Getting her to eat more isn’t necessarily the only solution to her weight loss. Check with her doctor to make sure you understand the possible physical reasons your mother is losing weight. If she seems to be eating her meals and is still not getting enough calories, you can increase the amount she takes in either by increasing the total amount of food she eats, or by seeing that the food she does eat packs more of a punch calorie-wise. However, if she is not eating all her meals, try to understand the cause(s). One major reason for eating less is poor appetite.
This can be related to nausea or to pain and difficulty chewing or swallowing (usually caused by mouth sores or dryness). The medical team can guide you to the correct medications and treatments for these conditions. If these are not issues, a reduced appetite can be traced to changes in taste and sensitivities, an early feeling of fullness, and/or emotional upset. There are a number of tips that may help increase your mother’s appetite. Try making the atmosphere surrounding meals pleasant and sociable, and avoid making it a chore.
Smaller meals, eaten throughout the day, can seem more manageable to finish at a sitting, and may enable her to eat more in total than three large meals. Experiment with seasonings to reduce the ones your mother finds unpleasant, and substitute others she finds more appealing. Light exercise before meals also helps to stimulate the appetite. Have your mother avoid foods and drinks that cause gas and thus lead to an early sensation of being full. To increase the amount of protein and calories in the food she does eat, adding butter, sour cream, and yogurt to dishes not only helps to boost the number of calories, but also improves their taste.
Substituting milk for water in soups, sauces, or in hot cereals can also add calories to her diet, but check with the doctor or dietitian to make sure that the extra calcium or fat will not be a problem. Use nuts, wheat germ, and peanut butter as protein-rich additions to snacks, and encourage your mother to enjoy these snacks through-out the day. Eating high-calorie foods and trying to gain weight can represent a major shift for most people, who for most of their lives tried not to gain (or even to lose) pounds.
It may take time for your mother to shift her way of thinking. For more tips on how to raise the caloric and nutritional value of your mother’s diet, or to look into the possibility of using commercially prepared supplements, check with a dietitian, nurse, or pharmacist. If you are interested in vitamin supplements or medications to further stimulate the appetite, be sure to check with your mother’s nurse or doctor before adding them to her diet.