Hi, my mother has been in her nursing home for two months and she refuses to eat the food they prepare. The first month I listened to their recommendations to not visit so she could get adjusted. I would call up and ask for check ups after the first month she nearly lost 15 pounds and they told me they been giving her meal replacements like ensure.This is weird since when she was home she would always eat, never had issues with her eating. I asked if I could bring her food to see if she eats and she does, she has been eating but it defeats the purpose of her being placed since I have to bring her food each day because they do not have a place to store the food for residents, and do not reheat food for safety reasons. Any suggestions cause I cannot keep going everyday to bring her food it is about an hour drive for me. It appears she does not like the food. To be fair the food does kind of suck reminds me of old school lunches. This is all we could afford though, she is on Medicaid.

Your mother only wants home cooked meals like she had her whole life . Facility food is never going to match her expectations . I would try having some take out food delivered a couple of times a week to try it even though you said she never ate take out before. You can’t keep driving back and forth . Since Covid , just about every restaurant prepares food to go now for Door Dash to pick up . Maybe a diner , or a restaurant like the Cracker Barrel that has more home like meals . Also you could order the things she used to eat out in restaurant . Your Mom is going to have to give in to a degree. If you keep bringing food everyday she will not have a reason to try to get used to other food . Bring her a meal you made once a week .
Helpful Answer (11)
Reply to waytomisery

Is it a matter of not liking ANY of the meals there, or is she mad about being in the NH?

My grandmother had to go to a rehab for a few months after she broke her hip. It was a nice place, even she admitted that. Food was okay, but not slop either. Even so, she was mad at the whole situation and didn't think she needed the rehab. She refused to eat and of course lost weight. Refused Ensure and the like. Just dug in her heels. I'd watch her nibble on a piece of lettuce for 5 whole minutes, then she'd insist she'd eaten. She was basically on a hunger strike.

Finally her doctor sat next to her bed and asked if she'd like a feeding tube. She of course said "No!". The doctor calmly told her that he couldn't force her to get a tube. Then he told her that if she did not eat, she was going to die sooner than later. That scared her. Guess who ate half her dinner that night?

Of course that is just one possibility; it may be a whole other issue with your mother. If she's drinking the Ensure she's at least getting some nutrients and calories.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to LoopyLoo

Check if she has menus printed out that she can read. The home I am in has 4 weeks of menus, lots of daily variety along with substitutions. YOU should DEMAND (politely, but firmly) one for the current week and/or for every week cycle they have. Homes rarely give out spices, sauces, etc. Few of us here buy our own to make the food more enjoyable. There is nothing wrong with our food and its preparation, but is flavorless. Do not let the home say she cant have seasonings or spices because of blood pressure. I am on 3 BP meds and because of it I CAN use the spices. You can start by buying her black pepper, cinnamon, onion powder, garlic powder, italian blend seasonings (usually 3-5 dried herbs), salt or salt substitute, etc. Also ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, olive oil (these do not require refrigeration). I practically have a pantry in my part of the room. Think about snacks too. If she is not diabetic, buy her hard candy, lolipops, chocolates, in bags, the "fun size" or "snack size", not full bars.

I wish I could show you my printed menus so you or others could see what is possible, but I dont think you can attach images,

Anyway, if you need more info, let me know.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to MrNobody

Sorry you are dealing with this. It is not an easy journey and the nursing home journey part has just started for both of you.

Time does help, some need a lot of time to adjust. Mine maybe got there a bit after nearly 3 years. Sigh.

Talk with the dietician there (they should have one) and see if she can pick her meals for the week upcoming. That helped with my mom. She could choose a hot dog (her favorite food) for dinner every night if she'd eat it.

The advice about condiments is a good one. Assuming no dietary issues (again talk with the dietician) little pkgs of catchup, soy sauce, hot sauce, relish, mustard, lemon, etc can go a long way to "spicing up things" served if she has a favorite or a few favorites. The little pkgs require no refrigeration. Obviously salt and sugar restriction may be an issue, but you can find low sodium or items made w/"fake" sugar.

