I'm pretty new to caregiving. My dad moved in with me almost 2 months ago after a long hospital stay and surgery. He's hoping to recover enough to eventually go back to his own apartment.

A problem I'm having is that he doesn't understand/doesn't want to follow his dietary restrictions. I'm kind of of the opinion that this is his right as an adult, but he keeps talking about how I'm helping him stay on track and he is worried about all his numbers getting worse (blood sugar, potassium and sodium levels, etc) when he's on his own because I "keep him in line." But he's always asking about foods and then getting angry at my when I say he probably shouldn't eat it.

I don't know if he's asking me for permission, asking me to fetch it for him, asking for advice? Meanwhile, he hates most of my cooking, even when I try to adapt it to things I think he will like.

I find it very stressful when I don't understand my role in a situation. If he wants me to make the decisions I will, and if he wants me to butt out I will.... but I hate this in-between thing. Any suggestions?

From your profile:

About Me
I'm a writer, artist, and teacher taking a semester (hopefully not more) to care for my dad while he recovers from a long hospital stay and heart surgery surgery. Additionally, has stage 4 kidney disease, diabetes, emphysema, and hypertension. 

What your father wants is to have his cake and eat it too, but he can't. He wants you to wave a magic wand over steamed chicken with veggies and have it turn into Mac and cheese with a milkshake on the side. Except you're not a magician and dad's a grown man now, imposing himself on you and griping about it at the same time.

Your father has spent a lifetime acquiring and practicing unhealthy lifestyle habits which brought him to where he's at today. Having more issues than Newsweek. You didn't create these issues, he did, together with a knife and fork and many cartons of cigarettes. He's now had heart surgery to repair some of the ensuing damage. But to keep himself alive a bit longer, some changes he'll have to make and accept of his own free will.

HE is the only person who can change these unhealthy habits, keep his diabetes in check, etc He's expecting a magic pill to DO it all FOR him w/o any hard work and sacrifice. And blaming you bc a salad doesn't taste all yummy-in-the-tummy like the Big Mac and super sized fries that brought him to this ugly place to begin with. There are no free rides in life, dad.

I'd give dad a move out date when you'll be escorting him back home. If he proves to be unable to manage his life independently, you'll be happy to help him find a managed care senior facility of some kind.

Some things in life are just not fixable and an old man set in his ways is probably #1 on the list.
Helpful Answer (13)
Reply to lealonnie1
Debbio Mar 10, 2023
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this issue, Lealonnie. I will be trying to take your message to heart. I've been in the caretaker role several times, but now find myself on the "flip side of the burger." I have many changes to make with my health so I don't wind up being what this father is to his daughter with my own daughter. Reading the kind—yet firm—messages on this board is much easier to accept than hearing them from my own family. Thank you.
If you're the cook, you're in charge! Tell him that for starters. If he doesn't like your cooking, inform him that he can leave anytime his doctor okays it. Then send a note to his doctor that you can't handle this anymore.

His move-out date needs to be discussed NOW. If you think it's stressful already, just wait. The last thing you need is a full-time patient on your hands. It appears that when he goes home, he'll still need help. That could be an aide who cooks for him according to his prescribed diet, which gets you off the hook.

Sad to say, crabby old men only get worse. There is no celestial magic that turns them into little rays of sunshine.
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Reply to Fawnby
patpaul Apr 16, 2023
"crabby old men only get worse. There is no celestial magic that turns them into little rays of sunshine."
I’m in a very similar situation. Dad’s got CHF due to inadequate management of his diabetes. He’s got no other health issues other than being legally blind from a childhood accident. He has received excellent medical care from his team of doctors. All he has to do in order to live a decently comfortable life is follow the salt & sugar restrictions & to get a little physical movement. My mother was a professional chef & my career was in the destination health spas here in San Diego. I know how to create balanced yet tasty meals & snacks. You’d think I could manage his diet… But no.

I truly believe that few people comprehend the difficulties in battling sugar/ processed food addiction. No drinking or smoking, just addicted to cookies & soda. My dad has had full on screaming tantrums with nurses for not getting what he wants to eat. He has berated caregivers & I don’t want to get into what he says to me, his daughter, when he doesn’t get his way.

His diabetes has caused his bladder to stop functioning, putting him on a Foley catheter for the last 6 months while he waits for a pubic port surgery. In the meantime the urethra is splitting open. His feet are in the beginning stages of developing ulcers. It’s only a matter of time before limbs start getting amputated. I’m doing everything I can, making countless sacrifices to manage his diabetes. I test his sugars 4 times a day & have advocated for a continuous glucose monitor. But all he wants is cake & fried foods. His doctors & I have explained the consequences of his choices, but he doesn’t care.

It’s infuriating & insulting because I watched my mother battle & die from breast cancer a few years back. She did everything she was told to do & still suffered & died. My father has the opportunity to live & see his grandchildren grow up. But he’d rather have chips & candy than man-up & fight for his life.

