Heartland Human Services

Tips for Getting Loved Ones to Eat

By Trisha Katt, BA Caregiver Advisor

A common nutritional problem for individuals with advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, Cancer, and AIDS is Cachexia-Anorexia.  With Cachexia-Anorexia individuals are prone to progressive and involuntary weight loss.  Individuals with this disorder are “wasting-away” from a lack of vitamins and nutrients.  Caregivers of individuals with Cachexia-Anorexia find this very difficult to deal with and hard to endure.  But there are some proactive steps that caregivers can take to deal with this syndrome.

  • Water, Water, Water. Caregivers should make sure that their loved one has plenty of water.  Unless your loved one has fluid restrictions caregivers should make water readily available to their loved one to prevent dehydration, which can in turn lead to appetite suppression.
  • Keep it small.  There is no rule that says we have to have 3 large meals a day.  Besides large meals look overwhelming to someone in poor health.  Caregivers should offer their loved one up to 6 small meals a day.
  • Bulk up on the amount of calories per meal.  Caregivers can add protein powder mix to their loved one’s shakes or drinks during the day to boost their caloric intake.
  • Soft is better.  Foods such as ice cream, puddings, and fruit smoothies are ideal options for your loved one.  They are easy to digest and can be very tasty.
  • Make it tasty.  Caregivers should avoid serving bland or sour tasting foods.  Caregivers should seek input from their loved ones about things they would like to eat.  And it helps your loved one feel that they have some control.
  • Make it pretty.  Caregivers can present their loved one’s meals with a variety of garnishes to help their loved one eat more.  Also caregivers can enhance the environment where their loved one eats by playing soft music or talking to them about their day or events.  This will help take their mind off of not feeling well.
  • Write it down.  Caregivers should keep a food diary about their loved one’s dietary needs.  For example write down what foods your loved one likes or dislikes, and note any digestive problems your loved one may have with certain foods.  This also makes things easier to discuss with a dietician or doctor if your loved one is experiencing problems.
Work it out.  Caregivers should try to get their loved one up and moving.  This will help them work up an appetite.  However, if walking is not possible there may be simple chores your loved one can help with to help work up their appetite.


Psychologists advise those who have feelings of depression lasting more than two weeks to seek professional advice.  If you or a loved one are experiencing  any symptoms of depression, contact Heartland Human Services at 217-347-7179 or take a free screening at www.heartlandhs.org