Why can't my Dad understand that he needs to eat?

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I know the "why" of it doesn't really matter, but I'm so scared and frustrated. How can an adult who raised 2 kids, and did all the shopping and cooking for them, not understand that our bodies need protein and fresh veggies every day? That sweetrolls and coffee are not enough to live on? If my brother and I had tried to get away with that, he would have insisted that we eat proper food. And yet here is is (88, no Alzheimer's, mild dementia), refusing every day to eat enough to keep himself going. What is he *thinking*?! What can I do to change his mind?

Answers 1 to 8 of 8
Frankly, any type of dementia limits one's ability to 'think clearly'. Does he live alone? Elders often lose their 'taste buds' for good food and switch to sweets since that is one of the last 'taste sensations' to go.

Why not join him for more meals, and ask other family members to do the same? Perhaps Dad can even help with the cooking!

Perhaps not having someone else around to eat with has changed his eating habits. My mother had bad nutritional habits when she was on her own, but when she was here with me or with one of my brothers her appetite was just fine. We never really 'discussed' her eating habits, just used the very same tricks she used on us when we weren't eating right.

We made the food, told her it was time for breakfast/lunch/or dinner and then just started the 'normal' pass the potatoes, fish, whatever and she joined right in.

Perhaps food preparation is becoming more and more difficult for him to do, so maybe make a good 'stew' and bring it over for him, OR better yet invite him over for dinner or a BBQ.

You may not change his mind immediately, but the more he is involved in the eating experience, as he once knew it with FAMILY around, perhaps his appetite will improve.
Thanks for your insights. Very interesting about sweets being tasty after other flavors have gone--that explains a lot! Dad and I live together, but our meals have been totally out of sync for a while. I'll definitely make more of an effort to have us eat together again.
ps.. why not make him some 'zucchini bread' or banana bread and sneak in a few other veggies too in the form of Carrot Cake, and other nutritious veggie breads. Cinnamon is another great 'spice' for breads.

Milkshakes are another way of sneaking in 'good foods' back into his diet.

Use a crock pot to stimulate his appetite. I posted this on another thread just tonight, but I found that the aroma of food cooking all day, helped me stimulate Mom's appetite. Chicken soup, a pork roast, and other one pot meals are easy on you... and will fill the house with a DELICIOUS aroma all day long.

We also got a bread machine, and that REALLY made a difference! Just a few tips from one who has been down that road.
Sorry about your frustrating situation with your Dad's appetite. He may be depressed and it could be affecting his appetite, or maybe he is having difficulty eating certain foods? Have you tried varying what you serbe to see if there is any one thing he seems to enjoy more than other foods? Also try varying food consistency to see if he may find it easier to eat softer foods. Could be any number of things affecting his eating. Troubleshooting always helps.

Regarding why he doesn't know, unless he is suffering from advanced dementia, he may know that not eating is not a good thing. It is hard to be chronically ill and dependent on others for care, even family. It takes mental energy to eat as well as hunger pangs sometimes. Hope you can troubleshoot this one. Either way, he may need medical advice on next steps to keep him from losing strength.

It is hard, and very scary. Hang in there, and keep sharing. It usually helps when you realize that you are not alone. I try to encourage my Mom, and also try to not pressure her to eat more than she can comfortably handle at a time. That seems to offer her a sense of relief that I don't badger her on what she is not eating. Takes time to get there, though. I understand.
The food issues at this house are legendary. My grandfather gets weird food kicks now and then, like when someone loaned him a book about how unhealthy processed foods were...he decided no food was better...we picked up some organic food stuffs and the prices put him back on stuff he has been eating all his life and managed to live to 89 (so far)! He has a fall and decides it isn't that he insists on trying to move around in the dark, or not pick up his feet but that he is too heavy (not) he refuses to believe he shouldn't be able to pick himself up off the floor after a fall so it must be weight not being 89 and weak. I try to get my mom to give him smaller portions but she gets upset and thinks he is being deprived as she literally was starved as a child this is a painful issue. She over loads the plate, he gets upset, she snaps he doesn't have to eat it all. And you are right about the sweet rolls and coffee, he'd live on them if he could. But we do squares and his blood sugar is always where it should be so...
When he'd stop eating mom would explain it to him in auto terminology, you have to stoke the fire, fuel the engine etc, eventually it got through to him he had to eat, that and I baked chocolate chip cookies...what ever works.
It's tha alzheimers my Mom can eat a gallon of ice cream a day!
I try to plan every meal and sit with her..it's hard.
It very well can be the dementia--as Mia Madre has suggested. I had a similiar problem with my Mom as well-however in her case, she was losing the ability to know how to swallo and would push away any food---thus I had to have an aid trick her into eating-and also using ensure type of supplements when needed. If it is he has very little appetite-there is something that could help. Can you check with his physician or neurologist?
It can be very frustrating-however there are some options.
Best with your caregiving experiences~
When Mom first came to live with us, I use to worry more about Mom eating nutritious food. Now I just work on getting any calories in her. She takes a multi vitamin every day and usually has an ensure at lunch, but otherwise I just give her what she likes. We almost always have supper as a family passing around 3 or 4 dishes and I always offer ice cream for desert. A lot of her food preferences are sweets and foods that are easy to chew with her dentures. Good Luck!

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