Check to see if she is having any problems with eating, go, let them bring lunch/dinner and just watch. Again my mom's favorite food was hot dogs but the long ones on a bun were too much for her to handle as she only had the use of one arm. Spaghetti (another favorite food) was too hard for her to manage or a huge sandwich. Solution: pigs in a blanket, small pasta like rigatoni or penne she could manage with a spoon, or just cold cuts rolled up with slices of bread on the side. She was too embarrassed to say she could not use a knife to cut things and things that were too big/long were hard to handle with one hand/arm.....

Rather than brining food daily, switch to once a week as a treat on a Friday if she (the nurses/aides confirmed) she ate 75% of what was provided. Maybe start with 65% and work up. Sadly, somewhat like getting a resistant kid to eat; if there is a treat (my mom's favorite was pizza or chicken tenders) then that might encourage/help her eat more of what they provide.

Find health snacks (again, check w/the dietitian) that do not require refrigeration (dried apricots, real fruit/fruit rollups, tree nuts -- almonds, walnuts). There is a great product which is almond butter (high in protein) with chocolate in individual squeeze pkts -- lots of calories in almonds assuming she likes "peanut butter." Avoid the chocolate if diabetes is a concern. High protein bars. There are other options perhaps she might like that are individually packaged that are high in protein and calories she might like.

And there are Rx meds to discuss with her MD at the NH. They ended up prescribing Mirtazapine/Remeron for my mom. It is both an appetite stimulant AND an anti-depressant. Of course I have NO idea if this specific Rx is something your mom can take; but discuss with her physician at the HR what Rx meds they can consider that might help w/both appetite and depression. Depression is very common and some folks loose interest in most things including eating.

Lastly, does she socialize? If meals can be taken in the dinning hall where there are others, this becomes a social thing and sometimes they will eat more if/when they are with the other "gals" at their favorite table. My mom sadly refused to leave her room in the 3+ years other than for the required shower in the shower room. But she finally did start eating better! Pigs in a blanket for every dinner; but she ate them.....
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Reply to Sohenc

Perhaps part of the deal is that refusing food has been forcing you to visit every day. One option might be to get food delivered from a take-out place. See if she eats it – which indicates whether this is really about the quality of the food. Another option might be to make her cold meals that could be kept in a fridge and wouldn’t run into the facility’s rules not to re-heat food. A week of each option could be informative.

As LoopyLoo indicated, many elders are quite capable of ‘games’ to make the NH option ‘unworkable’ for you.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to MargaretMcKen
Adulting00 Apr 9, 2024
She does not eat takeout. My mom was a SAHM we never did takeout, if we went out to eat it always something she could not easily do at home or could not recreate easily due to time.

She always prepared and cooked meals each day, even left overs were not much a thing in our house. My mom was a great cook.

She is not really a huge fan of cold meals. Outside of things like sushi and sweet things like fruit salads, cheesecakes, I would not even call those meals lol.
She’s playing mind games to “force” you out there. They all complain about the food, it’s inevitable.

Stop going.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to ZippyZee
MissesJ Apr 15, 2024
Agreed. Plus, this is what one generally deals with in a Medicaid situation. She had her whole life to plan for a different outcome.
I’m not judging—I will likely end up the same due to my circumstances.
Is your mum able to communicate to you what the problem is?
My mum finally stopped eating last autumn. The stroke she suffered 13 years ago damaged the part of her brain that controls appetite, so she doesn't feel hunger. Now, dementia has changed how food tastes. Also, she doesn't want to be bothered, and the physical sensation of food bothers her.

I thought that the reason she didn't want to drink the milkshake supplement was because of the taste, but she finally found the words to explain that it tastes okay, but she doesn't like the consistency. So, now, it's made with more milk and strained through a sieve after mixing. She still doesn't want it, but she drinks it better.

