My husband had a stroke and is in rehab. He won't eat, how can we help?

4 answers | Last updated: Oct 08, 2016
Kitch asked...

My husband is currently in rehab after a lengthy hospital stay for a hemorrhagic stroke. He is having problems voiding & is catheterized . He is refusing to eat & is taking little nourishment. How can help him?

Expert Answers

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

I do feel for you, as I know it is tough to see this happen to someone you love. Having worked in rehab as a nurse, I used to see many stroke patients have a difficult time. It is common for patients with certain types of strokes to have issues with eating. I am hoping that his swallowing ability has been checked, and that he is able to eat safely. If his diet has been changed to something like chopped foods or even pureed, this can affect appetite. Many people don't want to eat food that looks like "baby food". You can try to give him foods like ice cream, puddings, milk shakes (if he can take liquids), as they are easy to eat, to see if he would like that. Or, you could try to ask him what he would like to eat. Often times, people who are in institutions don't get to eat hamburgers and fries, or big, juicy steaks. As long as it is within his diet and swallowing ability, you can try bringing in his favorite foods from home to try and entice him to eat.

The other thing that should be considered is if he is depressed. It is very common for people that have had a stroke (up to 50% of patients in some of the studies I've read)to get clinically depressed. Not eating could be a sign that he is depressed, so I would ask the medical professionals taking care of him if this has been assessed. Often times, we will try an antidepressants in cases like this, to see if this will help increase his appetite.

Good luck!

Community Answers

Kitch answered...

Thank you for your quick response. However, all of your ideas have been tried without success. I was hoping for something new. He is depressed & is taking Celexa, because he stated that he did not want to live any longer.
He is on a bite size diet & I have taken food to the rehab, he has refused it. He seems unwilling or unable to feed himself, will not take liquids on his own, but will take some nourishment if I feed it to him, often letting it run out of his mouth. Please keep him in your prayers.

Eseaton answered...

Dear Kitch, I am very sorry to hear about your dilema. My husband had his first heart failure and was given 6 months to live by his specialist and that he had lost 3/4 of his heart. That made me wake up! I called our primary care Doctor and asked his opinion as to what he thought. Our Primary care Dr. told me that by 6 months, he meant if his health continued on that plateau.
My husband had begun acting as if he didn't care anymore. I kept telling him how much I loved him and needed him and that everything would be okay. I never told him about the 6 month time line as I felt he would probably just give up. I also jokingly told him that the only way he was going to die was if I took him out and that was not a possibility. He made the 6 month time period and I told him what the Dr. had said. I also told him that I knew he would get better. My darling lived 6 years and his heart just wore out. We need to listen, ask questions and pay attention to anything that is discussed. I took notes and made sure we followed his instructions. Some of his instructions had to be modified to fit our situation. I always explained what we were going to do and how and asked if that would be suitable. Try to be aware of everything and make it a team effort.

Kjk answered...

Dear Kitch: I'm sorry to hear about your dilema as well. My dad has recently had his 2nd stroke and is again in rehab. The most helpful thing we have done to create a desire to eat again is to take him home 2 - 3 times a week for 1 - 2 hour visits; at which time we have a meal toghether. I'm sure it may prove diffucult as far as transport, etc, and for us, this time, it's more diffucult because he doesn't have to strength to stand or even help us lift as yet. But when we started doing thhis the last stroke he made extremely fast progress after. We just started today with the first "home visit" and he actually ate his whole meal (soft, not pureed) and did it by himself! I think they need the familiar and to know they're not being cast aside.