Patient not eating very much, any advice/suggestions?

Hi,

Another one of my questions :slight_smile:

My wife is currently in rehab for her stroke recovery but she is not eating very much, it’s a bit of a concern for the staff in the centre, when I visit I take food in for her but generally she is not very keen.

Is this a common issue with stroke survivors and are there any suggestions to get a patient engaging with eating?

Cheers.

Mike.

We are all very different, but for me, whilst in 2 hospitals over 2 months, I was very aware I needed to keep eating for strength and never missed a meal in that time, so all you can do is encourage her as much as possible.
But if she has swallowing issues it must be very hard. Also, Id say in this heat its not great either, its gone 5 and Ive only so far today had porridge for breakfast.
You are doing as much as you personally can by asking questions from people who have had similar issues.
Best wishes to you both.

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Shwmae @mikeyoung, I struggled eating wise, probably also compounded by medication side-effects. I was very “crave” centric, so if I got into my head something I would like to eat, I would enjoy eating it more. Out of hospital, I ate mainly soup, fruit, nuts, Horlicks, cake, biscuits, and salad. My partner would make me a sandwich sometimes, or bring up some soup. I lost several stone, and I am only nine stone. I am back down to eight at the moment which is a worry for me. I am trying to work on strategies to bring my weight up again. A big factor for me was the utter fatigue that made even thinking about the effort of eating food exhausting. Grazing is good as it is a less taxing way of consuming food. An aperitif may help (doesn’t have to be alcoholic). Hope some of my experience may help.

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Hi Shwmae,

That’s great, thank you… yeah my wife doesn’t have a lot of spare weight either, she never did have a big appetite before the stroke, so I’m not surprised she is struggling a bit now.

She can swallow ok, she is on pureed food though which can be a bit unapetising.

Before she left hospital she was given a drug to pep up her mood and increase her appetitie but that is just a short term drug so maybe they have stopped giving her that, I will check with the rehab centre.

Having done a quick Google on the subject it does seem to be quite common after a stroke, the brain is suddenly rewired differently and things like appetite can be affected etc.

Hi,

Yeah that does sound familiar, it’s reasuring to hear other peoples experiences, thank you…

While I was in hospital my taste buds weren’t working like normal. I don’t drink tea, coffee is my choice but for quite a while after the stroke the flavour tasted absolutely vile. I’m okay again with coffee but I wouldn’t touch it back then, in fact at that time I only drank drinking chocolate, which was the only thing that tasted good.
The same sort of thing happened with meals, for no apparent reason some food tasted awful and I missed many a meal by refusing it. Months later my taste seems to have at last put itself right.
I used to order a pudding like ice cream that I knew I could eat, so at least I had something.

I don’t eat a lot nowadays but I am leading a much more sedentary life and I don’t seem to be wasting away. Generally though taste and appetite have settled. I think the shock to the system of a stroke takes a while, if not forever, to settle down.

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Hi Bobbi,

Ah right, that is interesting, maybe the food she is been given just doesn’t taste that good to her!

It’s funny you mention tea and coffee, my wife never drank tea, always coffee, but now she loves tea :slight_smile:

I think it’s more about finding things she likes, rather than she is just refusing to eat… most days I can get her to eat something, not that much, but when I’m not at the rehab centre they struggle to get her to eat it seems.

Hopefully things will settle down over time.

Many thanks for your reply.

You are right to be concerned but in my opinion this sort of thing is pretty standard amongst stroke patients. Staff don’t really see it as a result, but you are intensely aware, as is your wife, of big changes from how things were. Always ask questions, there will be a mix of answers, just as there is a mix of ways that stroke shows itself, it might not all be useful but you will discover much that can help with what is a huge event in your lives.
Take care, we try to support one another as best we can and you are very welcome here.

@mikeyoung I lost my appetite when I had my stroke & have not felt hungry since. I eat because I have to but in smaller portions. Like @Bobbi things i previously enjoyed suddenly tasted horrible. I’ve lost 2 1/2 stone since my stroke despite eating 3 meals a day & being much less active.
I think a little & often is possibly the way to go. Something she enjoys eating & wouldn’t worry about diet issues (unless it would make her health worse of course …thinking diabetes there).
Have you thought about protein shakes or similar?
If you can get her to eat when you’re there I wonder if the food they’re giving her isn’t appetising or they aren’t being as proactive as they could be. I know when i was in hospital if I didn’t eat it wasn’t questioned they just took it away.
Hopefully her appetite will return soon
Best wishes

Ann

It was for me. I lost a stone while in rehab. Basically, hospital food is quite poor. However, I also think I lost my appetite. It might be worth asking what she thinks she would like to eat. After rehab, I came home and have eaten smaller meals ever since.

