My aunt had a mass removed from her colon 11 days ago. Four days later she had to go back to surgery because of infection. Everything medically is improving daily since then, but she will not eat! She takes 2 bites each meal and thats it! When will the hospital use a feeding tube? Twelve days without a meal is scaring me.
Any advice is greatly appreciated!

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I can’t eat if I am not hungry. Sometimes a person feels like food isn’t a priority.

I do hope she gains her appetite back. It may be easier to drink a nutritious meal. I’d go for the supplements at this point.

I remember when my grandma died I simply could not eat. I had zero appetite. I was very close to my grandma.

When my daughter was in a horrible car accident as a teen and I saw her covered in blood at the hospital, I couldn’t eat for days.

Poor kid, she totaled my car and thought I would be mad about the car. She told me after being unconscious, “Mom, sorry about the car.” I cried and said to her, “Do you think I care about a hunk of metal? That car can be replaced, it’s you that I care about!”

Is your aunt in pain? Is she on opioids? You do know opioid use can cause constipation. She may truly not feel hungry if she is constipated. Ask a nurse or doctor to speak to her privately.
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Barb, I should focus on how your aunt seems to be feeling in herself and be guided by what she wants. When you think about it, people urging you to eat when you have no appetite is even more off-putting.

The rule of thumb for survival experts is 1-1-1 - a typical human can survive one day without shelter, one week without water, one month without food. That human will not be having a nice time! - but it won't kill you, is the point. Now while I'm sure your aunt is not as physically fit as a jungle adventurer, she is taking no exercise, she is recovering from surgery, and she *is* eating - just not the square meal you'd like to see her tucking into.

If it would help set your mind at rest, ask her team (they probably have a dietitian handy) to tell you your aunt's Base Metabolic Requirement (how many calories her body will burn per day, if she does absolutely nothing at all) and compare that with her intake.

Ask first, but as long as you get the go-ahead bring in nutritious treats for your aunt that you know she really likes, such as her favourite ice cream, fresh sandwiches, organic milkshakes - little snacks that are more tempting than ordinary hospital fare. Don't forget that she may be receiving ongoing treatment, and as well as that there may be foods which are not suitable during her recovery, so it is essential to check.

And forget the feeding tube. Look online at what they involve, the various types, and be glad it's not happening.
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My mother, even at 93 is somewhat vain. She doesn’t want people to think she overeats. Even if she is hungry she will leave food on her plate. She talks about people who eat a lot and says they shouldn’t have allowed themselves to get so fat! She’s from that ‘Hollywood glamour’ era. They like looking their best!
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About 2 years ago my mother was in the hospital a month and two bites a day plus a few sips of Ensure was about all she was getting in. I was worried. She got down to 86 pounds. Dr. prescribed Megace an appetite stimulant. Took for awhile. Not sure if it helped really but after going home over a period of time she gained weight reaching 110 pounds. Ice cream in Ensure is a really good idea. They do make a kind of Ensure that is in a small bottle but has the same amount of calories as the larger bottle. Dietician said for patients who don't take in a lot.
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MY MIL lost a ton of weight when she was being treated for non Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Her oncologist said to do ensure with ice cream too. She stayed small but she stopped losing more.
Tiny meals and snacks throughout the day. Extra protein ensure will help. Smoothies, MIL loves them thought they were a milkshake, one way to get calcium in her. With MIL I can always tempt her with chicken nuggets (they will make them with no added salt if you ask). Trial and error. Flavored applesauce? Peach mango is pretty good, so is strawberry. Sorry she's going thru this. Good luck. NG feeding tube is not fun or comfortable.
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MAYDAY Aug 2019
I sometimes will add ensure to the milkshake so it's nice and cold and a bit thicker. You are right, a little at a time, and then very often...

There is a book geared toward cancer patients. I saw it in the office when my dad was going through this.

What to eat when you don't feel like eating.
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Feeding tube is not pretty at all. Sometimes it goes well, a lot of times it does not. It can save lives, and it may be the answer, but look into it carefully. How old is aunt? She may think she is tired and doesn't want to play this game....
Cancer.. is not prejudice. It attacks anyone at any time at any age. So, in any effort, bring her sherbert, ice cream, soft foods that smell and taste good. Sometimes after things like this, food will sound horrible, nothing will smell good, taste good, and sometimes texture of the food will be bad. Give a little chicken soup. If you put to much food in front them, that could be a total turnoff too. Little ramkins, of food pudding or jello. Do not try to overload the her senses.
2 bites, might be enough. Then try another bite of something else. Just a lil bit at a time.
Now it seems like a race, will the appetite come back faster than her losing strength because she is not eating enough? Pray, and be happy around her, play her favorite music, do not make the visit all about the food and her appetite. Focus on something fun and entertaining, be lively, happy, and joyful. Put a smile on her face and make jokes, have FUN.. Give her something fun to think about, bring in her favorite movie, and make a movie night with fun foods included
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Was the mass a cancer? What is the age of your aunt. Please do not hope for a feeding tube. I am a retired nurse and so terrified am I of them that I have clear directions that I am never to have a PEG or Nasogastric feeding under any circumstances. A) they get pulled out unless the patient is restrain, often dislodge into feeding into the lung and causing pneumonia B) almost always result in horrific diarrhea and bedsores. C) often prolong what would otherwise be a peaceful end of life.
Again, it may be time to assess your Aunt's own wishes, offer palliative care if this is a cancer, consider hospice with her. I am assuming you aunt does not have dementia and there is no POA for health care.
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Is she still in the hospital? Have you asked for a consultation with a dietitian?
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