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I am caring for my father who has Alzheimer's (Age 86). He is somewhere between the middle and late stage and has been living with us for almost 13 years. About five months ago, my wife and I decided it was time to place him in a home. However, we did not choose the right home. Before we placed him, he looked pretty good as far as his weight but within about three months of being in that home, he had lost a ton of weight. I was mortified so we pulled him out. I am now working on getting him to gain weight but am having trouble.


I am keeping track of his daily caloric intake (1500) but have found it difficult to reach. He can only eat so much at one time and the portions need to be small or else he might not want to eat it. I tried feeding him smaller meals frequently but that was not working out since the times I would need to feed him would not be good (really agitated or tired and would refuse to eat). He does go to a day care Mon-Fri from about 10 - 3 which is really helpful. But even those days can be a challenge to get the calories.


I'm at a crossroads because I am trying to achieve a certain calorie amount in order for him to gain weight. At the same time, I don't want to just be giving him stuff just because it'll help me reach the daily calorie goal (cookies, brownies). I've been giving him pancakes/muffins made with vegetable puree since they're easy to eat.


I don't know if what I am doing is good. I really want him to gain weight but maybe I should let it go and just focus on nutrition. If anyone has any advice, please let me know.

Don’t worry so much. We have many posts about the problems of modern medicine keeping people’s bodies alive when their minds have gone, along with their quality of life. Perhaps the change of routine triggered your father’s loss of appetite and weight, rather than the shortcomings of the facility. Keep him happy, and let nature take it’s course. Age 86 and with dementia, just keeping him alive is not the main aim.
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Reply to MargaretMcKen
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Several small, calorie-dense meals every day - usually combo of protein, fat and produce. Ask your dad's doctor for medications that boost appetite.
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Reply to Taarna
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Go on amazon & buy ‘Benecalorie’. (Unflavored) It’s @ 2 oz of high calorie, high protein that you mix into anything—there’s no taste & if you put it in a 360 calorie boost or 500 calorie Boost & it will add another 300 calories to it—-I put it in soups, cereal, etc—it does turn tomato juice a little pink rather than red; but they get used to color. My husband gets in at least 1000 calories a day using this with a boost in am & one in pm plus any food you can add in between—when they’re ‘not hungry’ this at least gives them 1000 calories/day—& Benecslorie needs to be shaken a lot before opening one!! good luck!!
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Reply to Jakies
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- Boost
- Ensure
- Ice Cream
- Protein Shakes
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Reply to Llamalover47
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Ensure or Boost (or similar) blended with ice cream tastes just like a milkshake. Would have a lot of calories and other good nutritional value to help put on some weight.
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Reply to my2cents
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There is something called "cachexia" when the muscles waste away and the person loses weight and cannot gain it back no matter how many calories they ingest.
Toward the end of my husband's life he lost almost 30% of his body weight and just wasted away. That's Alzheimer's!
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Reply to LasCrucen
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Make him a protein drink with ice cream, 3times a day after his meals.
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Reply to Luisarod45
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Boost has something fairly new called Boost "Protein Only". Can't find it everywhere but have a place I always get it. It is a colorless, tasteless powder that you can mix into anything and they don't know it's giving them something extra. I put it in her oatmeal, smoothies, soups etc. Mixes into anything really well and easily, except tea or coffee for some reason. Mom is down to 83 lbs and the hospital nutritionist suggested this to me that last time she was in. No complaints from Mom. I try giving her lots of snacks that are healthy between her little meals too. One doctor in hospital said that at her age she should be able to just eat what she wants! :)
Family doctor is not a fan of Boost drinks in the containers and says it is not "real food". I think nutrition is even more important at their age but I also let her eat what she likes while also not buying her empty calorie food. I think sugar is hard on their weak systems although just my opinion. Not sure if any of this will help you but am wishing you the best with trying to get some added weight on your father.
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Reply to Lisa55
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My hubby lost so much weight he looked like a holocaust survivor. From 160 to 113. No matter what he ate, he couldn't gain. Then a routine blood test showed his alkaline phosphates in the 700 range. It was discovered his bile duct was keeping most of the bile from coming through to digest his food so everything he ate just went through him and out the door. He's been getting stents placed in the duct, and while his AP readings have gone down some, he still isn't gaining weight.
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Reply to sometimer
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I agree with all the other answers I’ve read. my mother also lost a lot of weight in her last year of life. give him whatever he wants at this point just to make him happy at the moment, don’t worry 😉 you’re doing great!
again don’t force feed
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Reply to Sewingsh
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I make milkshakes, using a can of Ensure. Then I add whatever flavor he wants. Peanut butter powder is a great protein source and is great in milkshakes. That’s it from me on nutrition :).