Hi I’m Anne - not the same as Ann! My husband had a stroke 4 years ago and still does not like tea. I think the idea of not being able to swallow made the ward thicken the drink; it tasted awful. So it put him off even to this day. He finds drinking a lot in this weather very hard. I don’t think he has improved much more than simply swallowing okay since 2019’s return home and regarding mobility he has not improved at all. He didn’t get good physio or OT when in hospital though it was a rehab place and stayed there for 6 weeks twice for 2 strokes 2016 and 2018/19; uselessly to my mind. We did get online and then some in person private physio but gave up when that physiotherapist/ Conductor as she called herself, had to leave that group. he wasn’t getting anywhere fast and we were paying for it ourselves.
He does like eating now though but not the ‘right’ things and puts weight on unfortunately. He never liked veg much but now is worse; even carrots and tomatoes are not liked! I wonder if it is textures that affect him. He finds it hard to butter his own bread but can swallow happily and drinks Vimto and Blackcurrant juice, or lemon squash type things. Icecream is always welcome! Try a variety of things and see if anything works. Go at meal times if they let you to help encourage her eating and check on what they are offering her. There was a menu to tick early in the day or even for the following day. I would do that as he couldn’t read as a result of the stroke; half his eyesight and language ability went as well as mobility. There are more hidden results in a stroke than I ever realised. Just keep going! And get a carer’s package prepared before you get her home. Things aren’t going to be the same and I trust she gets more active in coming days.

Evening @mikeyoung. Sorry to hear of your worries about your wife. My husband also brought food in for me but I still managed to lose 2 stone during the 7 weeks I was in hospital for. I would feel awful about not eating stuff he had brought in. I was extremely aware of how thin I was and was determined to eat but this was often counterproductive in killing my appetite and potentially making me gag at just the thought of it. Anxiety was and still is a big issue. Things that are easy- ice cream, home made tasty dahl, fruit smoothies loaded with protein rich yoghurt all helped me actually get the food down (my swallowing wasn’t great at the start). Despite eating more calories than ever before I have only regained 10 lbs since I left hospital in September and believe this is solely now to do with anxiety and uncertainty about the future. I now enjoy my food again though and take an active role in preparing it which I also enjoy so I can only console my self that my body will take what it needs and over time as my anxiety reduces I might be able to put on some much needed padding. Hope things improve for your wife soon, Julia

Hi Julia, and everyone else who has kindly replied.
Yeah that seems to be a common thread, people lose wait in hospital/rehab for various reasons whilst recovering from a stroke. I want to help my wife naturally and I feel if I can at least get her to eat what I bring in for her then that is something. But I’m beggining to understand that she may not always want to eat anything and that is ok. I think I have found a combination of things she does like, Salmon mousse, which is tasty and has some good protien, Tahini, fresh soups and she’ll always eat a ‘GU’ chocolate pud, fresh and tasty seems to be the way to go. I’m sure once she is home I can help her recover her appetite and give her the regular meals that she likes, and hopefully start to put the pounds back on :slight_smile: Thank you so much for sharing your journey, it really helps to hear other peoples experiences, good luck with your continued recovery… cheers Mike.

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I lost my appetite as well after my stroke. I think it was the medication, since it really started when they were trying various meds on me. But, pureed stuff is not very appetizing. Maybe, homemade puddings, yogurts, icecream? When my neighbor’s mom did not want to eat, they could still get her to eat icecream. Not a lot of vitamins, but helps to keep energy up.

@mikeyoung we are happy to share our experience and hope that some of it will be of use as find your way through what is a huge change for both you and your wife.
Simply getting used to dealing with day to day issues is a huge hurdle to deal with. You are going to find it is a long continuing journey, which is why this Forum will still have much to offer as time passes by.
When you post your experiences and your questions what shows up here becomes a resource that others can browse and make use of. You are not alone, this path has been trod before. Keep contact, keep telling what is happening to you and keep up the questions.
If you discover something or have something to share please try to find time to write it up here so others can benefit.
The world of stroke is in many ways an alien environment we have had thrust upon us and which we must deal with in the best way we can. Talking together, sharing, goes some way towards coping with things as they are.

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Hi Bobbi,
You’re absolutely right - “The world of stroke is in many ways an alien environment we have had thrust upon us” and it certainly takes some getting used to. But this forum is proving a real help and comfort, I will certainly be looking for more help soon, thank you :slight_smile:

Hi, I also lost my appetite after my stroke and really struggled with eating. I had actually list over a stone in weight after being in hospital for 5 months.

Even now, 5 years post stroke, I still don’t get hungry and sometimes have to force myself to eat, although I’m now back to my weight before my stroke.

Hope that helps
Regards Sue

Hi Sue,
Yeah that is interesting, it all makes sense… and reasuring too.
My wife is also suffering with CKD, and one of the symtoms is loss of appetite, so it’s no surprise she is finding it hard to eat.
Many thanks for your reply, very useful :slight_smile:
Cheers Mike.