My dad (87) loved eating. Brother has put him on a strict diet and now Dad says all he wants to do is die?


My dad was always one of those guys who could eat anything and never gain weight...until he got older and was less active.. Then he began to put on weight and then even more when mom died. I believe he turned to food to take the pain away. For the last eight years, he's had a real love affair with food to the point it was the only thing (besides going to the casino) that made him happy.

Problem was, he was also a lifetime smoker and that, along with being a foodie, have left him with congestive heart failure, COPD and liver desease...three reasons he's not living alone anymore. A few months ago, being up to nearly 225 lbs (he's 5'10 tall) he had a real issue with gout that put him into the hospital, and his sugar levels were high, so they told him in front of my brother that he really should try to lose some weight and start watching his sugar levels closely.

My brother has always been a health nut and he's hated the way dad's been eating so he's taken this opportunity to put my dad on a very strict diet of few carbs, no sweets, no salt, and very small portions. At first that sounded ok to me, but now I'm not so sure. The last couple of times I've talked with him he just says how awful life is now that he's not allowed to eat. One of the problems is his dentures hurt him so he won't wear them and everything soft is "bad" for him. So he really is always hungry.

My sister in law, who is the main caregiver, confirmed that he's totally miserable and that when she tries to talk to my brother about it, but he refuses to listen, that he doesn't want to see dad die in pain like he was with the gout, not on his watch anyway.

So what is the answer here? In a few short month's dad's dropped back down to around 190. The way I see it is he's 87 years old with congestive heart failure and COPD... what more damage could this food do? I wonder if the metal anguish he's feeling by not being able to eat what he's loved all his life isn't worse then the physical problems the food might cause. At least with the physical he can take a pain pill...not much he can do about the misery. I did suggest antidepressants, but my sister in law says the Doctor is worried about how they would mix with some of his meds.

This is breaking my heart for dad, and yet I understand why my brother thinks he should eat healthier. but is that practical at this point in his life?? Anyone have any suggestions? Has this happened to anyone?

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Find Care & Housing


This kind of restriction makes me fit to explode. The poor man is 87 years old and has lost his wife. Does it really matter if he eats himself to death as long as he is competent to make that choice.
Of course no one wants to loose a parent but do you want him to live in misery?
I am 77 with multiple health problems and was put on a soft cardiac diet in the hospital due partly to dysphagia.
I was severely emaciated with muscle wasting and any food I could get down was a plus. No sugar no salt,fat free milk (white colored water) cream ha ha of wheat made with water. A cup of luke warm water and a tea bag. Scrambled eggs made with dried egg powder, no salt or ketchup. offered a sandwich and when it came two slices of plain bread and slices of meat, canned fruit in water, plain fat free yogurt. What did i do? i wasn't hungry so did not care if i ate or not but told them id they brought another tray like that into my room I would throw it out into the corridor. Didn't do any good so hubby brought in a mini fridge stocked with full fat milk,cans of fruit in heavy syrup. Yogurt with fruit on the bottom. smoked salmon. I still could not eat much because of being so sick but i did try. The nurses were merely amused and encouraged me with cups of coffee with 1/2 and 1/2 and as much sugar as I wanted and hot chocolate with extra cream. there were also cans of regular ginger ale not the diet stuff.
my point is that when seriously ill or at the end of life.
How many people write on this forum that their loved one in the end stages of dementia is eating less and less and they are afraid they are starving themselves to death. Dad may be eating him self to death. There is the healthy way to deal with this then there is the kindly way. End of life are is about comfort. Dad is not comfortable. OK I am ready for the bricks to start flying as I know so many people won't agree with my point of view but all I can say is been there done that and it is a rocky road to travel.
Helpful Answer (9)

Pam, one of the first things we are doing is going fishing. Found out there's a state park only 20 minutes away and no fishing license is needed when fishing inside of state parks in Texas! I so hope it doesn't rain. Brother and sis and law are going on to be spending the weekend out, so I'm also taking him to the Golden Corral after a day of fishing. It's his favorite restaurant and he turns 87 on the 24th so it's my Birthday present to him. And we're NOT telling my brother! LOL!
Helpful Answer (9)

It sounds as though your brother won't listen to you or his wife, so perhaps it might be helpful if your dad could see a dietitian to plan a diet that is a little more flexible.
Helpful Answer (8)

"I wonder if the mental anguish he's feeling by not being able to eat what he's loved all his life isn't worse then the physical problems the food might cause." Yes. Yes it is worse. What is the point in living longer and hating it?