I bake: cakes, pies, muffins, brownies. Their taste for sweet is the last taste to go. Give him all of the false calories he can eat, at this point it doesn’t matter. Gaining weight is the goal, however you can do it. Best of luck!
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Reply to BeckyT
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I give my mother Ensure Plus 3-4 times a day w/ meals.
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Reply to deborahparlett
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Boost 360 calories or Ensure 350 calories are the easiest way to get some nutritional calories down those who are eating impaired. The person who suggested the bacon/egg solution which made her hungry, made my arteries spasm thinking about it, very hard to digest suggestion, especially with the saturated fat. Focus on nutrition, ease of consumption and do keep track of the calories. 1500 calories is high caloric end of a weight loss diet. For maintenance a minimum of 1650 calories is needed, 2000 would be better... and I know that even getting 1500 down him a challenge. My husband's been food challenged for a long time... it's scary to see those gaunt cheek bones and his skin hang off his bones.
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Reply to cwinter
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I faced the same problems and decided to let dad eat what he wants even if it is often ice cream, junk food, etc. He always has porridge and toast and usually small suppers but not always. I am glad to hear from other answers that it sounds like I did the right thing.
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Reply to Janijean
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If I make it to 85, I intend to eat or not eat whatever I want, and drink or not drink whatever I want. This will be clearly stated in writing for my POA.

After 85, I just want nature to take its course. I do not want to get to the point where my 93-yr-old mother and her aged, informed neighbors are. Yes, they are safe, but they have no quality of life.
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Reply to jjmummert
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jjmummert Dec 12, 2019
Infirmed... not informed. BTW, they are not informed in any way whatsoever.
(1)
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Would he like some beer in the afternoon? Maybe bacon and scrambled eggs for breakfast? Grits with cheese? This is making me hungry.
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Reply to Bigsister7
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If the commercial supplements like Boost or Ensure are not to his liking, Carnation Instant Breakfast is a good substitute and tastes better to many. May I suggest that as you encourage him to eat whatever he likes that you stop trying to calculate the daily calories and just monitor a weekly weight or how his clothes fit?
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Reply to MaryNTN
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Ice cream is easy to swallow and loaded with calories. Protein shakes are helpful in this situation. I remember my dad drinking a lot of muscle milk, that helped him also.
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Reply to Anonymous1256
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The loss of weight is also an indicator of decline so weight loss is common.

I switched up my Husbands meals. He started getting a higher calorie, protein dense meal in the morning. I would have soup ready for him, I often would do cream of wheat and when it was partially done crack and egg or two to finish cooking (sort of like a grits and eggs breakfast but made with wheat same could be done with grits) If he was up to it pretty much the same for lunch. By dinner he was pretty tired but he always loved his desserts so I would have pudding, or he loved Key Lime Pie so I would make the filling for him in custard cups, no crust and easier to portion.

There are products on the market that can be added to increase calories. A friend gave me some but..
I tasted a bit, the taste was nasty and it is nothing but oil I could add better tasting "stuff" to his meal and get pretty much the same effect and he would finish the food.

If your dad loves desserts give him more of them, add the fruit or vegetable puree to the brownies, cookies and puddings.
there are protein powders you can add that will add more calories and nutrition

A side note here..there will come a time when your dad will refuse food. He will refuse fluids. Please resist the temptation to resort to tube feeding. When he decides, when his body decides that it no longer needs nutrition trying to get food into him can do more harm than good.
Also please watch while he is eating as aspiration can be a big problem. There will come a time when you will have to thicken liquids and puree solid foods.
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Reply to Grandma1954
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My dad is also 86 and has dementia. He was in a very nice assisted living home, but the last year he was there, his weight dropped quickly. He would go to the dining room in the middle of the night, he didnt know what or how to order. He quit eating and barely drank anything except the water they have him to take his pills. I barely got him out of there in time! His kidneys were shutting down, and he was wasting away. He has been living with us for the last year and a half and has gained 30 pounds back. I told his doctor that I was worried that all he wants to eat is mostly sweets and not so healthy food. She said "At his age, let him eat whatever he wants." I do give him protein shakes. He loves PB and jelly sandwiches and ice cream. Of course I feed him a healthier dinner and oatmeal for breakfast. Maybe milkshakes if he has trouble eating. Best of luck!
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Reply to Gsc1964
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He's 86 and Alzheimer's is a terminal disease, at this point the benefits of eating healthy just don't apply. AgingCare has a couple of article you may find helpful

