My mother eats 2 bites of food each meal and lives on ensure. How can I get her to eat more than ensure?

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My 87 year old father in law, who lives with us, only eats a few bites but always drinks ensure......too much ensure. He had 6 of them after his few bites of breakfast. He has parkinson's and has lost his appetite but will drink Ensure all day. I am waiting for a response from his doctor to see if this is okay. We have tried EVERYTHING to get him to eat, but nothing works.
Please ask them if there is any favorite food you can make for them...it gets tougher to get them to eat as time goes on, cause they loose their sense of taste
He has dementia with his Parkinsons so he will say he is hungry when I ask him and I will go cook him a good supper, but then he won't eat a bite but goes and gets an ensure. Have tried every restaurant in town and no matter what or where, he only eats a few bites of food..I think...to just please us as he is certainly not hungry like he used to be. But isn't it strange that he will go to the kitchen and get an ensure 6 times in a row after I fix a breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, oats with raisins..just a few bites then it is the back and forth runs to the frig for the ensures..one at a time. it is almost like he forgets he just had one and he will get up on his walker as soon as his finishes one to go get another. We are at our wits end.
My Mom is 90 years old, was doing great until last August when diagnosed with moderate dementia. She had made decision to go into a retirement home shortly before the diagnosis so she was happy with her move. In February she was diagnosed with gallstones in her bile duct. After 2 unsuccessful attempts via ERCP stones were finally removed on 3rd try. Following that, Mom remained in hospital another 5 weeks while regaining strength. She has now returned to her retirement home but has no appetitie whatsoever. I have cooked her favourite foods (the meals at the retirement home are good!) but when I bring them in she doesn't want to eat. If I coax/bribe/threaten her she will eat but I have a fulltime job (currently on leave but have to go back to work in a couple of weeks) and won't be able to be there at every meal to coax. She drinks 3 juice-flavoured Boost drinks a day, 1 box of Resource 2.0 a day and 1 tbsp beniprotein with each meal. I have read on this site about medication to stimulate the appetitie. Are these medications available in Canada does anyone know? Mom's appetite had started to decrease shortly after Christmas when I think back. Is this nature's way of the "beginning of the end" .... ? She is healthy otherwise, she still laughs, still has times of complete clarity but also has "sundowners" confusion some evenings. She is never aggressive and is frustrated by her inability to remember things. Prior to the gallstone incident she attended exercise classes every day at the retirement home, she played bingo, cards, even sang in the church choir! Am I forcing her to eat when her body is trying to shut down?? Of course it breaks my heart to think I may lose her soon, no one wants to ever lose a loved one, but I can't imagine letting her just waste away/starve to death. I am the only family Mom has aside from her siblings, the youngest is 80 and the oldest is 96 (and in great health!).
The doctor just called us and said let him drink all the Ensure he wants as it is better than nothing. I had told him he had drank 6 of them after breakfast...in a ROW...but the doc didn't seem concerned. So...the doctor said don't force the food, just present it but all the ensures he wants is fine!
I agree with your doctor. My mother does the same thing, eats a few bites then goes after the Ensure. She is in her early 90's and does not have many good teeth left. Although she has good dentures, I think she has trouble chewing. Also she can't taste food anymore. Sweet is about the only taste sense she has left. And she has digestive problems (also has gall stones and refuses surgery), so the Ensure is an easy digest. When people get old they don't have an appetite so why beg, threaten and cajole them to eat. Just let them take what they can. Believe me they won't die from starvation.
If the ensure was not available he may be hungry enough to eat meals sometimes you need to try different things-maybe you can leave 2-3 cans available and when they are gone he has to wait for a meal or he may be thirsty and a glass of water would help.
Thank you for letting us know what the doctor said, goincrazyinky. (I remember once calling the pediatricians office to ask how long a child could survive on peanut butter and french fries. They said they didn't really know because they only follow patients until they are 20 or so, but it was at least that long. We know what we "should" eat, but it is amazing how adaptable our bodies are.)

Agedtchr, is your mother's weight stable? Have you discussed her eating habits with her doctor?
goincrazyinky, does your FIL sometimes cough or choke when eating? Swallowing ability is often impaired in this kind of disorder. If he has had some episodes of choking when eating he might simply be trying to avoid that. My husband likes thick milkshakes with a Carnation Instant Breakfast and fresh fruit blended in, and he likes V-8 juice. He does eat regular meals, but when he is feeling weak or tired I resort to milk shakes. Pasta and soups seem to be good choices for him. He eats yogurt every day.

My husband's sense of hunger is also impaired. He eats when I prepare food for him. I think he could/would go days without eating if left on his own. He eats well when I tell him it is time to, though. If dementia is involved, I would definitely not withhold the Ensure and hope hunger motivates him to eat something else.
AGED:

She has to eat, breathe, and move; and it doesn't look like she's doing much of anything except survive on the supposed insurance of Ensure. It's packed with vitamins, minerals, and fat (about 50% per can), and it's not meant as a substitute for real food. It might sound simplistic, but when you make a habit of not eating you stop feeling hungry. Stomach rattles, your intestines howl and burn from constriction. After a while, you gravitate towards cold liquids, custards, purees, etc. to slow down the wasting.

I'm no scientist, but metabolism slows down with age and you're supposed to eat less. Two bites a meal is ridiculous and a clear sign something's wrong. She might be sick, chronically depressed, or too exhausted to exercise her jaws for some reason. ... And a even a case of Ensure isn't going to cure it.

Call the doctor and ask if there's a nutritionist available. If not, get a referral. Good luck.

-- Ed

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