RachelDevin Asked June 2010

What can I do if my mother is eating less and less?

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In the last week or two my mother has been eating less and less each day. She won't even try to eat. She has two cans of ensure a day, which comes to 700 calories, but that's not enough to sustain her. She won't even try to eat. I've got all the foods she likes around, but to no avail. Help. Does anyone have any suggestions?

The doctor says it's the stress of my father's being ill, which I think is the case, but she is positive something's wrong and that she's going to die before he does. He's 95 and she's 88. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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EXPERT Carol Bradley Bursack Jun 2010
I can understand why she doesn't feel like eating. I'd be the same way. But encourage her by telling her she needs to try to stay around for her husband. She may have decided subconsciously that she'd rather die first - it's hard to tell.

Try to tempt her with easy foods - fruits, ice cream, jello - anything that has some calories but doesn't take effort to digest.

You could check with a local dietician at a nursing home or hospital for more suggestions, but her doctor seems to have it pegged. You can't force her to eat. Don't pressure her or it could get worse. But temp her the best you can and keep in touch with the doctor.
Carol
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Hi--I am in my late 50's, and have taken care of my mother for 12 years---she is now 88. A few years after her stroke she suddenly stopped eating anything. Her mind was not affected but her speech was terribly compromised and she couldn't do anything except gesture towards her mouth. I was assured by doctors that this was her way of "getting ready to die" etc-----but I did not get any sense of that.
FINALLY one doctor, to whom I shall always be grateful took a look at her meds and said, "Oh, I see she's taking (whatever it was); sometimes that can make food taste bad. Let's get her off of it." BOOM! In three days she was eating---not huge amounts, but small amounts of healthy food. Get the doctors to go over her meds with you REALLY CAREFULLY. Too many doctors don't especially want to deal with old people and will dismiss their complaints as "just part of being old." NEVER accept that as an answer. Hugs and good luck to you!
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moonjac Jun 2010
It may be that she needs company to really eat. My mother has lost interest in eating also. She is 87. But, if I make a point of taking her out and having food there when I visit, she will eat well. I live 4 hrs from her, but visit every other weekend. Also bring snacks - they don't have to be high nutrition at this age, just high calories. They all seem to have a sweet tooth at this age. Unless there is a medical condition, let them eat whatever strikes their fancy. They have lived this long - snacks won't hurt!
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ktrafnel Apr 2011
Oh, dear, Rachel...this is a battle we've fought what seems like forever with my mother-in-law. We've tried it allllll! She absolutely will not drink ANY shake of any kind, Ensure, Boost...we've even tried the fruit juice Boost and she doesn't like it. We have a hard enough time getting her to drink water!!! My heart goes out to you on this particular matter. We have found that giving her less, along and along...whether you want to call it a snack. She likes to nibble on nuts...almonds, walnuts, etc. Crackers; crackers and cheese. Essentially, we've just started giving her less. If she looks at a "dinner plate" (or a FULL meal on a plate), I believe she just gets totally overwhelmed...so we use a "salad" plate and make her what equates to a child's meal...even at that, she will usually eat half. She will usually eat HALF of whatever we give her. We keep a box of chocolates by her chair and every now and then she'll open it and get a piece. We've discussed with her doctor and he says to just keep doin' what we are doin'...she seems to be maintaining her weight (even though it's at an all-time low)...and, too, because she is now sedentary, she doesn't need as many calories because she's not moving around and burning them up. I feel for you and I believe it's a common phenomenon among us caregivers--trying to get our loved one to eat and/or drink. Hang in there...you just can't force her to eat. As someone said earlier, you can explain to her that she needs nourishment to keep herself healthy and alive for your father (if she won't do it for herself!). Good luck!
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jeannegibbs Jul 2011
I had a period when I really did not want to eat anything. I'm smart enough to know I had to get some calories in and I was not at all suicidal so I found a few things I could force myself to eat. One of them was canned fruit in jars sold in the refrigerator section. I also choked down high protein bars though I hated them. (My problem turned out to be undiagnosed diabetes, and when that finally got resolved I could eat again.) My point is just that if you can discover ANYTHING that the person will eat, go with it, even if it isn't fully nutrious, even if it is expensive, even if you have to go halfway across town to get it.

When my husband (dementia, 85) is having a down day and doesn't want to eat he will almost always take a milk shake which I make with ice cream, milk, and Carnation Instant Breakfast -- sometimes adding peanut butter, bannana or other fruit. He will not consider Boost or Ensure, but milkshakes are fine. He also likes V8 juice over ice.
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NancyH Apr 2011
Rachel, if your mother thinks there's something wrong, then I'd check that out first. It's been my experience with my own mother, she knows her body and when she said she was sick, she was right.
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Annnieb Apr 2011
Try not to worry about how much she eats. Make things that smell really good to her, or that remind her of good times in the past. Between talking and the smells, she might eat more and feel happier.
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katyanne6 Aug 2011
Sometimes Prozac can stimulate appetite. May not gain weight but will maintain it. My mom with dementia got down to 75 pounds, then went on Prozac and now enjoys eating and has gained 3 pounds, which is pretty good for someone 87.
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susan63 Jun 2010
I don't know how to get her to eat, it's hard. I know stress can do that and I am 1/2 your mother's age. I got down to 98 pounds at one point. Sometimes having small children around my Mom helps sometimes. We kind of use the kids/babies to coax her through a meal and it is fun. Her doctor told us Carnation Instant Breakfast with WHOLE milk is good to add calories, don't know if she would like that. Some add ice cream to it as well.

Would her doctor try an anti-depressant on her? Some of them make you VERY hungry.

Sorry not much help.
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TheFixer Jun 2010
My Mom eats best when we take her to a buffet. Don't know if it's the change of scenery or all the choices, or both. I know it's not a long term solution, but if it worked a couple days a week it may be worth it, also she may choose things off the buffet that you could buy for her to have at home. I know mom will always eat jello and chocolate meringue pie. Good Luck.
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