Content Warning: Dementia, Memory Loss, Elderly Care
Something no one really wants to think about is their parents getting older.
But not only do many of us witness this, but we also have to make tough decisions for our parents, agreed the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor hardlyoverit was watching as their mother struggled with her dementia, which included unusual food cravings and combinations.
But when she pushed back against them for wanting to help her choose proper meals, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if they were overstepping.
They asked the sub:
“AITA for controlling what my mother eats?”
The OP was concerned by the food combinations their mom was creating.
“My mom has dementia and she’s recently begun eating unusual food combinations.”
“She can prepare food and feed herself fine, but her food choices are concerning.”
“If I buy her a sandwich, she’ll put soup on the bread along with jelly.”
“If I make her a salad, she’ll put ketchup on it despite me offering her salad dressing.”
“If I make her soup, she’ll put sugar in it.”
“If I make her salmon, she’ll put honey mustard on it.”
The OP tried to improve on their mom’s dietary choices.
“She never used to eat like this and it’s weird because these food combinations don’t go together.”
“Whenever she does this, I tell her to stop and take away the sugar/jelly/condiments, but she gets upset and doesn’t accept my recommended alternative.”
“She tells me to stop telling her how to eat when she wants what she wants and that I need to leave her alone.”
“She’s not embarrassed by it either and I’m afraid this is going to make her sick with the combinations.”
The argument continued.
“Now if I cook something for her, I hide everything, and she’ll yell at me and refuse to eat until she has whatever she wants to be added to her food.”
“I told her we don’t have anymore and we have to buy some, but she’ll then tell me she’ll eat it after I go buy some.”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some thought the OP should allow their mother to do what made her happy.
“All the stuff she is going for is food. Just because it is something you would not put together, does not mean you should stop her from eating it, unless she actually shows distress from eating the combination of foods.” – Nalpona_Freesun
“YTA. As long as she likes it and it’s not gonna do any damage to her health, then she’s fine. Let her eat what she wants.”
“But you should probably ask her doctor and not Reddit.” – wolfeye18
“YTA. Let her be. Honey mustard on salmon isn’t even weird. None of the combinations you describe will make her sick. Taking away her choices will only agitate her.” – goldensand16
“Unless it involves eating something dangerous, I’ve never gotten why people try to control what tastes good to someone else.”
“Part of the fun of trying out restaurants with different cultures is the unfamiliar tastes and textures. Before we knew that the virus affected taste, my family was shocked when I started loving spicy/hot food, which I had always avoided.”
“Please let her eat whatever she wants unless it is dangerous in some way to her health.” – blueheronflight
“My mom who has dementia has done the same thing as the OP’s mom. I once saw her put fruit on a fajita. I think it’s a dementia thing.”
“But generally, with dementia, it’s better to let them do what they want as long as it’s not harmful.” – Lanky-Temperature412
“This is a dementia thing, but it is also just an aging thing in general. As we age, our taste buds don’t work the same. Sweet and salty are some of the last tastes that older people can taste.”
“With dementia, it is almost always best to just let it go because it’s sometimes the one thing they feel they can still control.”
“So as long as she is not eating poop (which I have seen dementia patients do) or anything harmful, just let them mix what they want.” – momof21976
“Sensory changes due to dementia may mean she’s seeking out bigger flavors too, as she can’t taste less flavourful foods. Reduced awareness of food in the oral cavity increases a person’s choking risk, so her unusual food combinations may actually be keeping her safe by increasing her awareness of what she’s eating.”
“Dementia is an awful disease, OP. Let your mother enjoy her meals in calm and comfort with her family, and focus on sharing that time with her, not on what she’s eating.” – beetrootfuelled
“As a nurse, the first thing I learned with dementia patients is not to criticize, don’t try to get into power struggles with them, and respect their preferences when appropriate.”
“You’re probably going to battle with her about important things like wearing appropriate clothes in hot/cold weather, maintaining hygiene, not leaving the stove or gas on soon enough.”
“If she is eating food that is safe to eat, regardless of your opinion of if it’s good or bad, let her be. Think of it as an innocuous quirk, like pregnancy cravings. This isn’t the hill to die on, just let her enjoy whatever weird combo comes to mind.” – sharksfriendsfamily
Others agreed and were more concerned about the OP’s mom getting her nutrients.
“Just make sure she gets adequate food and a diversity of foods. It’s fine if she wants ketchup with salad, but make sure she also eats something with protein, etc. Sometimes this can be difficult for people with dementia.” – Sad_Box_1167
“YTA. As long as what she’s eating isn’t ridiculously unhealthy, it doesn’t matter. Let her eat what she wants. She may have dementia but she’s not a child and you don’t need to be policing her eating habits.” – littlemanakete
“I’m not going to judge either way. If it’s soup on a sandwich, I’d be controlling that (if the sandwich is on a plate and she dumps a whole can of soup over the top and it goes everywhere). But everything else, let her go for it. Her taste buds will tell her whether or not she likes it.”
“The combination shouldn’t make her sick unless she has allergies or she adds a tonne of tabasco sauce or a mountain of chili, you get what I mean.”
“But the all the rest, let her go for it.” – DiamondHeist1970
“NAH. Even without dementia, people’s sense of taste dulls as they age. She may not be able to taste all the food she used to like and because of the disinhibition that comes with dementia, she’s got no problem adding what does taste good to food that is now bland to her.”
“It’s not wrong to be concerned, but she’s eating real food and if she doesn’t have any special dietary restrictions on the foods she’s adding, it’s okay to let her eat it. You’re clearly worried about her health, but eating real food won’t hurt her even if it’s in weird combinations.” – readshannontierney
“Taste is a personal experience, and your preferences on her food combinations carry no weight. As long as she’s combining things that are actually food (and not things such as cleaning products), you really shouldn’t be interfering.”
“The dietary aspects of her food choices also aren’t really of your concern, as not only has she reached an age and condition where the long-term effects of those foods are likely going to be beaten to the punch by her dementia, but it’s also none of your business what another grown-ass adult is eating even if she wasn’t.” – Rakatashi-
A few also weren’t convinced that the food combinations sounded all that bad.
“Most of the combinations don’t even sound too bad right now. I think her craving for more sugary foods is basically a side effect of dementia. As the disease progresses, the sense of taste gets lost too.”
“I could see that happening with my grandma, too, because all of a sudden, desserts became her favorite food. And you know what? We let her have it because we wanted her to be happy, rather than make her miserable in the little time we had left with her.” – NaturalLack4448
“I’m convinced honey mustard goes with everything at this point.”
“Fries? Yes. Sandwiches? Literally any sandwich. Bread. Mmm, bread.”
“Crackers? Duh. Salmon? Sure.”
“I would even put it on rice, but I’m disgusting.” – dumbtranstrash
“YTA. Let her eat and be happy she is eating. Why are you giving her such a hard time and upsetting her?? Stop being so controlling.”
“Salmon and honey mustard is not weird, it’s really good and there are several recipes on Google for it.” – chelsea8794
While the subReddit could understand the OP being weirded out by some of their mom’s food combination choices, they otherwise encouraged them to let her enjoy what she had to eat.
Dementia steals away so much of a person’s control of their own life; choosing what they’re going to eat, no matter how strange, should be their choice, at the very least.