Mom has lost too much weight. Does anyone have any suggestions?

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My mom is 80 years old and was diagnosed with early onset dementia about 4 years ago. In addition she also has Osteoporosis. My mom had lost about 25 pounds quickly before being diagnosed. Since then her weight has remained at just around 100 pounds (she was 5'3" prior to Osteoporosis) until the last few months. Her weight was at 94 in November. My sister took her to her regular doctor visit (since I worked full time then I could not take time off to take her to her appointments so my sister had been doing this) and the doctor was alarmed at her weight loss and urged her to gain 10 pounds ASAP. She is literally a stick and resembles someone with anorexia. She buys lots of food but tends to nibble and snack on quick easy to fix meals like toast and cereal. She swears that she eats meat and protein usually later in the day and I have seen her do this (my mom lives alone for now as she still is able to manage her affairs for the most part). We have tried everything possible to get her to eat more. We bought Ensure and other protein nutrient shakes to help her gain some weight but she refuses them. I try to explain to her that she needs to eat even if she doesn't feel like it because her body has already gone through her fat stores and is now living off of vital tissue. As I explain this to her constantly her stomach is almost always growling and I point this out to her and tell her that her condition (she, of course, refuses to believe she has dementia--just a 'memory problem') makes her appetite low or convinces her that she is full when she has not eaten which is why her stomach is growling. She doesn't like to be bothered about it but she has been getting symptoms such as 'the dry heaves' as she calls them. She wakes up feeling extremely tired all day long, she spits up (it looks like clear fluid much of the time but sometimes there is a little bit of food in it) and feels sick to her stomach. She says her back hurts her more than ever and the doctor told her that part of that is due to the fact that she has little muscle and tissue left and everything hurts more. She has had these symptoms off and on for short periods of time but lately it's been ongoing since November of 2014. She says that she has the flu and I tell her that she must have the longest flu in history since she has had this daily (rather than sporadically as it used to be). I was searching the internet to see if these symptoms are related to her severe weight loss and couldn't find anything. But I am wondering if it is the result of her weight loss. I am beside myself as to what to do as is my sister. I used to work in a skilled nursing facility and I know that dementia patients often lose a lot of weight but most of them will drink the protein shakes which helps to keep vital nutrients in them. My mother though refuses them and anything else as she is convinced that there is no problem. She takes Numenda for her dementia and I have read that it can cause nausea but she says she doesn't have nausea just the mild vomiting and extreme fatigue. She still eats a little despite this and she says her morning meal is cereal and toast. Later on at night (she is a definite night owl often not going to sleep until dawn) she will make a meal. I don't know what else to do or how to convince her to take those shakes ( I've even drank them in front of her and they are actually pretty good and I tell her this as she knows that I can be a picky eater which my mother never was). I am beside myself with worry as is my sister and my mother's sisters. I am afraid that I may lose my mother to starvation before her dementia will ever claim her.

7 Comments

My Mom has a low weight issues, too.... but she and Dad eat a fairly healthy diet, I just think it could be just normal age decline. When one isn't being very active, they just don't have the appetite, so they then to nibble instead of having a full meal. I know I do that whenever I am having a slow day. A bowl of cereal is enough for me for dinner :P

I wonder if your Mom might have acid reflex, it can make your stomach upset, and one could also spit up. Ask her if her throat feels like it is on fire? If she says yes, than that is another symptom. Tums is a quick fire extinguisher. Have her see her primary doctor about this.
She needs to see a doctor about this. But, have you tried instant breakfast? Many adults of that age like that drink. It has milk and vitamins and protein. My mom hated ensure, but she liked instant breakfast and Ovaltine.
Twizard, the Carnation Instant breakfast is pretty good... I had used that when I had lost weight after having surgery. I used the chocolate powered packets, just mix with milk. Sure cheaper than those already bottled drinks.
Thanks everyone! I will buy some and try it out and see if she likes it...My sister did take her to the doctor last November but all he would say is that she needs to gain ten pounds immediately and that some of her symptoms were undoubtedly related to having too much weight loss...I couldn't be there at the time otherwise I would have many questions...I keep telling my mom to give me permission to have power of attorney so I can give this to the hospital and act on her behalf for such issues but she refuses to see that there is a problem...I even tried to get signed up as a paid caregiver but they need to interview her and get her permission and she gets very stubborn and says she needs no help but my sister and I help her all the time....it's so frustrating....
Freqflyer she does have Acid Reflux but as far as I know the doctor didn't say anything about that...She has Kaiser and I was looking for a gerontologist or at least a specialist in dementia who might better know how to treat her than her regular doctor....
We use OTC omeprazole for reflux and the instant breakfast is now called Carnation Breakfast Essentials. They are good.
My mother with AD also had very bad bouts of acid reflux, so much so she spit up that clear fluid and was sick for hours. Omeprazole fixed it... because of her AD she no longer realizes she's hungry either and yes, her stomach growls. I started blending all her fruits and veggies plus added some yogurt to it the mix. Froze them in ice cube trays and now... toss a few in with her ensure and give it a good blend (oh, add water cuz they don't like that either but it's needed) and voila`, it's like having a sweet berry milkshake which she prefers over food.

Tomorrow I'm going to check out the Carnation Breakfast Essentials! Ensure is spendy especially drinking t plus a day. Yikes!

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