Forums Eating – Drinking – Nutrition Mom losing weight but wont’ eat

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    paul-g
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    My mom was just recently diagnosed with dementia and I have begun noticing that she does not eat often or eats very little. I have asked her several times if she was hungry, she would just say ‘no’. I can see that she is starting to lose weight, and I am getting more worried about her condition. We are new to this diagnosis and in having to be a caregiver so this is the biggest challenge for me right now. How can I get her to eat more? How can I know if she is truly not hungry? Thank you.

  • Mom losing weight but wont’ eat

  • pmax

    Moderator
    May 12, 2020 at 9:39 am

    John, you are right to be concerned about you mom’s lack of appetite and eating pattern. For anyone with dementia, poor nutrition can result in weight loss and dementia related problematic behaviors. I am assuming that your mom is in the early stage of dementia. As cognitive function declines, the individual with dementia may actually forget to eat, or find that he or she is overwhelmed by food choices or the steps involved in planning and preparing a meal or in the actual process of eating. New medications (or a dose change in an existing medication), dental discomfort or pain and depression can potentially cause or contribute to poor appetite. If you think any of these situations apply, I would suggest contacting your mom’s health care professionals. For the elderly as well as people with dementia, food may no longer smell or taste like it used to, contributing to a decreased appetite. A lack of physical exercise or activity can also affect appetite, so it is important to keep your mom active and engaged. Activities that she can no longer perform like she used to can often be modified to fit her current abilities.

    As for actual eating, I would suggest trying 4 or 5 small meals throughout the day. Limit distractions like TV and loud music, declutter the table, etc. Use plain white or solid plates (if possible) placed on a contrasting color tablecloth or placemat for better depth perception and to help your mom distinguish the food. Make mealtime a social event where you eat together. Offer only 1 or 2 foods in small portions so it is not overwhelming; if your mom eats it all, you can always offer more. Serve familiar foods, but understand that your mom may no longer like all of them. If she eats only a portion of the food or doesn’t eat much, don’t push back or get angry. Rather, distract her with conversation for a couple of minutes, then come back to eating with an encouraging comment like, “My pork is delicious. How does yours taste?” You might even use a fiblet (a therapeutic fib) asking for her help, like “Mom, would you tell me how I did with the new marinade I made for the pork…not sure if I used enough garlic?” One motivational tool that may be effective is saving something special for dessert that your mom enjoys and that can only be had after the meal has been completed. (You may need to remind your mom about the treat as she may not remember). I have also seen good results with smoothies, milkshakes and packaged nutritional supplements as small meals or snacks.

    As your mom’s dementia progresses you may have additional eating challenges develop, but for now I hope these ideas are helpful.

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