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My mother has mild dementia and is forgetful. She also has a lack of smell/taste (I realized they go together). She has no appetite but willingly eats to stay healthy. I can feed her almost anything, fortunately. The doctor is considering her situation and is not sure she will ever get her smell/taste back.

As a side note, I suspect her memory might be part of the problem. Maybe this sounds odd, but I kind of think she's forgotten what some/most/all foods taste like. Is that likely?

Meanwhile, I do want to make eating more interesting for her. My husband and I now use a variety of colors and textures to make eating more interesting for her and that is working.

By accident, I discovered that she actually can taste some things. The other night, I gave her a piece of raw rhubarb. I was eating a piece and thought maybe she'd be able to taste something that strong. She sure could taste it. It's the first time she's ever spit anything out. She exclaimed loudly and said, "Don't ever do that to me, again!" Now, I know she can taste bitterness.

I'd known that losing some of your tastes doesn't mean you've lost all of them. However, does anyone have any advice how I can use that to advantage in making feeding her more interesting without making things too gross (no more raw rhubarb, for one!)?

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Well I recently saw in the news that smelling peanut butter can be an early test for dementia. Here's an article about the study. http://news.ufl.edu/2013/10/08/alzheimers-test/ In case they strip out that link, the key part is "The scientists found that patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease had a dramatic difference in detecting odor between the left and right nostril — the left nostril was impaired and did not detect the smell until it was an average of 10 centimeters closer to the nose than the right nostril had made the detection in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. This was not the case in patients with other kinds of dementia; instead, these patients had either no differences in odor detection between nostrils or the right nostril was worse at detecting odor than the left one.

One of the first places in the brain to degenerate in people with Alzheimer’s disease is the front part of the temporal lobe that evolved from the smell system, and this portion of the brain is involved in forming new memories."

The previous posts about amiodarone is very interesting to me because my mom is on that and her appetite has gone down dramatically in the past year. Maybe it's from a lack of sense of smell. I've tried everything to get her to eat more. At least your mom is eating. Funny that she's tired of your experiments. You just have to make them more undercover, LOL.

I'm always trying to figure out my mom's lack of short-term memory and testing different theories about what she can/will remember. So far I'm completely stumped as to how her brain works with memories. She tolerates my experiments so far. :)
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Mom is tired of my scientific experiments with her tastebuds. So, I'd somewhat given up on my effort to figure out what she really likes. She insists she's happy and doesn't want to figure this out and for me to kind of just stop it. :-)

However, by chance, I found out something new. In the summer, I make a pitcher of sweet tea and a pitcher of unsweetened iced tea. Mom had been alternating between the two, but now is only asking for the sweet tea. She said she can tell the difference. She said she doesn't think she can taste the sweetness, but there's something different and more pleasant about the sweet tea.

Because of the sugar, the sweet tea is smoother. I asked her if that's what she means, but she says she doesn't know if that's what it is. It's possible she is actually tasting some difference.
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I went to get some groceries and picked-up some BBQ sauce. Mom's response was that she could taste acid. She didn't think she could taste anything in it except that. But, it was worth a try so thanks for the suggestion.
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Geo, let us know about the BBQ sauce test?

Bookluvr, perhaps sweet, sour and salty are the foods which do stimulate taste buds. I'll b glad to test the sweet aspect and eat some more chocolate. I'll do it for the cause!
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When my dad was still eating real food, he liked salty and sour food. So, whatever takeout I brought home, he would either drown it with tomato catsup, sea salt or sauer kraut.
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Comment on BBQ sauce: I'm out of it but going to buy it next store visit. Your comment on it stimulating the taste buds makes me wonder if the vinegar does this. What I'm wondering is if having the vinegar kind of wakes up the taste buds to get them to taste the spices in there. This is just me pondering "out loud."

Comment on the blender: I had a friend who could taste but couldn't chew. He would throw absolutely everything into a blender. He would eat out and have the restaurants do the same. One night, we went to a restaurant and he ordered lasagna and had them blend it. I tried it and it was actually really good, that way. He told me he'd ask for entire meals to be blended, too. So, for anyone out there with someone who can taste but not chew, blending meals can be a real option.
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My mom loves guacamole and salsa. She can't eat chips so I serve it over spinach and mixed salad greens that I mulch down in the food processor. I have also been making smoothies with coconut water with your choice of fruits, like pineapple, bananas, mangoes, celery, spinach, and mixed field greens. That way she gets fresh fruits and veggies. Dark green leafy veggies have lots of protein. Avacados and coconut oil are good fats. Hope this helps.
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Sounds like your doctor(s) are approaching the combination of meds cautiously, which is good. Makes sense not to change too many meds simultaneously.

It's occurred to me that the rib sauce may have something in it which stimulates taste buds. My father can't tell when milk is soured but he sure can love those ribs!

Please post back about the rib sauce experiment - I'm curious if it will affect with your mother's tasting ability.
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Right now, they won't change her BP medication. They're changing a bunch of her other medications and trying to see the effects and said that they'll only change a limited number at a time so that they can understand which changes are causing which things. And, I think it's going to be quite awhile before they're done as she's got a number of things they're trying to adjust. So, we just have to work around this, for now.

But, thinking about what you said about the rib sauce, I'm going to give her a spoonful of BBQ sauce and see what she says. She's a bit annoyed at the experiments with her taste buds but she goes along with it when I do it (more or less).
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Perhaps her doctor can try a different BP med?

Herbal tea is a great idea.

It took months if not years before my father's taste buds recovered from the damage done by the Amiodarone. Ribs was one food that helped them - perhaps it was the aroma of the sauce that stimulated his taste buds??

He still has some permanent loss of smell and taste though.
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Thanks for the tips. No, I haven't tried lemonade, but I will, now that you've suggested it.

No to more salt - she has high blood pressure and is supposed to keep it down. Actually, I'm not sure if she can taste salt. This is where I start to wonder if she's forgotten what it tastes like or really just can't taste it. And I think it's her blood pressure medication that her doctor suspected of her smell/taste issues, but I'm not 100% certain.

One day, I gave her a cup of Harney & Sons raspberry herbal tea and she thought she could taste something, but she wasn't sure. Now, I make her that tea every once in awhile and she's not sure if she can taste it and I don't press her. But that's the only other thing she has or has thought she could taste (besides the rhubarb, I mean).
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Herbal flavorings might help; get organically grown herbs if possible. Onions and garlic may help as well and they're both helpful foods. Salt makes food more tasty to some, but I wouldn't recommend it beyond what's naturally occurring in foods, unless your mother's doctor feels she could use more salt safely. There's also sea salt, but I haven't compared it to iodized salt for taste.

Has your mother ever taken Amiodarone for cardiac issues? if so, that could also be the cause of a loss of taste and sense of smell. We were informed by our neurologist that it can cause these things and can also contribute to if not cause neuropathy as well.

Using assorted colors is an excellent idea. Try more organic foods as well - they actually have taste, compared to some of the Frankenfoods in the stores.

Can she taste lemonade? Lemon taste is used by speech therapists to stimulate swallowing reflexes in dysphagic patients. Lemon has such a distinct taste it might help your mother.
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