And, to add insult to injury, these Assisted Living & Nursing Homes won’t follow the diet restrictions because it’s inconvenient & expensive. Oh, some they *say* they do, but they don’t in practice. I caught staff giving him chips & candy while at SNFs. Several facilities that I’ve interviewed have straight up stated that they do not accept patients requiring special diets. And don’t get me started on the lack of diabetes care…

I’ve been struggling with him for about a year now. It is his choice to participate in improving his health or not. I’ve told him when he chooses to not participate in his health care in a positive manner then I’m left with no choice but to place him in a facility. I’ve made too many sacrifices for him to do otherwise. I’ve been explaining to him the consequences of being placed in a facility. His health will very likely decline, we will have to sell his home to pay for the care, and what freedom he currently has will be further diminished. I’m currently in the process of trying to find a facility that will accept him. Not much luck so far. But I can no longer fight for someone that refuses to fight for themselves.

Sorry for the long response. Your question was an excuse for me to vent. Just know you’re far from alone in your struggles. No easy answers when it comes to addiction.
Helpful Answer (9)
Reply to Invisible0ne

Tell him that while he lives with you and you are responsible for the cooking you will be following the diet given for him. Period. Tell him that when he gets well enough (and following the diet will help this happen sooner) he can go home and make his own food choices.
Tell him that you are happy to help him arrange a nutrition consult for him through his MD.
Your role is to do as you feel is correct in the confines of your own home and to let your father do as he wishes when he is on his own and independent. It's really pretty simple. It involves a whole lot of standing your ground. So slab some cement into those boots. I sure do wish you the best. Soon enough he may dislike you so much he leaves. And that will be a good day.
Helpful Answer (8)
Reply to AlvaDeer

So, the crux of this is: is it DOESN'T UNDERSTAND or is it doesn't WANT TO?

This sounds very much like my mom, who was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment, once we realized that she was not simply being stubborn or wallowing in self-pity. She REALLY no longer comprehended stuff like ingredients, instructions and planning in general.

I think getting a comprehensive neuropsych workup, including tests of cognitive ability and executive functioning would be helpful in planning how independent your dad is going to be able to be.
Helpful Answer (7)
Reply to BarbBrooklyn

My DH has had many health issues that have come with 'a special diet' attached--

I learned the hard way that no matter what I cooked--what I said--what I bought to have in the house, etc., he did just what he wanted and that's that.

He is a type II diabetic and doesn't follow by any means a diabetic diet. He is a liver transplant patient and doesn't do much more than take his one anti-rejection med.

When he had a heart attack a few years ago, he actually blamed ME for it--told the doctor I was 'too good a cook' and that had caused his HA.

Doc said he's NEVER heard that excuse before.

He doesn't check is blood sugar. He doesn't wear his CPAP, he does what he wants and eats what he wants.

It doesn't matter what I do--he is a big boy and can make choices and changes. It's not up to me.
Helpful Answer (7)
Reply to Midkid58

Thanks, everyone! You've given me a lot of great ideas and I will think them over! We met with a nutritionist today so I had some reinforcement.💜

Hopefully we can teach an old dog some new tricks haha.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to employedsnail

Having a meal plan to follow is a lot easier than trying to figure things out as you go - a lifetime ago when my mom suffered her first heart attack she worked with a dietitian who went over her normal daily diet and then helped write a weekly menu plan that was similar but better, has your father been able to do something like that?
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to cwillie

Try going online and at in his area. These chefs consult the client on dietary needs and prepares several days of individual heat up meals. I live in a large senior community and my friends say the costs are reasonable. Afterwards, if dad wants to supplement with unhealthy snacks, then he draws the line in the sand to mess up his health as he chooses
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to MACinCT

Oh dear!

I can relate to your Dad. It takes time to get used to a new diet. I was never one of those people who could change their diet cold-turkey. Then I crave that "forbidden" food and that is worse.

Is it possible to slowly move to the desired diet. For instance, you cook without adding salt, and you make sure the salt shaker has very little salt in it and allow him to add his own salt....then slowly put less and less salt in the shaker. Check the sodium and sugar levels on food prior to preparation. For sugar, no more pasta (try zucchini curls) or white rice. If he has to have rice, then it would be brown rice, white rice mixture, with it slowly, moving to all brown rice, Less red meat dinners and more chicken/fish/seafood and vegetarian meals. Or less meat and more vegetables in the actual meal. Does he drink coke/pepsi products with his meal? You can get rid of a lot of sugar by changing over to water. Does he drink the coke/pepsi with substitute sugar? That is even tougher. Best is to reduce use until it is not used. If he does it for the carbonation, look into a soda stream to provide carbonation without calories.

In awhile, his palate will change. However, hopefully you will have shown him some new options so that his old eating will no longer taste as good to him.

I think that he is correct about what happens when he lives independently. He is very likely to go back to his old eating patterns. Therefore, you need to find out what he ate before and why he ate it, and try and see if you can find alternatives within his new diet that he can prepare to meet those reasons. You probably will have to show him how to prepare those meals (and keep him from eating out since restaurants put a lot of salt and sugar in their food.)

It is hard. I didn't realize that over the years, I've used less and less salt until I returned "home" to take care of my Mom. At first, the additional salt tasted horrible, however, now, I find that I want that additional salt. So now, I'm trying to slowly limit the salty foods to one night a week and have different new foods the rest of the time, prepared with no additional salt.

...and yes, I would ask him directly what he wants you to do, if anything, just to call his attention to the fact that he is giving you conflicting information on what your role is, regarding his nutrition's impact on his health.

Good luck! Changing one's diet permanently is one of the hardest things that anyone has to do in their lifetime.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to ChoppedLiver

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