How can I convince my mother (91) to eat healthier and to walk?

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I'm trying to prevent my mother from having to end up in a hospital because right now I feel she's going down a bad path. Her ankles are swollen, she eats tons of sugary foods, doesn't want salads and healthier foods, and refuses to exercise just a little bit by walking even just a short distance.

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If your mom is competent, then, I'd offer to help provide her some healthy treats, but if not, then let her be. She's 91 years old. Apparently, shes doing something right with regard to her diet and lifestyle. I would concentrate on making her happy and not creating any stress on her. Just lots of love, hugs and delicious treats that make her smile.
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At age of 91, you should be taking care of her like she is your daughter because in this age normally people behaves like a small baby and they do what they want to. So if you want that she would be doing the things as said by you then you should show your love, care and all kindness towards her. As your first motive should be to use sugar free products amongst of pure sugar. Then she would need to eat something and you can simply offer her healthier food on daily basis. And for walk as she is very old, then you should first concern from doctor about her swelling because more walking can also cause problems in her legs and feet. You should consult good dietitian for her diet plan so that she can eat healthy food and can get well as soon as possible.
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Her sneakers look tight on her considering her ankles are swollen, but she doesn't seem to mind it. I take her for a pedicure every 3 wks.or so. Not sure if she has arthritis. I think it's more her back and balance issues. She had both hips replaced, so,not sure if that contributes to her pain.
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Make sure her shoes fit properly and don't hurt her feet. Do her toenails need attention? Sometimes these things are overlooked. Plus I would be real surprised if she doesn't have arthritis in her knees. So maybe some pain medication a little while before walking would be helpful.
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brdlvr1, once someone gets into their 80's and 90's they do lose their sense of taste, except for sugary foods.   My parents were in their 90's and Mom's grocery list was filled with pies, cakes, muffins, Little Debbie treats, ice cream, etc.   I figured my parents got to their age with Mom's cooking, so why mess with it [unless one is diabetic].

As for walking, my parents use to walk 2 miles a day, then one day they pretty much stopped.   In my opinion a lot of this was due to eye sight.   Both wearing bi-focals were have more difficultly finding the curbs to cross the street.   Bones were aching more, too.   Dad's knees were hurting too much.   Heaven forbid if Mom would allow Dad to go outside with his rolling walker, she didn't want the neighbors to think they were getting old.   After a few falls outside, Dad ignored Mom :P

My parents did walk in stores like Target, each had their own cart to use to help balance them, so they got exercise doing that.
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Salads can be difficult for the very old, they are difficult to chew and raw things can be hard to digest. Find some healthier fruit/veggie options that she does eat (soups? stews? smoothies?) and include them more often. And instead of banning foods look for ways to make them less unhealthy, oven fried vs deep fried, fruit pie vs pecan pie, that sort of thing. Of course this only works if you are the one supplying and preparing the food...?

The easiest way to keep her walking is to take her places where she needs to walk, be it the mall, grocery store or beach boardwalk. And someone could go for walks with her to make it more of a pleasant activity and less walking just for the sake of walking. Losing the ability to walk is a huge step down so it is worth making the effort.
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Thank you so much for your quick reply! I do agree it's best not to get adversarial with her because she can get quite oppositional when I suggest that she change some of her habits. It ends up making my visit a disagreeable and stressful one. She's already taking a lot of medications, including diuretics. I bought her salads and fruits, but it doesn't seem she wants those anymore. She does like bananas though. Maybe it's because they give her diarrhea. She did make some reference to that. She's very combative when I suggest she walk down the hallway in her building, for example. Since it's been raining pretty heavily here, we haven't been out as much. Even when I do take her out, the walking is for very short distances. I did make an appt. with a geriatric doctor and she will see her in a couple of weeks. That was difficult too. She claimed I was trying to put her in a hospital. I told her it was just the opposite. I saw what happened to my grandmother who had severe edema in her legs, and refused to ever go to the doctor. She did end up in a hospital for 2 months, then a nursing home for a few weeks, then she died. I don't want to see that happen to her, but I think she's forgotten all that happened to her own mother. It was 37 years ago. So that's where I'm coming from. She has always lived on her own and is very strong willed when it comes to taking care of herself and making her own choices. I just hope she'll listen to the doctor and not go down that same path.
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What you want for your mother makes good sense. But it isn't nearly as important as what she wants for herself. Your profile mentions mobility issues. It doesn't say she has dementia or cognitive issues. In that case she is free to make her own decisions about what she'll eat. She can chose her own path, even if objectively it seems to be the wrong path. Do explain the consequences and benefits and risks of various eating choices, but she is going to choose her own risks.

I suppose what you are really asking is how to get her to make the choices you think she should make. Right? How to motivate her to make good choices.
1) Make sure she knows the potential risks of her choices and benefits of changing.
2) Make good choices easy and convenient. Leave a small bowl of bananas and and easy-peel oranges on her table. Cut up melon (or buy them conveniently cut) and have that at the front of the fridge.
3) Is her doctor concerned about some of these choices? If the doctor would order some physical therapy for her in her home the therapist might have a better chance of getting Mom to walk a bit than a family member does.
4) What does the doctor think causes the ankles to swell? What is the doctor's treatment plan for this? Cut down on salt? Take pills? Walk? If walking hurts her at this point, would something else be good? How about a pedal exerciser -- the kind she can sit in a chair and just pedal her feet?

You want to keep her out of the hospital. -- Great goal! Can you discuss with her medical team which "bad" choice are of greatest concern? Which might not have as much impact on whether she'll need the hospital? Mom MIGHT be more likely to work on changing just one behavior at at time, especially if the doctor impresses her with the benefit of that change.

Here is what my mother's geriatrician told her: "Jean, I'm not going to tell you what to eat. You've made it into your late nineties in pretty good shape. You must be doing something right! But I do need to tell you about a couple of things that would be good for you at this point in your life: Drinking more liquid would be very helpful. And also cutting down on salt or salty foods. Other than that, I think you are doing fine."

Here's what that geriatrician said to me about my husband's diet (and his neurologist said the same thing). Let him eat whatever he wants. Avoid the things that seem hard for him to swallow. Keeping his weight up is probably more important than nutrition at this point. What he eats is not going to cure or worsen his dementia. He enjoys food. Give him that pleasure."

I really hope that your mother will change at least some of her choices to healthier foods and behaviors. But in any case, don't get in an adversarial role with her over this. Having good relationships in the family is a huge factor in her well-being, too.
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