Alzheimer eating sleeping question

my dad 81 has alzheimers he will only eat cookies, milkshakes, & milk regularly when presented with other foods he eats very little unless it is sweet. He also sleeps 15 to 20 hours a day. Is this normal? Should I consult a physician

Report post

19 replies. Join the discussion

I am not a nutritionist or anything close - but if you want him to eat healthier things can you not put sugar in or on them (or Splenda, if sugar is an issue) or creamy sauces that are sweeter? Just a thought. The senses change, I know, with AD. And, yes, I guess you should ask a physician about that and about sleeping so much. My dad has AD but he is not to the stage of wanting to sleep. His idea of a nap is to lay on the couch and read aloud for about 10 minutes. Then he is up and at 'em, much to my poor mother's dismay! Good luck.

Report post

Well, I to am not a nutritionist, however my Mom also eats very little. She was sleeping a lot until we had some blood work done and found out that she had a bladder infection. If the only fluids that your Dad is getting is milk and milkshakes then I suggest you have him tested, or at least ask a doctor if this is possible. Is Dad living with you or in a facility? The reason I ask is that my Mom has forgotten how to feed herself. She no longer knows how to use a fork or spoon much less a knife. Try finger foods such as sliced fresh fruit that is already sweet. Also try giving him baby carrots with some type of dip or any veggie that he use to eat all the time. This will help get some nourishment in him. The facility where my Mom is at has given her occupational therapy and now is using a fork & spoon again. I suggest that you get the book "36 Hour Day" has very good information in it. You and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers.

Report post

I think you've been given good advice, and should see if it will work for you.

I just wish add add my personal experience.

I eat nutritious foods, but do not try to change the lifetime eating habits of my 75-year-old husband. He grew up in the American South, and likes fried food, red meat, candy, pudding and soda. However, it is one of his few pleasures. He often reminisces about the foods his mother served when he was a boy.

In addition to having mid-stage Alzheimer's, my husband has severe COPD. He is basically housebound because he uses oxygen 24/7.

Report post

My husband sleeps a lot but eats most food he has just started eating pasta something he has never eaten,he can use a fork and I cut all his food for him.I look at it this way if hes eating just go for it,even if its the "wrong time of day".I have noticed that he seems to start his day several times a day,that can be annoying.

Report post

To kaysp and anyone else who has experience with, or input about, patient sleeping a lot --

Does anyone know why Alzheimer's patients sleep a lot? Doctors these days seem to give as little information as possible.

I think my husband, 75, starts his day several times a day. I never thought of it that way before. He will awaken in the morning, stay in his pajamas, take juice or coffee back to bed with him, watch the news, and fall asleep. Three or four hours later, he awakens, maybe gets dressed, and makes himself a cooked breakfast. Although lately I've had to remind him by 10 or a.m.

After a few hours, he goes back to bed, "just to listen to the music on TV," and falls asleep soon after. The cycle goes on. I try to act like, "doesn't everybody?"

I welcome comments that may help me understand this behavior. He makes rational decisions and is a good conversationalist, but confuses things and places. He still has a brain MRI and electrical conduction test ahead of him before seeing his neurologist for the second time.

Thanks for your help.

Report post

"Sweet" is the last taste to go. Try putting a little sweet sauce or salad dressing on healthier items. This is a trick often used to boost nutrition for picky geriatric eaters. As for weird and/or increasingly long sleeping schedules in AZ patients: this, too, is fairly normal. Mama (85) has been in her truly excellent AD unit since February. Even though she's finally settling down and adjusting to the "new routines," she still insists on sleeping 'til noon (frequently) or all day (less frequently) whenever she dang well pleases. Of course, this also means she has a tendency to "yahoo all night" as a result. Unit staff there don't believe in "forcing" anything and don't call me for backup unless she's in such a state they can't "redirect" her. Lately, the only thing they've been calling me for help with is getting her to take her pills (also a common development), and much less often now than at first.

