A Caregiver Asks: My loved one refuses to eat. What can I do?

 

There can be a number of reasons why someone in your care becomes reluctant to eat. Listed below are some common reasons, with suggestions that may help make meal time less of a struggle for both of you. Also included is an explanation of what can happen at end of life and why it’s best to not offer food or drink at that time.

He or she is not hungry. Most of us have faced meal times when food doesn’t seem at all appealing and we turn up our nose at everything.

If this happens occasionally, it’s okay. You may want to wait an hour or so and offer food again. If they take it, great. If not, don’t insist. If it’s a temporary lack of appetite he or she will eat when hungry and the problem will fix itself.

Often someone in care isn’t able to communicate that they don’t feel well. Perhaps they have a sore throat or an upset stomach and eating is uncomfortable.

Instead of their usual meal, offer something soft and easy to swallow, perhaps some Jell-O or ice cream. A vanilla milkshake is soothing and has nutritional value too.

When eyesight is not as acute as it used to be it can hard to see what is on the plate. White food on a white plate can be a problem for someone who can’t see muted colors.  Dark colored food like tomato sauce or a beef patty, can be hard to see on dark colored plate.

Try using a red plate for light colored food and a white plate or bowl for food that is dark in color. You may be surprised by how well this works.

Those with Parkinson’s disease and other illnesses that cause tremors often have trouble getting a spoon or fork from plate to their mouth.

It’s now possible to purchase eating utensils that self-correct when tilted. Being able to feed oneself again can increase self-esteem and appetite. For information about these devices go here: https://bit.ly/2KeCzQN

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There comes a time at end of life when people will no longer want to eat or drink. It’s a common part of the process and is much harder on the family than the person we are caring for.  We worry that they are starving to death and may insist they try to eat.  The truth is they don’t want it and processing food be uncomfortable for them as the digestive system shuts down.

Unfortunately there is no fix for this. It is something that we have to be aware of and prepare for as best we can, knowing that they are not suffering from their lack of sustenance. When that time comes, try to recall this information and take comfort in knowing you were there for them when they needed you and soon they will be at peace.

Bobbi Carducci

 

 

 

 

 

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