Getting mum to eat a balanced diet


Registered User
Jan 13, 2008
This is my first posting on Talking Point, and having read through some of the postings as a guest, it looks like a really supportive forum.

My mother is 73 and was diagnosed with mixed dementia in 2007. She lives in a retirement flat complex and manages reasonably well, but only with a lot of support, mainly from regular visits by my sister. Mum's short term memory is very poor now and something that is concerning myself and my sister is how well she is eating. We think that mum is often forgetting to eat a main meal and will just eat a sandwich. It is something that it is very difficult to confront her with because she can become quite offended if she thinks we don't believe her (mum will always say that she has eaten a proper meal when this is definately not the case).

My sister has tried many ways of promting mum - such as using a diary left open on the table for mum to record daily events for such thing as this and other important daily tasks. We agree that mum does not appear to be losing too much weight at the moment and is quite healthy in all other respects. Would be good to hear from anyone else out there who may have tips for monitoring diet.

Thank you


Registered User
Aug 9, 2005
I don't know how things work where you are (I'm in Australia) but I'm wondering if your Mum could get Meals on Wheels (MoW)?

That way you would be sure she was getting one full meal a day and it wouldn't matter if she filled up on sandwiches at other times.

If your Mum is unlikely to accept MoW, you could suggest that it is to "give her a break" from the monotony of preparing meals. I find with Mum that appeals to her to "make your life a bit easier" work better than any suggestion that she "needs" something!! :)

Of course, this may not be possible - for any number of reasons.

Can your Mum use a microwave? (I only ask because if she wasn't used to using one before she had dementia she almost certainly won't be able to use one now.) If so, could you and your sister provide some home-made frozen meals for her to re-heat??? This way you could pack in heaps of vegetable etc. to help improve her diet.

If she says she doesn't need you cooking for her, perhaps you could try something like:
"Oh Mum, you'd be doing me a favour. I seem to have cooked way too much this time - don't want to see good food go to waste!"

Subterfuge is often the only thing that works - and even then, it may fail! Wishing you the best of luck in finding a solution that works.


Registered User
Jan 5, 2007
My Mum had the same attitude, She would say, I'm not hungry, or, I just had a big cooked dinner. And we knew nothing was in Her fridge.
I think it's very important for Her to eat. Like Nell said. Meals on wheels would be very helpful. We had that for a while. We had to tell our Mum, 'This is free' or, we paid for this for a week, so please don't waste it.

Mixed Dementia is a new term. mixed with what? did the Dr tell you more on this type of disease, if not ask the Dr just what kind of diagoses is Mixed Dementia. Always best to ask as many questions as you can to try and have a clearer picture.
Good luck with getting your Mum to eat, and drink. Water is as important as food.

Grannie G

Volunteer Moderator
Apr 3, 2006
Hello Kingfisher, welcome to TP.

I understand how worried you are about your mother`s diet. My Grandmother was hospitalized with malnutrition and we were mortified. She had convinced us she was eating properly.

So I began to shop for her once a week to ensure she had food that didn`t need much preparation, bread, butter, milk, tinned soups, fruit, yoghurts, ready made custard, eggs and cheese etc.

I also took her a cooked meal a few times a week, a portion of our main meal. We`d make a joke of it, calling `Meals on Wheels` as we went in.

Both my mother and grandmother lived locally so it was easy enough to do. They had been very independent women in their time, but didn`t take offence when we `interfered`.

I don`t know how far away your mother lives from you and your sister but you might be able to manage something.

I think mixed dementia is caused by vascular problems and Alzheimers.


Registered User
Aug 20, 2006
It's a difficult issue. It sounds horrid to say it, but the usual advice offered by dieticians when they are confronted with an elderly person who can't/won't eat is "calories". In other words, forget about a "balanced" and "healthy" diet and instead concentrate on getting enough calories in so that the patient doesn't actually starve. This is a much bigger issue in someone elderly than the five fruit/vegetables a day!

My dad is refusing to eat anything other than jam sandwishes and cake. He constantly frets about "blockages", won;t eat anything from the microwave because "the waves interfere with the food" etc etc. We can't force him to eat so we stopped worrying about it long ago.

It is no use trying reason or logic with someone with dementia. You are most unlikely to get them to change their minds or accept that they are wrong. You will just get a brick wall of hostility and accusations that "no one believes me". Remember, to your mum her memories and thoughts are real and true so it's not surprising she is getting offended, I imagine most of us would if we were told things are not true when we "know" they are, espescially if it is over something like being told we can't remember about dinner.

And yes, "mixed dementia" means that someone has more than one form of dementia. The most common is to have Alzheimers Disease and Vascular Dementia, which are in themselves the most common forms.


Registered User
Jan 13, 2008
Getting mum to eat

Thanks for all your replies, I don't get on here every day so have been a bit slow to say so, helpful just knowing others are dealing with similar situations.

I don't think we're at the meals on wheels stage yet but may well be something to consider in the future. The whole family just want to be able to keep mum as independant as possible for as long as possible because she is very happy in her flat.

One of the replies talked about calories rather than a balanced diet and I think that's a fair point because mum does not appear to be losing weight so is probably getting enough calories overall. I will also seek advice from mum's doctor or speak to the consulant she sees every 6 months - both very approachable

Thanks again