https://www.agingcare.com/articles/high-calorie-foods-for-seniors-168493.htm

https://www.agingcare.com/articles/pro-tips-sneaking-calories-nutrients-into-a-seniors-diet-208396.htm
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Reply to cwillie
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My mother has also lost a lot of weight since going into permanent care, and it has nothing to do with poor quality of food. She is in a premium facility with good food, good variety, cooked on premises by qualified chef.
Some days she can manage herself, most days she does not know what eating utensils are for. So staff, or one of us 3, try to feed her but without a lot of luck. We take her lots of things to tempt her, we do not worry about the empty calories, just giving her things she used to love. We find something she enjoys, but then the staff overdo it and she gets sick of whatever it is she is eating.
Most success has come from the common milkshake, strawberry flavour. Staff adds supplements, we get extra ice cream and malt. Once she starts she will not let go until she gas sucked the container dry. The problem is that she has forgotten how to suck, and often cannot guide the straw to her mouth.
Often she thinks she is being poisoned and refuses food, often she claims she is not hungry because she has just eaten.....wrong...., other times she has no money to pay the waitress.
Recently I was visiting her memory care unit, a number of residents were refusing their afternoon tea because they could not get to the bank, they had no money, someone had stolen their cheque book. Staff were getting frustrated, I asked for my tea and said I was shouting everyone as a Christmas treat. Not quite a stampede, but most residents then demanded their refreshments. Freebies always go down with oldies, must have something to do with the depression era they were born and raised.
Flowerpower567, I would not worry about empty caloried food. Just give your dad what he wants. Anything to get him into a regular eating pattern again. If he has been thrifty all his life, let him think he has won a hamper but he has to sample all the food before he can keep the basket. If alcohol is allowed, give him a beer everyday.
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Reply to Shezza1
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Unfortunately, his muscle mass cannot be restored so you are looking at building up his fat tissue. Is he taking a daily supplement like Ensure or Boost? He needs this. Not sure about the veg puree, that seems like it may be high in fiber. Try a milkshake a day. chocolates, bacon and eggs, the things he loved, beer? Meatloaf, pasta, pizza, cheese, ice cream. potato chips, nuts, peanut butter. You may want to make a daily snack basket to put by his side that he can nibble at. Sometimes it's not he calorie count as much as his food digestion. Does he chew well? Each bite should be chewed 32 times (except for less substantial foods). Mashed up food will be digested at a higher rate than just passing through. Remember your dad is not a chemistry experiment, I wouldn't fret over calories too much, but just put in front of him what he likes.
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Reply to doctorno
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I think your dad should eat whatever he wants. It can be both nutritious and have plenty calories. Also if he has any other illnesses like diabetes or hbp just watch the sugar and salt intake. But if he's hardly eating give him those shakes, add some other flavors like kale, carrots, bananas, etc. He'll like it and eat it.
I use the same shakes and add bananas and strawberries things light in sugar. Then a couple hours later give him a pb&j. He'll eat those all the time so I pair it with other foods he likes to help him eat. But it's a difficult decision to make cus their appetites changes often.
Hopen it works out for you.
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Reply to LooseIt
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Does he eat at daycare? What does his doctor say about his weight? Sounds like you are doing the best that you can. Personally, I don’t think I would argue about specific foods. My mom’s doctor once told her she could have all the ice cream that she wanted. She is tiny. But she loves ice cream.

Best wishes to you and your dad.
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Reply to NeedHelpWithMom
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Why don't you want to give him anything he wants to eat? At this point, it's all about the calories. I've had this discussion with so many people, including my brother who kept pushing "nutrition". At this stage in their life it's all about the calories. Would you rather he eat ice cream and have pounds to spare or starve to death eating carrots and kale?

My mom went through something similar. I got her back up to 110 pounds from 80 pounds with adult nutrition drinks(sugar milk) and ice cream(frozen sugar milk). Grandma went through the same thing. The "professionals" wrote her off and said it was time for hospice house. I disagreed. I did the ice cream and nutrition drink thing for her too. She got over it. Both mom and grandma are both eating mostly normally again. I think a lot of elderly die simply because they starve themselves to death and no one steps in to push the calories. It's called the death spiral. They stop eating which makes them weak which makes them even less likely to eat which makes them even weaker. Break the spiral.

Give you dad anything he's willing to eat. At this point, there's no such thing as bad calories.
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Reply to needtowashhair
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Sissy2q1 Dec 12, 2019
I completely agree. Their taste buds change so quickly, and sometimes sugar does the trick. Getting some kind of calories in him is going to be important to try and stimulate his appetite. Ensure can help, and he is still getting a form of nutrition. It is heartbreaking to watch them starve themselves. At this point in his life, just worry about keeping him happy.
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I think it's okay to focus on getting calories in and not to focus on nutrition.
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Reply to Rosered6
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