I know that you said the food in the care home isn't nice, but there may be meals she dislikes more than others so they can be avoided, or something else that would make the food more palatable. The bottom line is, there isn't another option.

You will burn yourself out if you keep going there everyday with home cooked meals. You're no good to anyone if your own health suffers. If your mum still has an appetite, it is likely that she will start to eat the food when there is no other choice. And, really, there is no other practical choice.

I agree with others that antidepressants may help. It wouldn't hurt for your mum to be given something to help lift her mood.

I know that my mum will eventually stop drinking the supplement (sometimes it takes 45 minutes for her to drink a 100ml shake). When that happens she will die. There's nothing that I can do to change that, and I have come to accept the situation. But I believe in quality of life over quantity, and I wouldn't want my mum to linger in discomfort or distress.

You need to make peace with your decision to place your mum in care. You did it for the right reasons. It isn't perfect, but that is rarely attainable. She's being looked after, she's safe, and that has to be good enough.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to MiaMoor

Unfortunately, the quality of the food does depend on the particular facility.

My dad’s facility where he did rehab after his stroke wasn’t very good.

The place where mom did her rehab had good food. Mom’s rehab facility also stored special treats like ice cream in their freezer for her when I brought it for her to enjoy.

You are going to wear yourself out if you keep going there daily to bring your mom food.

Have you discussed this situation thoroughly with staff members in her facility?

The facility that my mom did rehab would allow a person to have a sandwich if they didn’t like the hot meal that was served.

Mom and I didn’t bring food to my dad when we visited. He did manage to eat something off of his plate. If the food would have been absolutely awful, I guess my mom would have considered bringing something to him.

Does your mom’s facility allow her to have snacks in her room? Can you purchase easy nutritional snacks for her to keep in her room? Perhaps, fruit, even canned fruit in single serving containers, peanut butter and crackers, etc.

Since she is eating the food that you bring, she still has an appetite. I don’t know if I would assume that she is trying to be manipulative to get you to visit daily. What do you think?

Margaret’s idea of food delivery is another option that might help.

Talk with the staff about this again and see what feedback you get. Best wishes to you and your mom.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to NeedHelpWithMom
Adulting00 Apr 9, 2024
Sorry for the late reply, yes I have spoken in detail with the facility. I do not think it is an aspect of manipulation on her part, my mother has always been the home cook meal type. She was a SAHM so she would prepare and cook meals everyday we never had leftovers and if we went out to eat as a family it always had to be something she could not easily make at home.

My mom never really liked processed foods. I did ask if I could give her a mini fridge but they said no. I snuck in a mini desk fridge that is meant to keep drinks cool. I have put snacks in that for her but it is small, but just eating fruits is not going to last. She likes things, like mango, jackfruit, durian(which I cannot bring because of the smell), apples(which I have to peel and cut, she has always eaten them that way).

I spoke with the facility and they told me they cannot force her to eat, but if it gets bad feeding tube is a option.

I have tried to eat the food myself it is bad, but my options are limited. I did speak with someone from JCC about meals on wheels and they told that program is meant for people that do not have food, not those that do have food but don't want to eat it.
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Thanks for the suggestions, I will try them. Never heard of cracker barrel but I will look into it.

To be frank I am not even sure how anyone eats the food where my mom is placed. I feel horrible that I had to place her but options were limited. I guess you get what you pay for.

Even ordering take out will add up. These diease sucks it is like one gaint money sink.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to Adulting00
NeedHelpWithMom Apr 9, 2024
Is there another nursing home that has good food nearby that you could move her to?
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You say that “this was the only facility that had open beds, rest had massive wait lists, unfortunately”. Is the food the only real issue with this facility? If it is, it may be worth making an appointment with admin and pointing out that the poor food is actually harming their business. Food can depend on good cooks just as much as expensive ingredients. Admin probably don’t eat the meals themselves, and may not know that it is a real problem that leads to empty beds.

It’s a challenging thing to do yourself, but it might just be worth it for you as well as for the ‘business’.
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Reply to MargaretMcKen

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