My husband and I live in Greenville, South Carolina. I previously told how we became my mother’s caregiver. Mom was living with us in our home with the help of Brightstar Care. I was surprised at what a picky eater she had become. She would eat only items from a very short list of approved foods. My mother was never this way before. When I was growing up, if I complained to her about the food she cooked, she would say that was fine but she wasn’t going to serve anything else. She said I could simply go hungry, my choice. Roles had reversed. Now, no matter what I cooked beyond her approved unwritten list, she complained that it was poorly prepared. Telling her to go hungry was not an option at her age. At the time, my mother was being treated for a variety of psychiatric disorders and one of her diagnoses was disinhibition. In short, she simply had no filter. Once when I asked her how she liked dinner she said: “It was tasteless!” Seeing the shocked look on my face, she then said
“Well, you asked me!” Her rude comment was part of her personality change but her attitude toward food was also new.
When Mom improved to the point that she could live on her own at a Greenville senior retirement complex, her food complaints not only persisted but became worse. Meals are prepared by professional chefs in the retirement home kitchen and the menu ventures far from her approved short list of approved foods. I noticed other elderly residents had the same complaint. My siblings and I sometimes join her in the retirement home dining room at meal time and we think the food is good. We guessed my mother was just being difficult and her negativity was spreading to other senior residents.
I accompany my mother to all her doctor appointments. One day, Mom complained to her internist that her food often tasted salty. Her doctor’s half-joking response: “That’s good! Most people your age can’t taste anything at all!”
After some serious questioning and independent online research, I learned that’s true. Our taste buds change as we get older and nothing tastes the same. What she genuinely perceives as bad food is really a function of her age. Declining sense of taste in the elderly can also be caused by some medical conditions so be sure and consult with a doctor before dismissing declining taste as natural.
In her mind, my mother is a great cook and has a refined palate. Trying to convince her the problem is with her taste buds would do no good and just upset her. So when she complains, we nod in understanding and suggest that she submit suggestions to the managers about how to improve the food service. They solicit that kind of input and I tell her that they can’t know how to improve food service unless she tells them.
If an elderly person under your care makes unfounded complaints about the taste of food, it’s best not to argue. It’s more important to preserve his or her feeling of being understood than to be right. So we don’t agree or disagree and we bring her snack foods that are familiar to her and that she likes. And we take her out for pizza often. It’s her favorite.
Are you looking for answers? Brightstar Care of Greenville and Spartanburg can help you assess the needs of a loved one and help in any way possible. We are your local experts for in-home care, including skilled care. We can help you understand senior health problems including Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Call our Greenville SC office 864-599-0452