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

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 Answer

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!