How Can I Get Someone With a Damaged Sense of Taste to Eat?

3 answers | Last updated: Oct 22, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

How can I get someone with a damaged sense of taste to eat?

Expert Answers

Many conditions, such as stroke, Alzheimer's, and cancer, cause people to lose or change their sense of taste. Treatments including radiation and chemo also affect the sense of taste. Sometimes this goes hand in hand with swallowing problems (dysphagia), and sometimes it's taste alone. Also, in some people taste becomes more sensitive with age, while in others it becomes less sensitive.

Talk to your father about exactly what tastes good to him and what doesn't. Then start adjusting food to your father's preferences. If things taste bitter to him now, he probably prefers sweet foods, so serve dishes that are on the sweet side. For example, prepare pork chops with a honey glaze, or make orange chicken. If everything tastes bland to him, experiment with spicy, salty, or sour foods and see if he likes those.

Texture and taste can be interconnected, so experiment with textures as well. For example, many people with swallowing and taste problems prefer creamed corn to regular corn, because it's sweet and easier to chew.

If he complains of a metallic taste in his mouth, try switching from metal utensils to plastic. I've found that often does the trick.

Often doctors make the mistake of telling people to avoid certain foods; I prefer to ask patients what they like and then experiment with different tastes. Adjust the food to take advantage of the taste they still have. It's not about what they can't eat; it's what they want to eat.

Community Answers

Vsnaeve answered...

When my mother (in her 8th year of Alzheimer's) goes through a phase of refusing to eat, the doctor prescribes Megace. It's an appetite stimulant and it works wonders. We take her off eventually, but have had to recently put her back on. She was pursing her lips tightly and refusing to eat. She is back to loving her meals.

Ca-claire answered...

At some point in my looking into, and remembering trivia, I recall something about the sweet tastebuds being the last to go. Remember that the taste buds only determine sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. The rest of the flavors are through the nose. I remember reading some story that an eldercare facility put Hershey's chocolate syrup bottles on the table for the residents to use, and they all called it gravy. Those with problems tasting would use the 'gravy' to give the food flavor.

I know - sounds gross to those of us that still have our senses intact, but it makes sense for those whose faculties are having trouble.

Just an inexpensive idea to try, if all else fails.