Refusing to eat or drink

Discussion in 'Middle - later stages of dementia' started by Rolincoln, Apr 8, 2016.

  1. Rolincoln

    Rolincoln Registered User

    Apr 8, 2016
    My mother has Alzheimer's and has been living in a care home for just over a year now. It took her a while to settle there but for a few months she was reasonably contented.
    But over the last few weeks her ability to understand what is going on around her seems to have deteriorated fairly rapidly and she is quite stressed. She talks a lot of the time she is awake and gets quite emotional. Last week she had a day in hospital because she passed out and had low blood sugar levels. Lots of tests were done but no infections found - the cause seems to be not eating or drinking enough. I have been going in at lunchtime to try to encourage her to eat but she just pushes food away. It is getting worse and the doctor has said that if she doesn't improve in the next 24 hours she will have to go back into hospital. The care home staff are doing the best they can - they are now trying to encourage her to take small amounts of liquid every 10 minutes or so. I don't want her to go into hospital but can't think what else to do.
  2. Cat27

    Cat27 Volunteer Moderator

    Feb 27, 2015
    Welcome to TP :)

    What does the doctor want the hospital to due? More tests?
  3. Rolincoln

    Rolincoln Registered User

    Apr 8, 2016
    Thanks very much for your response-
    I'm not sure but I imagine she will be put on a drip to combat dehydration. Last time she was given glucose because of her low blood sugar levels.
  4. Margaret79

    Margaret79 Registered User

    My MIL hasn't been eating or drinking much for the past week and seems to have forgotten how to swallow.

    In discussion with the GP we decided to keep her at home and keep her comfortable and not to drag her off to hospital to have intravenous antibiotics and be rehydrated only to come home to go down hill again.

    There is no one answer, just the right one for you and your Mother.
  5. fizzie

    fizzie Registered User

    Jul 20, 2011
    The home and the GP should be asking you what you want and what she would have wanted. If you don't want her to go to hospital and you just want her kept comfortable and encouraged to eat and drink and you have Power of Attorney for health and welfare then you need to tell them that is what you/she wants. This is such a difficult time for you and my thoughts are with you and your mum xxx
  6. CJinUSA

    CJinUSA Registered User

    Jan 20, 2014
    eastern USA
    Has your mother been offered thickened liquids? Sometimes regular liquid is imperceptible to the person with dementia, and so they swallow too fast. A thickened substance is felt more easily. Once I switched my mother to a product called ThickIt (a powder can be stirred into liquid, or you can just buy the whole bottle, which is used by itself), my mother started drinking like crazy. They also make food products which are more easily swallowed.

    If your mother is beyond his stage and not quite aware of her surroundings, then you do need to decide where you would like her to be. The care home probably has an obligation to get her to hospital, unless she has a "do not resuscitate" and you or someone else has a power of attorney for health decisions. Most people don't want to be hooked up to drips in their last weeks, but everyone needs to make this decision for themselves or you or her agent does, because if she can't/won't eat/drink, she won't live for too much longer.

    I'm sorry. This happened to my mother - well, not quite. My mother was actually willing to try to eat, but she was choking to death from an upper respiratory illness that she couldn't shake.

    These are hard times for you and her. I hope things improve for her and she rallies for you.
  7. Mollygoose

    Mollygoose Registered User

    Dec 19, 2014

    Hi my mother is in late stages of dementia ! She still is at home in her flat ! Carers come in 4times a day and my brother pops in about 10am every morning and I pop in teatime and nighttime ! She will have a drink and a tiny bit to eat if I persuader and feed her with a spoon ! She went in hospital with dyd ration and had 4saline drips up ! Then after 3days we was told to take her home in case she picked up the sickness bug that was going around the hospital ! It is a challenge to keep her alive ! But all she wants to do is stay in bed all day and sleep ! She has no memory left and is getting weak ! It's scary stuff but I keep trying to keep her going
  8. stanleypj

    stanleypj Registered User

    Dec 8, 2011
    North West
    Problems with food and drink are very commonly reported on TP. It seems important to try not to jump to conclusions. Because a reluctance to or difficulty in eating and drinking are often seen as someone approaches the end of their life it should not be assumed that these 'symptoms' necessarily mean that the end is near. There are various things, such as the thickener already mentioned, that can be tried. If you can get someone to eat or drink at all it's best to forget all you ever read about healthy eating and load in the calories. That's what I was advised to do when Sue was hardly eating or drinking. I followed the advice and she is still alive and thriving 4 years later.
  9. Rolincoln

    Rolincoln Registered User

    Apr 8, 2016
    Thank you all for your comments and suggestions- it's interesting to read different perspectives on the problem. For now my mother seems to be drinking enough to keep her hydrated so she has not gone into hospital. She has been given thickened milkshakes which she will sometimes try.
    Best wishes to everyone else dealing with similar issues.
  10. anon36

    anon36 Registered User

    Jul 24, 2014
    I can relate as my mother has been eating and drinking very little for months now and it has been a major concern for my family. She went through a short period that really concerned us when she wasn't eating at all but then would start nibbling on favoured foods and drink a bit of squash now and again etc. It's probably not helped her situation with the lack of food and drink but as she doesn't indicate any discomfort with eating or drinking we don't know if it might be difficulty with swallowing or something. One thing she was really prone to was acid reflux prior to going into the home so we suspect that might still be affecting her badly. Could acid reflux/indigestion be something possibly in your case?
    It is definitely very worrying when they're refusing to eat or drink, I hope you find something that works in your case.
  11. stanleypj

    stanleypj Registered User

    Dec 8, 2011
    North West
    If you think that swallowing difficulties could be part of the problem, you should ask for a referral to a Speech and Language Therapist (SALT) as they are the experts on swallowing.

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