Getting Mom to eat. Help!

Jerri_OKCApril 16, 2005


My Mom is 84 and has Alzheimer's. She is home with my Dad who is 87. Dad should NOT be driving and has some type of mild dementia. Mom has a compression fracture of her tailbone and just came home. I'm out of state and will be heading home to help out for a week or two. I hope to leave Monday.

I need help with the issue of getting Mom to eat. Dad does his best but cannot cook. They usually have food brought in for lunch from ladies in their Church. What can I have on hand that I might can get Mom to eat? It's a struggle and I hope you could share any tips you might have.

She will NOT drink Ensure. Thank you so much for your help and support.


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Jerri, to me the biggest question would be, how is her dental health? Does she have any restrictions that would limit her diet in any way? Jello is always an option, soups (low sodium) might be the answer until you can find out what your Mom can and can't eat. If your Mom has no restrictions on her diet, I would say "whatever she likes." Just my opinion...sometimes it's better for them to eat what they like instead of trying to get them to eat something that is healthy for them but they don't like.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2005 at 11:59PM
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Have lots of snack type foods on hand, in single serving sizes - pudding, jello, cookies, soups, cheese, etc. Stuff that's easy for your dad to give to your mom.

The bigger question is why are they living alone? This is a terrible position for your dad to be in. He's in a situation he can't possibly manage for himself, and he's expected to care for his ailing wife, too. Things could easily end in disaster, for one or both of them. You need to spend part of your weeks out there looking for some sort of community for them so they are safe and well cared for. Is there a Continuing Care Retirement Community or other large retirement community they could move too? Otherwise, get lots of help for them, all day, every day. If not, you'll probably be visiting one or both of them in the hospital and then looking for emergency nursing home placment. It's much better to have a choice.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2005 at 9:00AM
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Thanks Patti, I am concerned about her dentures. She's lost a lost of weight in the last couple of years and I hope to get her checked while I'm home. She has no dietary issues other than that. She doesn't seem to like anything! That's part of the problem. Early on, she lost her sense of smell so I think maybe she can't taste much either.
I don't know how to entice her to eat something she can't smell or taste! :(
momj47, thanks for the input but you are preaching to the choir. Dad thinks he is fine and can handle everything. We are to the point of considering legal options but I really don't want to discuss that here.

I'm dreading this so much...

    Bookmark   April 17, 2005 at 12:14PM
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This thread probably sounds unfriendly and cranky. I'm sorry...

    Bookmark   April 17, 2005 at 12:24PM
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I'm so sorry, it's so hard. The roles have switched, and it's not an easy change. Does it have to go that far? It's certainly not the responsibility of the church ladies to take care of your parents, not even out of kindness, and it's not fair to them either. How are they going to feel if they find one of your parents in trouble, and how are you going to feel?

My mother had advanced Alzheimers and dad couldn't leave her or take her with him when he went out. He was becoming very isolated.

My sisters and I sat down with my father and his minister and said "it's time to move, you can either help us or ignore us, but you will be moving." It's kind of like an intervention. He did agree, somewhat reluctantly, but once they moved, he loved their new place. We also told him that we could no longer leave work on a moments notice and come down and see what was wrong whenever he called, and we didn't.

We told him that if his friends asked why he was "giving up his independence" he could blame his daughters, they made him do it. I think it was a relief to have the decisions made for him, it's not an easy thing to do. No one gets up one morning (except those of us who've been through it) and decides it's time to move to Pleasant Acres Retirement Home!

Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2005 at 12:36PM
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Don't fret Jerri. You don't sound cranky, just honest. You can solve problems and get help a lot easier with honesty than you can by pretending that everything is just dandy. You are probably right about legal actions. It is sometimes needed because of safety factors. It's a hard thing to do, but the alternative is sometimes worse. His dementia may be worse than you think. They have no way of judging how impaired they really are.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2005 at 12:38PM
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Hi Jerri and welcome to the forum! :) My mother lost almost all of her ability to smell and taste in her 70s... She was only able to detect sugar, salt, and vinegar. As a result, she loved desserts and potato chips! :) She was able to enjoy the texture of foods and loved mashed potatoes, chicken and stuffing, pierogies (sp?), pasta, meatloaf, saur kraut and hot dogs, and breads.

