MaddyL Asked February 2014

My 83 year old mom won't eat food! What to do?

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I don't want her in a home. Had two surgeries to repair her hyeintal hernia, called fundoplication. That really affected her appetite and the way she eats. She was sent home with a g-tube that was recently removed with the promise that she would drink her ensure 3 times a day and eat better. I have tried everything I can in the kitchen as far as creativity and still she eats a bite maybe and spits it out and this goes on for a long time, however she eats oreo's and candy and ice cream with no problem. Help!

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HolidayEnd Dec 29, 2017
I guess as people age their tastebuds change. My parents were health enthusiasts and ate excellent diets until my mother became unable to cook. Due to my mom’s mobility problems my dad started doing the grocery shopping and look out! He buys frozen dinners, donuts, ice cream and nuts. It was actually shocking to me to come in their house and see my mother eating Blue Bell ice cream out of the gallon container!

They got hooked up with a senior lunch program and then I knew they at least got one meal a day.

Now my mom’s in AL and they have an outstanding cook! She’s finally putting on weight and my dad eats lunch with her off and on. He’s fond of the Hardee’s fast food joint near my mom’s AL facility.
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Chattgranny Dec 27, 2017
My husband of 63 years has heart problems etc. The one thing I have gotten him to eat well is Jello. I put the clear Berry Ensure instead of water, he loves it and doesn't know the Ensure is in it.
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Chattgranny Dec 27, 2017
One thing my husband of 80 plus years would eat was the clear ensure . I used it instead of water in his jello, he loved it.
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Talk to her doctor. Mom going through something similar. Try ProStat and/or ProSource. ProStat is a syrup that can be mixed into ice cream, water to make punch etc. ProSource is a powder can be mixed into foods. Hospital gave it to Mom but readily available as a source of protein. Google it or speak to her doctor, he should know where to get it (even a local hospital might be able to help). I know it's hard, going through it myself. Best of luck to you and your mom.
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JoEna1 Feb 2014
My mother is going through this right now. Has you mother been evaluated for a swallowing disorder? At home my mother chewed even soft food for long periods of time and I had to remind her to swallow. She swallowed eventually but removed some of it from her mouth. After a recent hospitalization for a urinary tract infection, she was transferred to a rehabilitation center for physical therapy. The dietitian there put her on a pureed diet. I assumed that was because the staff could not spend 2 hours watching her eat or feeding her as I did. I still bought chopped food that I prepared, hoping seasoned food would help over their bland food. I even pureed bananas, bought puddings and added honey to food because she always craved sweets. Still she ate less and less. Two weeks ago while encouraging her to sip water through a straw, she was strangling. Her sucking motions were weak. I told the on-duty nurse who recommended that she have a swallowing evaluation.The speech pathologist determined that she had a swallowing disorder. It happens to many elderly people. A gastroenterologist concurred and last week she was given a PEG (feeding tube). At 94-years old, I don't expect that she will go back to eating whole foods. It's been less than a week so I cannot discuss results, but she is alive and I know she's getting nourishment.
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Auntkiki Feb 2014
Me an my husband moved my mom in and her weight was 84 pounds and she is 5'5. That is when we found out she had dementia. She wouldn't eat hardly anything except Hershey Kisses. I started making milk shakes with boost and also the Dr. put her on Megestrol to help with her appetite. I now have her up to 114 pounds and she is eating better. It took me about a yr to get her at this weight. Oh I took her off the Megestrol and she lost her appetite so now she is back on it. I guess that is one more med she will be on from now on.
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IgoZoom Feb 2014
My sister and I took care of our paternal grandmother for about four years until she passed in February 2012. She had COPD (never smoked a day in her life) as well as the worst case of rheumatoid arthritis that the rheumatologist had ever encountered. Because the RA took such a toll on her immune system, she was hospitalized 13 times over the last two years of life for pneumonia and various respiratory infections. She was a tiny woman, barely 4'10" and never reached 90lbs at her healthiest.

