is her life with food.
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Reply to Mysteryshopper

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