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Senior Health

Not eating solids



What can I feed my 85 year old mother who has gone off solids ?


Before considering this nutrition question, it is important to know why your mother has stopped eating solid food. Regardless of age, it is not the normal pattern for older people to stop eating solid foods. Has your mother seen a health care provider about not eating solid foods? Or has she now been advised by her primary health provider to discontinue eating solid foods?

It is very important to know the answer to these questions because there may be a medical reason she is no longer eating solids that could include problems with a sore mouth, chewing, swallowing, digestion, or other reasons that have caused her to stop eating solid foods. Your mother needs to be evaluated for any medical reasons she may be experiencing that has caused her to stop eating solid foods. I strongly suggest that your mother be evaluated by her primary care provider (physician or nurse practitioner or physician assistant or whomever she regularly visits for health care check ups) to assess why her eating pattern has changed.

In the mean time, if she is not eating any solids, foods can be pureed in a blender or a food processor. Almost any fruit, vegetable or meat can be pureed. Also, you can purchase liquid nutritional supplements, such as Ensure (or other brands) available at most general grocery stores to ensure your mother receives proper nutrition. 

However, before using liquid nutritional supplements as your mother`s only source of nutrition, it is important for your mother to check with her primary care provider regarding what type of nutritional supplement is best for her. If she is diabetic or has food allergies, there are specific supplements that will be more appropriate for her.
The most important first step is to discover why your mother is no longer eating solid foods. If you and your mother already have the answer to these questions following an evaluation by a primary care provider, it would be advisable to consult a dietitian for further information about pureed and liquid diets for older people.


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Response by:

Evelyn L Fitzwater, DSN, RN Evelyn L Fitzwater, DSN, RN
Associate Professor Emerita
Associate Director of the
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati