My mum has dementia and has recently been putting her dinners in a plastic bag and showing my dad an empty plate. Why would she do this?


It is very common for dementia patients to stop eating. There are many speculations and many reasons why this may be occurring with your Mom. Food may not taste or smell as it once did to her. Her favorite meal may now send her running. She probably will not be able to articulate in words what the difference is, as she probably has no idea herself.

She seems to be aware enough to know that you want her to clean her plate, which she has still figured out a way to do. She may think she has already eaten, even though she hasn’t. She may feel full, even though she hasn’t eaten all day. She may just not understand the food is what her body needs. Try switching up foods with different textures, different smells, different colors and offer some to eat with fingers and some with utensils. Try eating in different locations: at the dinner table, in the living room, outside or even in bed. Sit with her and eat with her, even if it is a slow process.

Try all these different ideas and see if anything helps or makes a difference. There make not be one magical solution, but in the end, you want to know you tried all you could to keep her healthy for as long as possible. We wish you luck with her eating and thank you for writing in. 

5 thoughts on “Why is mom putting her dinner in a plastic bag?

  • Lynn

    My mom has always loved cookies and candy. Now that she is living in a dementia care facility, my siblings keep her room stocked with those items. Mom will fill up on cookies, and then pick at the nutritious meals served by the facility. She no longer understands that she needs a balanced diet, and tells me that she doesn’t need to eat in the dining room because “I have food here in my own room.” My concerns have so far not made headway with my siblings, who believe that mom will not be with us much longer, and so why not let her eat what she wants.

  • Susan

    I get what they are saying and you too. My mom passed over a month ago with Alzheimer’s and I just brought her sweets when I visited so I knew she would eat a good meal first. My dad has dementia and he’s now started to eat better. Has swallowing issues. So you tell your siblings that your mom needs healthy food more than sweets. Or if they won’t listen have the head nurse keep the stuff locked up and give her after she eats. Whomever is her POA has the say on her behalf to make sure what is best for her. And I hope y’all have one.

  • Linda

    Try finger foods – utensils get to be a Charlemagne for them – or sir with her at the table and put the food on the fork or spoon- I used one of those and easier doe him to handle – th n give her rh spoon or fork-
    Try mixing ensure with puddings and yogurt – – all th food might intimidate her – try smaller helping ..
    these methods worked for my husband .

  • Karen

    Lynn, I agree with your comments about letting them eat what they want if it looks like they won’t be here much longer (quality over quantity). We have found that our ad likes to nibble during the day so he won’t eat large meals anymore. We just make sure he has healthier options when “grazing” (cut up fresh fruit, cheese and crackers, nuts and berries, etc.), and interspersing them with their favourite treats.

  • Patricia Mellone

    My mom has dementia and she always has her hands in her mouth. We put mittens on her hand but that doesn’t stop her any suggestions

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