About 18 months before she died, she spent 16 days in the hospital due to a Staph infection that turned out to be MRSA. Her doctor was always very compassionate but honest with me and told me that it would take a miracle for her to survive the drug/antiobiotic regimen required to treat MRSA. Amazingly, she made it through and we took her home. She weighed 79lbs the day we checked out of the hospital, compared to 83lbs when we checked in 16 days earlier. When we took her home, she had no appetite and on her best days she might force down half of a BOOST. A week later, she was down to 75lbs and my sister and I were both on the verge of losing it because we didn't know how to help her! We were literally watching her starve to death and it was killing me.

The Nursing Director at our local hospital became one of my best friends and my emotional rock during this time (and still is to this day). I went by to see her and vent some of my anger and frustration about how helpless I felt. She told me that she had just hired a nurse a few weeks earlier who had shared a story with her about a patient who had no desire or interest in eating and was wasting away. The patient liked a particular brand and flavor of nutritional drink (BOOST or Ensure and only vanilla). So the nurse went to the grocery store and found that Haagen Dazs ice cream had the most calories and highest fat content of all brands. She bought several pints of it in vanilla and starting making the patient 'milkshakes' with the ice cream, Boost/Ensure and also included a smoothie/shake mix with high protein content. The patient loved them and those shakes saved her life!

So I immediately went to the grocery store and bought everything to make similar shakes for my grandma. While I was in the ice cream freezer section, after I stocked up on Haagen Dazs, I saw some ice cream made by a local dairy and suddenly a long-forgotten memory from 30+ years earlier came rushing back to my mind! My grandma LOVED their Butter Pecan ice cream when I was a little kid! =) She stopped buying because my grandfather had heart disease and shes forced him to eat very healthy, so we only ate things that all of us could enjoy. I grabbed all 10-12 pints of Butter Pecan on the shelf without another thought.

Within two weeks, she was back up to 78lbs and barely topped 80lbs at the four week mark! Ice cream saved her life!!!

In the 9-12 months prior to her death, she lost her appetite again but I contacted her doctor before she had significant weight loss. He prescribed Remeron, an anti-depressant that is frequently used as an appetite stimulant, and it started working within a few days. For the rest of her life, we just ramped up the dosage of Remeron (with her doc's consent, of course) to keep her eating well.

I hope this helps! I know how difficult it is to deal with this situation and you will be in my thoughts and prayers!

Kindest regards,
JasonR
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LadeeC Feb 2014
Lots of really great ideas, here. When Edna came home unable to eat anything but pureed food, we discovered baby food. Many of them come in tubes you can suck. We made really delicious shakes and smoothies, adding protein powder (Muscle Milk has great flavor) .. anything that tickled her tastebuds. On the other hand, what others have said about aging really holds true, especially after surgery, they have a long comeback period. Be patient and steady, and blessings ..
LadeeC
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Convince your mother that she can have the oreo cookie, a piece of candy, or ice cream after she takes one bite of the meal served to her. I have had experience with elders similar to your mother and I learned the trick of having them convinced that they will get what they want if they perform the way that you want them to perform so that they can get what they want. You know, if the person can do a little simple thing and they feel a grand reward coming their way, then they will do it.
Have your mother eat a bite of her regularly served meal and then she can have one oreo cookie, or a piece of a candy, or even a small serving of ice cream. Do you see what I am trying to say to you? Have your mother do a little something for you so that she can get what she wants. Begin to build into more bites of food for each meal served before she gets another oreo cookie, or candy or ice cream. Compliment her when she does what you want her to do. She will believe that she is outsmarting you when it is the other way around. Am I right?
Alternate between bites of food and servings of sweets. Have her eat a bite of food and then eat a serving of sweet and then back to another bite of food followed by a serving of sweet. Do you see the alternating servings of food and sweets?
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vstefans Feb 2014
I'd have to wonder if the hiatal hernia repair has slipped or otherwise is not quite right. But, you can live well on a liquid diet if you have to, and protein needs are relatively low, so if enough calories are going in and there is a fair amount of milk protein in the ice cream, etc. (don't switch to sherbert or sorbet!) it might be just fine. I'd let her doctor know about this too though.
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