How can we help Mom eat more while she recovers from a broken hip?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 13, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother in law is 77, fell and broke a hip been in the hospital 7 weeks had pneumonia been in and out of ICU now 3 times now in again she pulled the feeding tube out and the liquid entered her lungs. She was only eating a few bites of food not enough. She is getting a little bit of therapy to stand regain some coordination. Our concern is being in the hospital so long and why she is unable to eat more than a few bites, she says she is not hungry all our pleading with her to try and eat more is not helping we don't know what else to do, can you help any suggestion?


Expert Answers

Beth Reardon, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., is Caring.com senior food and nutrition editor and the director of integrative nutrition at Duke Integrative Medicine. As a practitioner of integrative nutrition, Reardon takes a holistic approach to wellness, recognizing that the foundation for optimal health and healing begins with a health-promoting diet. As a practitioner of integrative nutrition, Reardon takes a holistic approach to wellness, recognizing that the foundation for optimal health and healing begins with a health-promoting diet.

I am very sorry to hear about your mother in law. Recovering from a broken hip takes a good deal of time and patience, but you are correct to be concern about her intake. It sounds as though you all have been through quite a lot. A broken hip in this population can be serious and the body requires an adequate supply of quality nutrients to support the immune system, healing and recovery. I am glad to know that she is getting some movement therapy. This should help to build her strength as well as her appetite. I'm curious as to why she pulled out her feeding tube. Is there a battle of wills going on? Is she possibly frustrated about the lack of control she is experiencing? I'm sure it is difficult to know, but it is clear that she is looking for more control if she is refusing a feeding tube. I would first have a conversation asking how the family (and the medical staff) can help her and provide her with what she needs (provided she is able to verbalize what that is). Consider giving her some autonomy in deciding how she wants to take her meals. The options appear to be limited, but if she is able to take food by mouth she may agree to do a little both until she hits an agreed upon bench mark in terms of weight or improved labs. She has to see an end to this ordeal and have a goal to work towards. Engage her in her recovery to the extent that is possible. If she does not wish to use the tube feeding she may agree to drink home made smoothies in place of the traditional use of Ensure or Boost. These will require less energy and less effort to consume than whole food meals. The smoothie can be made as a mini meal with the addition of a liquid multivitamin (providing essential nutrients for healing) whey protein, berries, yogurt etc. She also may eat more "whole food" if it was familiar and/or came from her favorite restaurant, or was similarly easy to consume "“ like a cream or bean soup.
There seems to be quite a lot going on that I can't know "“ but I do know that her body is requiring an increased amount of high quality calories; total protein and nutrients in general, to heal and speed her recovery. I wish you all well. Please let me know how your mother in law is recovering and if I can be of further help.