When she became an invalid, I bought a VitaMix and liquified foods for her (made them more like a milkshake). I made large pots of soup loaded with vegetables - beef in one, chicken in the other. She also liked split pea soup. I bought one cup freezer containers and filled them with the soups. I stacked them in the freezer door shelves first -they fit perfectly!- and the rest went on the shelves.) It was so easy to take a container from the freezer, run hot water on the bottom, remove the cover, dump it into a bowl and heat it through in the microwave. She had one with her lunch and another with her dinner.

How wonderful that people from the church are helping! What a BLESSING!

I don't know when you last saw your parents, but if it's been a month or more, you may be shocked when you see them... They can age quickly during difficult times... How is your mother getting around and handling personal needs with her tailbone condition??? You might want to contact the Area Agency on Aging and the Alz. Assoc to see about assistance for your precious parents... Please don't hesitate to run your thoughts/concerns by us. We're here to listen, encourage, support and help in any way we can. God bless you. ~abreeze

    Bookmark   April 17, 2005 at 1:11PM
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Jerri, don't worry about sounding cranky, it's a very stressful situation. We all have been there (or are still there.) Make sure you take care of yourself, Abreeze said, we are here to help in any way we can...

    Bookmark   April 17, 2005 at 2:56PM
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Hello, Jerri. We've just placed my Mom in a nursing home, and it was probably the most difficult decision I've ever had to make. She's lived with us for 11 years or more.
Even at my age, caring for all her needs 24/7 became difficult. I agree with Momj47 who brought up the subject of placing them. It's time. She also mentioned the isolation: I could not possibly leave the house at ANY time, as her personal care when she went to the bathroom was so necessary, and naturally she wouldn't allow my DH to assist her. I became a willing prisoner. And the frustration was also becoming a factor: everything Mom did took so much effort on her part, that it was difficult to watch and difficult to always be patient with. When I saw her leaning on the stove a month or so ago, and playing with the knobs, I was nearly in a panic: what would have happened if she turned the element on that she was leaning on?!! I could barely leave her alone at all.

Love the intervention idea of Momj47, also. There really isn't a time they say, "Yep. Today's the day! Off to the nursing home!" What they may have heard about them over the years probably is far from the reality of most of them now. They may remember the stories about neglect, poor food, etc, but there are wonderful places out there, and perhaps if he visited them, he may see that for himself. You cannot leave this decision to your Dad at this point in time. Gads...I'm middle-aged and I could hardly keep up the 24-hour care for my Mom required! Think how difficult it is on your Dad! Believe me, I know first-hand how hard this will be on you and your family, but now that Mom has been there for a full week, I see her inter-acting with others there, being pampered by her care-workers, playing kick-ball and bingo (with help), I'm so happy with our decision! NOW I'm guilty that I didn't do it sooner! Sitting in the house watching tv just isn't the same as the vital environment she has now.

As for your Mom losing weight, baring anything medical, this is normal with the passing of time, according to our doc: as we age, we just don't have the capacity to process foods like we used to, and therefore don't get the fat, nutrition anymore. This is normal. As for foods, you've been given great advice here. My Mom loved it when we brought home french-fries! She enjoyed pastries, ice-cream, scrambled eggs dripping in butter, stove-top stuffing with meat-loaf (easy to eat), Kraft dinner, those microwaveable entrees such as Mrs. Michelina's, apple-sauce, bananas, fruit-cocktail and other canned fruits with soft sandwiches, such as egg-salad/salmon/deviled ham/bacon and tomato, french toast, pancakes, soft veggies, mashed potatoes (we don't eat that, so the boxed kind was just as good!)...Toss out the Food Guide: this is no time for salads (difficult for many of them to chew)... Like Abreeze said: anything that they may have enjoyed (even in the past) would be a good place to start!

All I can think of is your Dad trying to care for your Mom: it's so exhausting, and he is caring for her out of Love, but the reality is, that there's a better way. Honestly: once you see them after a week or so in nursing care, you'll wonder why you took so long to decide!

You and your family are in my prayers

    Bookmark   April 18, 2005 at 8:44AM
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