How do you get an elderly man to eat food that's not candy or equivalent?


My father in law blames me for his 20 lb.weight gain. But when it comes to low fat, low sodium food, he will not eat. I use salt substitutes and seasonings. It does not work. And with thyroid problems he needs food.

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I'm assuming that your FIL has dementia and mobility problems from your profile.
You also state that he was an alcoholic.
I'm confused-He can get over to his girlfriends house (mobility problems?) where he gorges on candy in her apartment (need for sugar that replaces the booze) (So if he can get over there then his dementia is in the early stages?) 

He also has hypertension, CHF, thyroid problems and low potassium. Medications are prescribed to treat all of these illnesses. He should be taking them daily. If he's not going to cooperate with being on any planned diet, then the medications will have to be good enough.

You've got a problem with FIL having been an alcoholic and craving sugar, also dementia (possibly triggered by alcohol too).

There is no way to force someone to eat or not to eat. That's one of the few "controls" we have left.

I would imagine you are doing your best on making healthy meals for him, but lighten up a little. (I wouldn't eat a veggie pop either.)

Ask what his favorite dishes are, tweak the recipes a little to REDUCE the salt and see if he eats it. There are artificial salt substitutes out there that are actually made with potassium chloride-a tad bitter but he can shake on as much as he wants.

Lighten up on him and relax yourself. You can't force it to happen. Don't make his last years hell.

It sounds like it's been a lifetime of bad habits that won't be fixed with restricting his diet.

Just my two cents.
Helpful Answer (1)

Abf, I remember my parents being on a low sodium diet.... even try to eat no sodium soup? My gosh, it's like tap water with veggies floating around in it. Ear of corn with no salt? Butter that did NOT taste like it was real butter. The salt substitutes made the food too spicy for me, hello acid relfux.

Note that as we all age we will start to lose our sense of taste, except for sweets. My Mom did keep a supply of Hostess and Little Debbie products, store bakery muffins, pies, ice cream, etc.

I agree with others above, it a person is in their 80's or 90's and want ice cream for breakfast, ask that person if they want one scoop or two.

Oh, neither of my parents passed from hypertension or high blood pressure, so all that salt-free stuff probably helped a little, but it deprived them of a splendid meal.
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My mother is 88, and diabetic. She has junk food all over the place. Says it's for visitors, but she has none, so she's the one eating it.

Honestly? At 88, if she wanted to eat nothing but chocolates all day I wouldn't bust her chops over it. She has do little 'joy' in life. She watches her blood sugar very closely and I suppose uses increased insulin to compensate.

She's funny, tho I have NEVER bugged her about her diet (just don't care, really) she will always tell me exactly what she has eaten for the last 3-4 days between my visits. I guess she wants me to 'know' she doesn't subsists solely on candy and cookies.
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Hi, Jeanne! Yes, you’re absolutely right. I did not realize that the FIL had dementia. I remember my mom lived in her own world with her own reality and future promises or planning wouldn’t have worked with her either. I have to say though, that when our PCP tried to put Hubby on the low sodium diet, it was REALLY difficult to find recipes for him. Going to the supermarket was a religious experience. Every time I read the sodium content on food, I’d exclaim, “Oh, my God!” I got a Heart Association cookbook and this book of down-to-earth recipes really helped. I adapted the recipies  for my Instant Pot and use herbs instead of salts and such. If one makes enough, there is definitely enough for more than one meal. I also agree that ABF cannot force food down his throat. Like the husband in another question who defies his wife by smoking on the sly, this could be ABF’s FIL’s way of his own little rebellion. My mom acted out in many ways that had nothing to do with the subject at hand!
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A healthy diet - even if it comes from the best dietitian in America - is worthless if he doesn't eat it and feels compelled to load up on junk food to satisfy his cravings. I would focus on making the foods he enjoys but tweaking the recipes to be healthier: choose leaner meats, oven fry instead of deep fry, half & half or whole milk instead of full fat creams, etc.
The majority of the salt in our diets doesn't come from the foods we cook at home or the salt shaker on the table it is hidden in every packaged food we buy, so allow enough salt in your recipes to give them flavour.
As for drinking, if he liked beer and wine he may enjoy non alcoholic beer and wine in preference to flavoured water and veggie popsicles (honestly, I can't imagine....I would not thank you for that).
Helpful Answer (3)

My father in law has high blood pressure congenital heart failure,thyroid problems"and low potassium The VA dietician put him on a diet.His boys want him on it.He is an alcoholic that is replacing the alcohol with sugar .If he drinks, can not have his pills.His girlfriend he visits has candy everywhere in her apartment.She weighs 80 lbs. So yes his diet important .And because he will not drink many liquids we use fruit and veggie popsicles and sugar free jello ,besides water flavoring packs for his water bottles.
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Ahmijoy, I'm glad you've become a more creative cook. Good for you!

Just for your information, getting a person with dementia to promise something in the future, like eating what he is served the rest of the week, just doesn't work. It might be a good strategy for people who can still reason and remember promises, but it just doesn't work for dementia. From the profile I assume Abf1202's FIL has dementia. Reasoning and extracting promises is just going to be frustrating for both of them.
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There could be other issues going on here besides FIL’s weight gain, but that’s where it’s manifesting itself. Anyway, I purchased an electric pressure cooker last year and following the recipes, I have become a much better and more creative cook. It’s fast and easy and even my husband compliments me about the dishes I serve. Have you asked FIL what he wants? Tell him that a few times a week you will cook “just for him” if he promises to try and eat what you make the rest of the week.
Helpful Answer (3)

What do you hope to achieve with a healthier diet? Weight loss? Better cognitive functioning? Better blood pressure control?

I think an excellent starting point would be to get a consultation with a registered dietitian with access to data about all his medical conditions, and come up with a reasonable plan.

For example, why is he on a low-salt diet? Does he have blood pressure problems? Some advisers think that reducing salt intake can be bad for thyroid problems (because of iodine). Get an expert's opinion on your FIL's specific situation.

Weight gain or difficulty losing weight is often a result of thyroid problems. Is he being treated for that? Might the treatment need some adjustment? How long has it been since he's seen the doctor about his thyroid?

He needs food, with or without thyroid problems. We all do. He has dementia and other medical issues. He is not open to the logic of needing certain kinds of foods or avoiding others. It doesn't do any good to prepare the "right" foods for him if he will not eat them. A registered dietitian can help you decide whether a plate of Girl Scout peanut butter cookies and a glass of apple juice that he will eat is as good as a low-sodium, low-fat meat that he won't eat.

Your goals regarding his diet are very well-intended. See a professional to help you become well-informed, too.
Helpful Answer (2)

Does it really matter what he eats? I believe there comes a time when trying to get an elder to eat healthy is an uphill battle that causes lots of stress for everyone involved, but little benefit.

I am lucky that my parents have healthy diets, although Dad does eat quite a bit of canned food which has added salt. A former employer of mine's mother lived in England up until the last year of her life. Mum always had a piece of cake or other sweet in the afternoon. Her daughter did not think Mum should have cake. For goodness sake Mum was 90+ years old. A daily slice of cake was not going to hasten her death.

Other than candy what does he like to eat and what has he eaten on a regular basis over is lifetime?
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