Who knows what kind of desperate rats are now running around in the unsolvable mental maze this disease has made of mama's brain? I think if I had that kind of exhausting frustration marathon running non-stop in my consciousness, I'd want to shut it all down with sleep as often as possible.

God bless you and your dad!

Report post

thank you so much for your answer I read all of them and now feel better about what is happening with my dad and can reassure my mom that it is part of the disease and not to worry so much.

Report post

thank you for your answer I read them all and it was very helpful to get input from other facing this disease and I can reassure my mom that this behavior is just part of the disease

Report post

oh yeah my mom & dad are living in their own home and I will check out the book you recommended & have dad tested for uti thanks so much

Report post

thanks for you info my dad is practically home bound too he had guillam barre several years ago and has difficulty walking also he just doesnt like to leave his house it really helps to know what other people are going through

Report post

most of the time daddy remembers getting up earlier his memory is not real bad he still knows everyone he sees on a regular basis but not the ones who visit infrequently and some of his great grand children that live out of town he will not know In this we are blesed he is also not combative very docile except for getting him to take a shower that is like pulling hens teeth

Report post

my dad also sleeps a lot will get up at 8am drink some coffee eat some cookies go back to bed get up watch tv with a glass of milk & cookies goes with my mom to lunch and cant wait til he gets home to go back to sleep lunch is at 1130 n his "nap" usually starts at 1230 n lasts til 3 or 4 then hes up has a milkshake or milk more cookies and by 730 if not earlier he is ready to go to bed for the night and sleeps til about 8 the next morning in all the info ive read there is very little about these sleep patterns so I dont know I guess it is just part of the disease

Report post

thank you for letting me know why sweet is so important to my dad he never ate sweet stuff very much throughout his lifetime he was always thin he didnt eat much then either but now other than cookies it is less n less he will drink boost or ensure and if you substitute this for milk he doesnt seem to notice but I cant convince mom to just put it in his milk carton instead of buying more milk some time shes more of a problem than he is she wont go anywhere without him and he doesnt want to go anywhere and then she is upset because they never go anywhere my sister & I try to get her out but she doesnt want to leave him alone and when we volunteer to stay with him she says no so what do you do

Report post

Your mom is probably so exhausted she can't "process new information." Mama has been in the AD unit almost 5 months, and I'm just now getting to the point where the thought of attending a social event or starting any kind of new project doesn't reduce me to panic attacks and tears. I had a real hard time planning "respite outings" for myself because:
(a) Finding/briefing a sitter seemed an insurmountable obstacle.
(b) Once I got a sitter, where would I go? Few destinations seemed worth the hassle.
(c) The whole time I was out, I was worrying about mama going ballistic on the sitter.
(c) I knew that once I got back, mama would be furious, cranky and abusive to me.

God bless my BFF (who had already gone thru this with her mother). She wouldn't take "no" for an answer. We set up a "standing weekly 3-hour appointment" for grocery shopping early on Friday mornings -- our long-time housekeeper's day. She would pick me up, give me all the hot gossip and make venue suggestions while I just sat there and shook. I didn't have to drive, I didn't have to talk, I didn't have to make any decisions, I didn't have to stay mega-alert for ominous developments... just got to listen to adult conversation, enjoy the scenery and get stuff done without any horrific distractions.

I bet your mama is in about the same place I was. Here's an idea: don't ask her... tell her that you and your sis are gonna take turns "kidnapping" her for "girls' morning out." Once a week, one of you will take her for grocery shopping and lunch while the other stays with dad. Next week, you trade off. You make the decisions for her (she's so overwhelmed that she can't make 'em herself... nothing's going to seem attractive). She'll probably be a basket case the first couple of times you try this, but it will be worth it. In retrospect, "being kidnapped" once a week to cruise the HEB with a stop-off for coffee SAVED MY LIFE.

Hang in there.

