Caring For an Elder Who Needs to Eat

Dear Barbara, My father fell, was hospitalized and is now home. He just isn’t eating—popsicles but nothing else. The doctors have not offered any suggestions. What should I do?

The elderly, after a fall or illness, often are not much interested in eating. If there are no other health issues, they gradually return to normal eating. In the meantime here are some ideas: 

* 3 meals a day are too many and too much. 

* Offer small, high protein snacks (custards, cheese and crackers, egg bites, ice cream, smoothies with protein and calories) four times a day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and bedtime. 

* In between the protein snacks offer a protein drink. 

Ensure Complete or Boost are easy and you can get them almost anywhere (Kroger, Walgreens, Walmart…). Get the ones with 360 calories per container. Offer him one 3 or 4 times a day. Again, he may not drink it but a little is better than nothing.

 * A meat and potatoes meal is just too much. 

*  Ask him what sounds good. What would he like to eat? He may just take a few bits. That's okay. You've tried.

* Because he likes popsicles, try fudge bars, or ice cream bars since they have more calories and protein. Maybe the cold feels good in his mouth.

* You are trying for as much nutrition, calories and protein in as little quantity as possible.

I don't know your living situation but you might find my guidebook, By Your Side, A Guide for Caring for the Dying at Homehelpful with guidance in caring for him. 

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Christine Anderson

I am 70 and disabled. I am also gluten intolerant, accompanied by other food allergies. I often don’t feel like eating even though my health is currently good. My wife is my caregiver. We use Premier Protein drinks because they come in many flavors. We use them in smoothies, as a between meal drink, or to accompany a light snack.
I found that I could not stomach the whey protein powder and Premier Protein tastes better than Ensure or Boost. Hidden gluten is also a big issue as being “glutened” causes extreme digestive upset.
BK Books replied:
Hi Christine, thank you for sharing how you are using a protein supplement. It will help others to be creative in meeting this nutritional challenge. Blessings to you. Barbara

Heather Svec

I found that making small Jello cups (4 oz) with the boost clear instead of water worked wonderfully for my father during his last few months. I also would make all smoothies with a boost or ensure base and made pudding cups with the powdered protein mixed into the whole milk. You have to use the instant pudding (the protein did not want to boil and clumped with the cook and serve pudding).
BK Books replied:
Heather, I love that you are sharing ideas with us. The more “tools” we have in our toolbox the better for everyone. Blessings! Barbara

Claire, RN

Ensure and Boost are full of chemicals and sugar, unhealthy oils and have little to offer other than convenience.
I used good quality whey protein powder ( not “ milk solids “ or soy protein found in cheap protein powder) mixed with whole milk ( lactose free if needed) and my mom did really well with that . Protein powders often come in flavors or you can add your own Sometimes stir in some ice cream if desired.
If convenience is the goal, good old Carnation Instant Breakfast is a good stand in, single serve packets mix with a glass of milk
BK Books replied:
Claire, thank you for your input about other alternative high protein choices. Blessings! Barbara

Lolita Silicani

Fantastic tips, thank you so much for making us all aware of them. Thank YOU for being the voice of compassion and comfort. :)
BK Books replied:
Thanks Lolita for the kind words. Blessings! Barbara

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