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Hints for hiding food from my mother-in-law

berryblondeboys's picture

Hints for hiding food from my mother-in-law

About 10 years ago my family merged households with my MIL. She is currently 84 and her mental capacities are slipping and have been slipping for 20 years little by little. She is a former psychiatrist and neurologist, but those years are long gone. She is an extremely difficult woman (and I mean extremely) and that makes this even harder. We want to show respect and not treat her like a child, but she is at the point she needs to be treated like a child and food is becoming a real issue.

First, she sneaks foods that there is no reason to sneak - they are out in the open, but for some reason about a year ago she started hiding banana peels, protein shake containers, etc. She puts them in a little plastic bag by her sofa and every day when she goes out, she takes her garbage with her (she still drives, but just the 1 mile from our house to the mall where she meets with friends every day to walk). I caught on to this and never said anything, but I now buy more of such things she was sneaking so that we have enough for all of us. 

Last week she got some bloodwork done and they discovered that her potassium levels were very high (they redid the test to be sure). Her thoughts were, "I need to stop eating bananas" but she just switched to other high potassium-rich fruits and her portion sizes are exploding. Two big peaches for breakfast when I buy enough to go around for all of us, which would be one piece each day. More than a pint of blueberries at breakfast for just herself- stuff like that. 

She no longer has the ability to sense she is taking too much and it is now getting unhealthy for her to eat such quantities of these foods. I have done all the cooking and grocery shopping this entire time. She used to go to a local market for some items, but that also stopped about 4-5 months ago too and I have no idea why. I think she forgets to go to the market and then she gets hungry for something sweet and so she scavenges through the cupboards but doesn't want me to know for some reason. 

We have a small upstairs fridge (tall dorm size). I can start putting some things there to not have it all at her fingertips in the downstairs fridge, but how do I do this type of rationing skillfully? Fruit is the main thing for now, but also other snacks. When I ask her about getting her something, she is emphatic that I don't need to think about her. I think she HATES that she needs to depend on me. She wants to preserve her independence, so I'm trying to find a way to allow for that, but also protecting her from herself and trying to find a way so that the rest of the family can have our share of fruit too!

I know I'm rambling, but it's a stressful home with my MIL and my autistic teen under the same roof.

hanseata's picture

how difficult this situation must be for you.

Your mother-in-law is suffering from some form of dementia und displaying behaviors that are not only disruptive, but harmful to herself. Your husband and you will need to contact her doctor to discuss possible options.

Of course, you can try to keep certain food items in a place that is not accessible to her, but that will only be a temporary fix. Her condition will worsen and other concerning symptoms will probably occur.

Your also have an autistic child which needs your special attention. At some point the additional burden of caring for both might undermine your own health. 

What is your husband’s opinion on this? 

With sympathy, Karin


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

up portions.  For example when she takes a pint of berries, hand her four bowls to divide them up in.  Get her busy with helping, directing gently and rewarding verbally for helping out.  Ask her to place a peach at each place setting arranging a napkin under each so they look nice.  Things like that.  

I live with my MIL and she has her own bedroom, sitting room, kitchenette and bath inside our home. She still buys her own fruit and food but often I buy extra and bring some over to her.  She also likes to cook for us on occasion and we have her often over for meals.   We pool our resources and ideas and sometimes we don't.  The extra room divided gives each a bit of privacy.  We actually started out all together but she wanted some "space" to herself so we found a way to put in a wall and door and give her a studio apartment.  She can decorate how she likes and control her space and tv channels.  It works out well for all of us yet we are close enough to help each other when needed.


Dave Cee's picture
Dave Cee

...under the vacuum cleaner.



(Couldn't resist. Sorry.)