Report post

I agree with ruby2, Mom does need to get out without Dad. With two daughters there to help her out, she should love it. I would also sit down with her & discuss this and ask if there is any chore she would like done while the other sister is gone with Mom. The one staying at home could do a load of wash, maybe fix them dinner for the night or even strip the bed & make it. I know this was one of the hard things that Mom had trouble with. My Dad was always messing the bed just after she would put on clean sheets. She would call me at work crying about how no sooner then clean sheats were one and he would go to sleep and have an accident on the fresh sheets.
Maybe you can take Mom to get her hair down, a little lunch and shopping. Just get her out. You will all be in my thoughts and prayers.

Report post

My husband will only eat certain things and ususally they are sweet. He also sleeps alot. He has no desire for meat. He usually likes pancakes in the morning, peanut butter and jelly with strawberry Ensure drink and dinner scrambled eggs with toast and jelly. Sometimes he will eat soup. I try to vary this but this is what he wants. He might add cheese and crackers and a veg. He drinks V8 and Ensure and water. Might eat fish once in a while. I give him lots of vitamins. You might want to try Ensure or some other protien drink and let him think it is flavored milk or a shake. I am grateful he will eat even that. He will sleep til 10:00 am each day, take a nap in the afternoon for at least an hour or more and stay up til 10:00 or 11:00 at night. That seems to work for him. I am sure he could sleep longer but I try to keep a schedule unless we have a doctor's appointment earlier in the day. I also put coconut oil in his morning coffee which he loves. I think he is holding his own, but being with him 24 hours a day - it is hard for me to tell. Maybe it is my wishful thinking. Best of luck with your Dad.

Report post

My husband also sleeps a lot---in his recliner. He will not go to bed until I tell him at night that it's late and we need to retire (usually 10:30). I worry that I should be able to provide more stimulation for him, but he refuses to do activities which I suggest. He enjoys riding in the car and wants to go with me everywhere I go. So, it's rare I ever go somewhere without him. This morning I had to see the dr. and was there 2-1/2 hrs. while he sat in the waiting room. He didn't seem to mind waiting--was entertained by some young children. He tells me he's not hungry at meal time, but when I prepare a meal he always eats it. He likes sweets a lot, especially ice cream. I'm fortunate in that he eats healthy foods which I prepare.

Report post

Then is my experience. Let them eat anything they want if it's not inconvenient to you. Providing Boost or Ensure will give them enough to live on. They don't expend a lot of energy. They do lose the ability to feed themselves. Mom was pretty darn active. We had a routine. I'd say if he is repeating a routine by himself, let him do it and try to ignore it as much as possible. I had to do everything I could to keep mom up during the day because she would crank it up at sundown.

I found asking doctors to provide answers is useless. Neurology has come a long way but there is nothing they can do or say that you don't know already. Meds for pain and sedation. Prolonging the agony for both victim and caregiver does nothing to improve quality of life.

It's a little different in being a spouse as opposed to the children taking care of victims. Then again it's not. The victims brains are damaged and get worse leaving them just an AD victim in the end.

Peace and love!

Report post

My husband has always loved sweets especially, baked goods. I bake almost every day because he enjoys it so much and seems to relish every morsel. I figure it's something he enjoys and if it doesn't hasten his demise, why not? He's content with a piece of cake and coffee after dinner. We'll sit on the deck and watch the sun set and somehow all seems normal for a bit. Best wishes and good luck with the sweet tooth!

Report post

This discussion is closed to replies. We close all discussions after 90 days.

If there's something you'd like to discuss, click below to start a new discussion.

Things you can do

Support AFA

Help the Alzheimer's Foundation of America reach its goals and support people like yourself by making a donation today.

Donate to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America

Discussion topics

Links and resources from AFA

Community leaders


Information found on the Alzheimer's Foundation of America Support Community should not be considered a replacement for consultation with a qualified healthcare professional. Any views or opinions expressed on this site are not necessarily those of AFA.