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Constant eating - Carers UK Forum

Constant eating

For issues specific to caring for someone with dementia.
My husband has always enjoyed his food. One of our favourite pastimes used to be spending time talking and eating in a nice restaurant. We can't do that now as he is inclined to get impatient or unpredictable in his behaviour. And anyway, conversation and discussion doesn't happen any more.

However, this doesn't stop him eating! I have to hide fruit, biscuits, chocolates etc as he will eat them all.....a whole week's supply for two people in maybe 48 hours! If I leave a bunch of bananas in a bowl, and one of those bags of satsumas they will all be gone by the next evening. That's 5 bananas and 7/8 satsumas! Add to them chocolate biscuits, a large chocolate bar and 7 or 8 choc ices, and you see what I mean! Today he had found 2 frozen, uncooked meatballs and eaten one raw before I found out! This means I have to hide fruit and other stuff in the garden shed, on top of cupboards or upstairs and eat them in secret which means they are not exactly enjoyable!

Does anyone else have this problem?
Hi Pen,

From your other post I saw that your husband has Alzheimers. I gather that this over eating problem is fairly common with Alz patients, because sometimes their brains no longer receive the signal telling them that their tummy is full. Conversely the opposite can happen too, where they forget to eat or simply lose interest in food. My father (83) has dementia and his appetite is quite poor, but strangely enough he seems to enjoy sweet things more than he used to - cake, for instance, which he'd not have touched years ago.

Do you have a garage that you could stash food in? Or failing that, maybe you could leave some food locked in the boot of your car (if you have one)? The temperatures at this time of year are cool enough to store most things reasonably, at least for a day or two. Or do you have a spare bedroom where you could hide/lock things away, or even put a small table top fridge, out of sight from hubby?
Thanks for your reply, Shewolf. The garage is rather a long way from the house, and he would see me go there and either follow me or ask me what I went there for. The car boot is inspired! I could do that whilst the weather is cool, thank you! I have googled tiny fridges. He is sure to find one wherever I put it. I wonder if there is one with a lock?

Isn't it a shame to have to do this to/for someone one has trusted and loved for years?
Hi Pen

SheWolf is quite right - dementia does seem to affect appetite !

Mum was always 'forgetting' she had just eaten so was always asking "when's breakfast/lunch/dinner ?". Frequently she'd have 3 bowls of breakfast cereal, 10 minutes or so apart because she'd forgotten she'd already one - despite the evidence of the empty bowls in the sink ("not my bowls, must have been the other lady living here" Image ). Conversely she would 'lose' her appetite if there was too much food on her plate ! Eventually I worked out a system of 'little and often', so (for example) she'd have her cereal at 8am; then a banana with coffee and a couple of biscuits mid-morning; sandwhich for lunch at 1230; yoghurt and a biscuit at 2pm; cup of tea and a small piece of cake at 4pm; main course of her evening meal at 6.30pm; desert and cup of coffee at 8pm finally followed by milky drink and biscuits at bedtime.

This ways she was neither hungry or too full at any one point in the day - mind you all these biscuits and 'small' pieces of cake didn't do my waistline any good Image
Hi Pen
I have the opposite problem with my mum; her Altzheimer's has made her lose practically all interest in food, and it's a constant battle to get her to eat enough.
Regarding SheWolf's ace idea about the car boot, when the weather warms up you could try doing what one of my relatives did. He had a large family, 7 kids, and it would've bankrupted him on day trips out if they didn't take their own food. He stored their food in a large plastic box lined with what I think was polystyrene or similar. There were these blue things you'd put in it to keep the food cool. He'd put it the car boot, and then cover that with some kind of heat resisting blanket. Even after a long day out during a heat wave the butter would still be firm.
Now that was about 20 years ago, and I'm sure technology has moved on since then. Perhaps a browse around a camping shop website might give you some idea of what's available now.
You can get locks for fridges; I've seen them in chemist shops.
Regarding SheWolf's ace idea about the car boot, when the weather warms up you could try doing what one of my relatives did. He had a large family, 7 kids, and it would've bankrupted him on day trips out if they didn't take their own food. He stored their food in a large plastic box lined with what I think was polystyrene or similar. There were these blue things you'd put in it to keep the food cool.
Yes, good thinking Sajehar. What you're describing is some kind of cool box. You can buy them in loads of places; Argos, camping shops, even some of the larger supermarkets stock them, once the weather turns warmer. Pen could use the box all year round, but just leave the lid off during the cold months, as the temperature can drop to fridge temperature (around 3 degrees C) on winter nights anyway. In the summer the boot of a car can become like an oven, so lid on and blue ice packs would be needed.

Pen, it is a shame to have to hide food away, but where dementia is involved, so often we have to save our carees from themselves. People do sometimes pass through this type of phase though, so try not to worry and just concentrate on practical solutions.
I was right, technology has moved on.
Something like this might be useful. They do loads of cool stuff on this website... quite literally.
http://www.minicoolers.co.uk/products/packit/social.htm
As you all say it is a shame when an every day normally pleasant thing like meals and eating become something that you have to think about in a different way. Nearly everybody you talk to has somebody they know with dementia. My daughters boss has a stepfather who if not watched will eat anything in site and make himself sick.
With my husband as he doesn't communicate he doesn't know what is being offered till it reaches his lips. I wonder what his relationship with food is. As his chewing went before xmas, everything has to be quite small now. gone is offering him meat to any extent. I find breakfast is easy and things for pudding and now he can eat a sandwich tea isn't too bad but dinners are difficult. Childrens 1-3 year old meals are quite handy The cakes I used to make for him seem to dry now. I think part of the problem is because he has Parkinsons as well. Our doctor sent a dietitian and we now also give him nutritional drinks to supplement his food as his portions are smaller now. These have given him more energy.
I often wonder what my mum's relation to food is too. Does she have an eating disorder?
Seems far fetched as she's nearly 84. But i think she does. From a totally different point of view.
I think, and I could be wrong, that mum is somehow winding down.
I've done everything in my power to encourage her appetite. I even insist that every bodies meals are chopped up (that included the one and only major meal I've ever made; Boxing Day.)
I do not want her to feel that she's somehow the baby; if mum has to have chopped up meat, we all do.
Not that it's really helped; her appetite has nose-dived anyway.
It doesn't seem to matter what I do; but I do it anyway. Maybe I shouldn't. That's my dilemma. Maybe I'm doing the right thing for the wrong reasons?
Sajehar, I think you're doing the right thing for the right reason - you care deeply about your mother and want to keep her healthy in any way you can. Don't beat yourself up about the fact that sometimes you don't succeed - at least you keep trying.

Your mother doesn't sound like she's deliberately starving herself and neither are my parents, but for various reasons both of them have lost weight and no longer eat sizeable meals nowadays. I just accept it as a natural part of the ageing process, especially if dementia is involved, as it seems to be so common. Even so, our parents could take years, slowly winding themselves down. I think that as our parents are in their 80s maybe we need to take a prosaic view on their lack of appetite and not fight the inevitable.