When a Loved One is In the Hospital - Help Them Eat

Friday, March 06, 2009

Over the course of the past eight weeks, it's been extremely difficult to get my SparkTime (happy time) and do what needs to be done in my personal life.

My step-dad has diabetes (and has had for a long time) and he went into full renal shutdown. The doctor stated that his prognosis was poor and recommended we strongly consider placing him in a hospice.

While my step-dad is a full blooded Hidatsa Sioux and can be very "stoic", when I'm not under the influence of my Chronic Depression, I am an adherent of Jimmy Valvano, "Don't give up. Don't ever give up".

When we arrived in Nevada from Kansas City, MO, Wilbur was non-coherent, refused re-hab, hated the food, refused the food and was generally being a pain in the butt.

It took three days, but he finally recognized we were there with him, and started responding to us. I got into sort of a disagreement with him, and he became more alert (he could never resist a debate).

We were there when they brought a meal (lunch) into him, and I had to absolutely agree. The food at the re-hab facility sucked. Not only was there no sweet flavor or fruit, nor was there no salt flavor, but there was no flavor at all. The meal was supposed to be hamburger, mashed potatoes and gravy and broccoli.

The broccoli was cooked to the density of a stiff paste, and tasted like it. The mashed potatoes and gravy was like congealed glue topped by a thick, dark unknown substance that caused your tongue to stick simultaneously to your upper palate and your lower teeth. The "hamburger" was cooked like no hamburger I have ever seen. It looked like 80%+ hamburger had been slow boiled, had all of the fat rinsed off, and then been run through the "fine" grind" of a sausage grinder. There was absolutely NO taste.

With apologies to our (Spark) Nutritionist, the meal may, May, have been nutritious - but if I wasn't ill and had to eat three meals similarly prepared, they'd have to take me to the hospital.

I worked in the restaurant industry for years, and I KNOW that you can prepare a nutritious meal without salt or sugar and it can still be tasty. The nutritionist at this institution probably was unable to spell parsley, basil, garlic, onion or any other basic food ingredient. I'm also fairly confident (s)he wouldn't have been able to tell the difference in lemon zest and the soap, Zest.

He said he didn't really want anything to eat, but my wife ignored him and prepared some seasoned vegetable frijoles (no oil), and we brought in a slice of SF Lemon Meringue pie.

The beans had just a touch of hot, and my wife mixed it with some more of the "hamburger" and 1/2 a plate of plain rice. But first, dessert. He devoured my wife's pie. Hunched over it like a big wolf, daring anyone or anything to try to take it from him. When he finished, he said he was full (I saw him looking at the good on his plate), but my wife brought out her beans and mixed it with the rice and meat. He said, "This tastes like a burrito now. This is good".

I haven't been around a large number of elderly people, but from what I've heard, a lot of them refuse to eat. If the food at the rehab facility is any indication - I wouldn't eat it, either.

I am familiar with the behavior of dogs and cats, and I know if they are very sick or injured, they will refuse to take nourishment - including water.

We had a cat that had severely injured a hind leg in a fight with a garage door opener. After we had taken her to the vet and had her fixed up - she refused to eat or drink. I called the vet and was told it wasn't unusual for an otherwise wounded animal to go into shock and refuse nourishment. The cure? Force feed them until they got hungry on their own.

You can only imagine three tablespoons of milk, six tablespoons of water and a can of Fancy Cat food, swirled in a blender put into a huge injector. I know you can imagine me putting on jeans and a pair of wading boots, two regular shirts and a wool shirt and leather gloves with which to hold the cat and stuff the injector down her throat and give her nourishment.

After three years (really only three days, it just seemed like three years doing it three times a day), she started drinking and eating her Fancy Cat on her own. When she was able to get up and use her litter box, the Fancy Cat was slowly replaced with her former dry food.

That's kind of what we've been doing with my step dad - bringing in his favorite foods. No salt or sugar, but FLAVORED. His nurse asked us how we could get him to eat and they couldn't. I asked her if She would be willing to eat the food on the tray and she answered, "I see what you mean".

Today, we took him in a shaker bottle of Mrs. Dash, Table Blend. No salt, sugar of any kind, or potassium. Just dried herbs and spices like lemon zest, basil, sage, oregano, and I can't remember what else.
Share This Post With Others
Member Comments About This Blog Post
    OMG ... you had me on the floor. My Mom has been gone 6 years (my Dad 4 yrs before that). What memories !! How strange to become your Parent's Parent ... at least you are laughing. My daughter and I are still laughing, I tell her I learned how to behave from my Mom and that's just the way it's gonna be LOL.

    Good luck ... things do have a way of settling down ... and you need to keep finding the funny side ... which you do So Well! Blessings to you Both and hugs to your Dad. L
    4282 days ago
    That's a great story. It's wonderful that he has you to support him. I used to visit nursing and rehab homes as an ombudsman (volunteer) and it was amazing how blah the food was. Some of the staff thought the residents were just being obstinate, but when I suggested THEY try the food, they overwhelmingly refused. They knew it was bad. Many of the residents had to watch salt content, but like you said, there is nothing wrong with seasoning!
    4332 days ago
  • Add Your Comment to the Blog Post

    Log in to post a comment

    Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.