My maiden aunt was blessed by many friends who liked to give her meals, but she didn’t eat much. She would have one meal out of a big dish and then put the rest of the food in the refrigerator where she would forget she had it (she was 93 ½ so this was forgivable). This applied to whole turkeys, casseroles, and pies.
The remains of the food she was given were in the refrigerator when we inherited the property three months after she had been put in the rehab center where she died. She was very well-liked by many considerate people who thought she had a much larger appetite than she did.
Bugs flew out of the refrigerator the first time we opened it, along with the most horrid stench you can imagine. [Decaying food had been there at least three months and was accompanied by bugs, mold, whatever….you do the math!]
Here’s more advice: if you have an elderly family member of friend who is hospitalized, offer to check on his or her house and check out the refrigerator. Immediately. Get everything out of it that has the potential of decaying or turning a peculiar color and dump it out.
Throw away all expired food. It does not get better with age; once it’s gone a few years past the sell-by date, you need to toss it or take the chance of getting food poisoning from it. [The record for expired food that I have found is eleven years past the expiration date. Please don’t try this at home!]
When the person is ready to come home from the hospital, replace what you threw away, if that’s possible. That way, you don’t have the guilt of starving the person to death and you will have done something very nice for someone who might have needed the food in his or her refrigerator.
You might also try offering to buy all new food at the store, since the fact that the food was in there for a very long time might mean the person tried it but didn’t like it. [Another side note: If the sliced bread has been in the house long enough to become one solid, petrified block, it is time to get rid of it, rather than risking a broken tooth on it.]
I hope you find these tips helpful!