Senior Refuses to Eat Real Food – Getting Weak

by francy Dickinson                        www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; My dad is just not eating. He will make an occasional piece of toast and he will eat if I am in front of him and the meal is fresh. He refuses frozen food, left overs, and canned food and I am watching him get thin and weak in the body and emotionally. What can I do?

There are lots of things to review and many of them will take professionals to help you. Doctor, counselor, additional help with in-home care…let’s see what we have for you:

  • Questions: Is he depressed and missing his wife and just not eating because of those memories? If you know this, a primary care physician can help with meds to bring his emotional level up and help him handle the grieving. If you do not know, then a trip to a family counselor to have him talk over his problems about his grief and his eating might be even more helpful – before he sees his doctor.
  • Does he just have nothing in his life and his days are melding into weeks and months? That can really effect a person that has always had someone to keep him company and keep him busy. If so then you can take steps and get him into a senior center once a week. Have him volunteer once a week to use his talents. If he tinkers- then a Boys & Girls club with all the equipment and repairs that are needed all the time is good. Just use your creative thoughts on this and find a place that can fill his needs. Even if he does not like it, make him do it. If he will not go out to others have him come in to you. A day or two at your place on the weekend when he is surrounded by family and have him working on your yard, porch, paint, or fix the leaks in the faucets. You can think of things to do for him, he needs to be busy in his mind and helping you at the same time is “a feel good for him”. If he can not do it alone, you will just have to give him a gentle, but consistent push.
  • Make sure your dad is included in a monthly family outing. That’s a trip to a movie, a museum, a community event like a street fair, a car trip to a larger city, or family birthday celebration. These are the things that give a life structure- when there’s an event on the calendar other than a doctor’s appointment!
  • He likes your food, how about finding someone in the neighborhood that is older and will share dinners with him. You can pay them $20-$50 a week for food and they can send over a dinner to him each night. Perfect for a retired lady in the neighborhood, gives her food to cook and an extra income. Plus, he gets a visit, or a walk each evening. If nothing in the neighborhood, ask around to friends – you will find so many single ladies all alone that would love to be busy. This is not looking for love for your dad…we are talking good food here. He helps her she helps him, healthy business.
  • Can he afford an assisted living?  This is where he has a place that is an apartment type of residence and they go out to the main hall for dining three times a day. They have other people there for companionship and many different events to keep them all busy. If he misses people and is retreating, this might be his answer. He could sell the house and leave those memories in place and then move into a new life. I know it means money, but that is why he has invested in a home all of these years, to give him security and care now that he is older.
  • Could he afford an in-home care person? You just call a care service and ask them for an assessment and they will tell you what is needed and then you tell them what your budget is and together you come up with a care plan. A care giver will be in his home each day for a few hours that can make the meals and keep him up to date on meds and his exercise. You come and visit on the weekend or in between what you can afford to pay for care givers. You work less, your dad gets more care…it’s a nice fit. Plus, everyone is nicer to an outside of the family care giver. It is just the way of life. So, if he does not eat for you, he will eat for the care giver.
  • Can you make a deal with a family member to come over once or twice a week and then you come over the same and he is covered most days? I know this is hard, but you know, your sibling, his sister, or a niece might do it, or a close family friend and they will just come and give him a couple of hours. Now, they will not be cleaning or doing chores, they will visit and do his food. But if money is really low, you need help, you need to ask the family to give time. Most of the family can commit to a day of a couple of hours. Do the math, two family members and you makes a good care plan.
  • Can he come and spend weekends with you? Even if you both do not want to live together, you might find that the weekends of living together will give him good food, interaction and raise up his emotional level to help him through the week. You send home meals for the rest of the week. Buy good plastic covered dinner containers and as you cook just make one more portion, that way he has food that is not frozen and tastes like family cooked it!
  • This all sounds great but your dad is a stubborn and does not respond to anything? Well, here is the truth, life is never perfect and he has to know that is the case. So if he feels this way and will not respond, then you get together with your husband or other siblings and go and sit down and have a talk with him. Circle around him and tell him, this is the way life is going to be. You can not sit here and do harm to yourself. You are not dying you are well and you are doing very bad job of taking care of yourself. We as a family are going to have to make some decisions on your care. If you want to help us, then here are three choices you can make, otherwise, we will have to make the decisions for you. If you need to have a third party with you then you  hire a Senior Care Consultant, that is what I do. I help them with family meetings and get the ball rolling. There is no anger or childish behavior during the meeting, this is all for your dad. You decide.

I hope that you have already gotten his power of attorney for health reasons. If you do, then the decisions that you need to make for your dad are all in your hands. If not, get that done. I have the information in earlier blogs and in my Senior Care 101 Workbook – http://tinyurl.com/d6a5e5  

I always try to put my mind into the senior that I am caring for at the time. Have they suffered a loss of a wife, child, job, health, strength, or are in dementia? Those things make their lives so much more complicated. Try to remember that when you are treating the body, that the mind and heart are all in the mix together. So proper medication, clean surroundings, good companionship, a few laughs, busy days, events on their calendar, and good food all go together to make a senior have a life that feels worth living.

You have been so good to your dad, like my mother, he does not even see you standing there. I know it’s frustrating when you’re trying to help him and he does not respond, but you just have to force yourself not to take it personally, he does love you. As a matter of fact; he is probably mad at the fact that you have to bother over him. My mother told the care givers that she just wanted to go and let me live my life – That made me feel so sad that she was that upset about having to “need care”. There is no way out as we go into advanced age and need help, we need help. And there you are – standing next to your dad giving him love, that is a very good thing.

I know you can be creative with all of this – you have already done so much for your dad. Keep it up- the times you spend with him right now, in the middle of all this care giving, will enrich the rest of your life. Thank you, francy

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