How can my mother handle my father's poor nutrition and eating habits?

4 answers | Last updated: Nov 28, 2012
A fellow caregiver asked...

My parents recently moved to a senior retirement residence because my dad has Alzheimers. In the dining room, while waitng for a meal to be served, he will snack on crackers so that he's no longer hungry. My mother is embarassed that he wastes his meal, as well as being concerned about nutrition. If they are dining with others she is uncomfortable simply taking the crakers away. How might she best handle this situation?

Expert Answers

If your parents are dining alone, then your mother could simply pull the crackers away then he'd be hungry for the meal. If need be, she can explain to others, and staff, why she's doing this. When dining with others and he is more apt to fill up on crackers than finish his meal, I think a good start would be asking the dining server for small portions. This is not a "strange" request as I assure you many people are requesting smaller portions as well. Sometimes we can be overwhelmed by so much food on one plate and this can discourage eating the meal at all. But small portions help some people take a few bites.

One other strategy might be to assure he's getting protein, fruits and vegetables throughout the day so if he does not consume these foods at dinner time, your mother can be sure he's gotten some good nutritious foods that day. This can be done by encouraging the consumption of these foods at breakfast and lunch. Also, she might want to stock their kitchen with healthy snacks such as: fresh fruits, vegetables (carrot & celery sticks) and good protein sources such as yogurt and string cheese. Keeping these foods easily accessible will promote snacking on healthier foods. But the important note is that your father is filling up on something and is not going hungry.

Community Answers

Glendaree answered...

I am taking care of my step-mom,who has alzheimers.When I began taking care of her almos two years ago I never imagine the task would be so challenging. I learned there are will continue to be hard choices made concerning what is best for her. She had stopped eating she would only eat two or three bites of eggs or slaw or something similar per day. Eventually she refused to eat anything stating, that had already eaten. I researched the feeding tube. Some sights made it seem so vulgar and almost filthy. Later she went into the hospital ,she had not eaten for 4 days, she was in the hospital for 4 days she still not eaten this made it eight days.I told the doctor I had wanted the peg feeding tube. He did this she hads gained weight and every check-up is really great. It is easy to do. She takes Ensure but there are others brand with the same healthy nutrients. She was eating at time. I used the peg for times that she did not eat well. She did quit eating all together. She still lives a very healthy full life now.

A fellow caregiver answered...

Congratulations, you have extended the life of your mother in law who has Alzheimer's disease. Everyone needs a living will so that when you are no longer competent to communicate your wishes, the people around you will know if you would like a Peg tube.

Tuyen answered...

One of my husbands Carers was a wonderful help in getting him to eat again.

She started to make my husband platters with a variety of cheeses cold cuts grapes strawberries etc., much emphasis was placed on colour.

Just placing it in front of him without asking "what would you like to eat"with a Protein milkshake and followed by nuts maybe later a Scone.

This is working for us although my husband is due to go to a Dietitian as he did loose a lot of weight.

I also tend to keep things simple and find dishes from his childhood work best.