"Has this happened to anyone?"
Yes. A special diet was recommended for my husband. In his case it wasn't for weight control, it was about swallowing issues. He tried it faithfully for a month, and became more and more depressed. Finally he said to me, "I am really sorry, but I just can't do this. I'd rather take my chances on choking or dying from aspiration pneumonia than to live like this." And we dropped the diet.

(BTW, both his PCP geriatrician and the behavioral neurologist who treated his dementia supported his decision to ditch the diet.)

It would be good for Dad to lose some weight. He lost the weight. There are ways of maintaining that loss or minimizing what he might regain without being on a depression-causing strict diet with lots of limitations.

As a foodie myself, I think what your brother is doing is cruel and unnecessary. And it probably is NOT what the medical staff had in mind when they advised "lose some weight."
Helpful Answer (7)

im 58 yrs old and ill eat automobile batteries if you suggest i shouldnt . free will is a big deal in the usa .
Helpful Answer (7)

As long as your dad is competent, why can't he decide for himself what he will eat? It's not your brother's decision. At 87 years of age with health issues, it would seem it's your dad who should decide what he eats. It might be concerning to brother, but it's not his decision to make if he's not legally the person in charge. Dad might name his Durable Power of Attorney and make sure everyone knows his wishes, which doesn't include a strict diet.
Helpful Answer (6)

Try to get your brother to compromise, with perhaps one sweet food per day or per meal - just make the proportions smaller.

Getting your father to stop smoking would be the best of all though.

Another alternative if you live close enough is to take your father out for lunch or dinner weekly, if that's possible, so he does have something to look forward to.

I think food takes a higher level of need in terms of satisfaction for older people; sometimes it's all they have left.

But there are healthy diets that aren't deprivation diets. You might try doing some research on them and see how you can supplement your father's diet, or make suggestions to your brother for foods that are in fact healthy but not laden with sugar or other undesirable foods.

BTW, stevia is a sugar substitute. It's used by gardeners and people who don't want to eat refined sugar.

Prevention magazine used to be good for providing nutritious alternative foods that aren't laden with sugar, preservatives and other junk.

You might also (if you have HIPAA authority) talk to his doctor(s), and/or ask them for a nutritional consult with someone who is in fact familiar with alternative diets.
Helpful Answer (5)

How about having one day each week where he can choose his favourites? It would give him something to look forward to and shouldn't cause any major problems, since he would be eating well the rest of the time.
Helpful Answer (5)

If he is 5'10" and 225lbs, he is not morbidly obese. Now as for the gout--it can destroy your kidneys. It usually happens when the diet is lacking in vegetables and high in hard liquor consumption.
The wanting to die? That's depression and it is treatable. Ask the MD.
Take Dad fishing. Fresh air on a lake is good for everyone.
Helpful Answer (4)

I can picture my brother pulling something like this on my father. Along with the love can be a great deal of anger between father and son. It's probably a power struggle.

I think that some kind of professional needs to intervene with your men. Ask him questions like "How long will Dad live? Do you think that this restricted diet will prolong his life? Do you think he is enjoying his life right now? Is it OK with you if he is miserable, so long as he eats a healthy diet? What about easing up some after a loss of 25 pounds?" As a sister, I couldn't have that talk with my brother! So they need a bit of family therapy. Does brother go to the doctor's appointments? Maybe he can suggest easing up.

Helpful Answer (4)

See All Answers
This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.