RebeccaS Asked October 2008

Mom refuses to eat, so how can I get her the nourishment she needs?

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I really need some help/advice. My 88 year old mom will not eat very much at all. She has some depression/anxiety which means toward evening she gets even worse (she is on an anti-depressant). She also has trouble because of her dentures (which she now hates) which she has had since she was in her 40's). She sometimes refuses to have her teeth in and it is not possible for her to drink or eat without them. We use a lot of the ensure type drinks to get as much nutrition in her in the early part of the day. Are there better ideas for increasing her nourishment. Ideas for working on her moods and anxiety. Thanks so much, I'd appreciate any help.

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EXPERT Carol Bradley Bursack Oct 2008
Some nutrients can increase appetite. Depression and anxiety decrease it. It sounds as if your doctor is in on this, and that's good, since so many things can contribute to lack of appetite, including organs that just don't function well enough so the body wants food, and medications that cause nausea (her antidepressant?) Perhaps a different drug would work better.

My mother didn't have much of an appetite her last years, and it's not fun to have people badgering you to eat. I promised her I wouldn't do that. Fluids are the most important, and we'd encourage her to drink as much fluid as she could. She would drink a little nutritional drink, but not much. I brought her fresh fruit because she liked that. That gave her some energy and nutrition. Not enough, of course, but something. She kept losing weight.

I imagine your mother's dentures are uncomfortable, and she doesn't have much bone left to even "glue" them in with a fixing product. My dad had that problem, since he lost his teeth due to a health problem, when he was in his thirties. Without teeth, the bone deteriorates and there's nothing left to put hold the dentures in. That was a huge issue with dad, and contributed to his not wanting to eat.

That shouldn't affect your mother's drinking liquids, though, so there may be more to it than that.

Good luck with this tricky problem. I envision my kids worrying about this with me, as I've always had a touchy stomach, just like my mom. Meds of any kind can be a problem. Keep pushing the doctor to try different options, unless she is just at a point where he says her body doesn't want food. But it doesn't sound like she's at that point.
Carol
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cgagnon2 Oct 2011
m is 86 and having major issues with constipation and fluid retention. She can no longer take higher doses of water pills. She is currently on 20 mg of Lazix . She only eats a small breakfast and sleeping most of day. She doesn't care for the Boost drinks however when she was in hospital they gave her boost puddings which at that time she would not eat. We saved them and now she prefers them to liquid boost. I have looked in most stores and cannot find any puddings. Only bars and liquid drinks. Do you know where we might be able to purchase puddings?
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I like to cook so I'd make pudding out of the box and simply add the liquid boost in
stead of milk or water per the instructions on the box, OR you can put the boost
in the blender with a banana or some other fruits for a smoothy, if it is hot weather
you can freeze into pops. Lastly, play the game 'Redlight/ Greenlight...pretending to eat with the elder with this game using a hour glass timer. Look at kindergarten eating games too. We have the same problems with 3 or 4 yr olds who don't want to eat or are just picky and taking forever and a day to eat so little.
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Eddie Nov 2011
BECCA:

Anti-depressants won't do anything for you when the underlying causes of the depression persist. When I used to take these "happy pills" I felt a little perkier, and would smile all over the place. People on the subway would stare at me as if to say "What the f__ is wrong with this cat?" or just slide down the seat and put some distance between us.

When the effects wore off, the depression was still there. Food tasted all the same to me (rust?). I'd lift a sandwich to my lips, stare at it, and cry. (Wish the AgingCare article "5 Reasons Why Crying Is Good For You" had been around.) Went to my psychiatrist, a licensed drug dealer, and he offered even more meds to mask the symptoms. I told him I wanted to figure out the underlying causes of my depression so I could do something about it. He didn't help much. So I went to my neighborhood bartender. A little talk therapy, and I had an epiphany. I'm not going to go into it, as we'll be here all day.

Anyway, I have 2 suggestions: (1) The idea of gumming your food is depressing in itself, so I'd go with soft foods that you don't have to fight with; and (2) Being cooped up 24/7 will definitely perpetuate the depression. She needs to walk around a bit more, or go to a nearby park and hobnob with her peers on a park bench. It might not be Park Avenue, but it's a start. Commiserating with people in her age group might alleviate some of the depression enough to have a large bowl of creamed chicken, and finish it.

Sorry my love, but as Carol said this is a tricky problem. No cookie-cutter formula, no clear-cut solution. Only suggestions. Hope mine help.
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topaz Oct 2008
I went thru this with my mother. No matter what I fixed she wouldn't eat. I wanted to pull my hair out. I was trying everything I could think of . My mother wouldn't drink ensure. What few meals she would eat I was making over and over for her. While talking with a friend who cares for her mother, she suggested I try some products she gave her mom. So she sent me some to try. Vitamins, shakes,can drinks and mixes,and bars. All the products have nutrients in them. My mother has started to eat more. It's worth trying. Let me know if you want more info. She can even tell you which vitamins to use. I have even started taking the vitamins. My mother's doctor appoved we are beging to notice some other changes.
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mrst53 Oct 2011
My 83 yr old Mom has Alzheimers and has now started to eat very little and not snack in between. The biggest problem is that she is lactose intolerant- it gives her terrible belching, that so far the doc and I are just hitting and missing on trying to find a med that will work. So there goes the ensure or shakes.. She won't eat the bars any longer...Help
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195Austin Oct 2011
My mother was nausated by one of her meds for oseoporosis it was an injectable med that she finally stio taking but her doctor's nurse told her to take it at night and that fixed the problem so that might help-taking her meds at a different time of the day. Carnation iinstant breakfast is cheaper than ensure and has the same ingredients and our hospital started using when I pointed that out to a dietician and my mother uses that and as Carol said fruit is good for them-the best is not to bug them about eating I just tell her to eat what she wants to eat and never put food on her plate or mention anything about how much she eats.
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bluej Nov 2011
It looks like you can order Boost pudding online from Walgreens. Just type "Boost Pudding" into Google and a bunch of sites will come up.
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Have you checked the side affects of the meds that she takes? I did that for my mom after she was no longer interested in eating and found one medication that among the numerous side affects was anorexia! I also found that there were other problems that she was having listed as well (edema, depression, anxiety, stomach problems along with some other problems that she was having).

3 days after stopping the med she started eating decent again (not great, but there was a definite improvent... and she has problems with her dentures too). Also, switching from some name brand to generic are known to create problems for some because of absorption issues... my mom being one of them.
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