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After a stroke late last year, my 87 year-old grandfather hasn't been doing so hot. After being discharged from the hospital's rehab center, he has been in our care for over two months. Keeping food down has been interesting lately, as he has developed a strong dislike for most foods over the last month and a half since what seemed like another stroke.

In accordance with our observations, credible resources confirm that strokes can cause "altered smell, taste, hearing, or vision".1,2 It seems that there is plenty of material confirming the degeneration of taste, but solutions seem harder to come by, and requiring of diagnosis by a physician, brain scans, etc. which wouldn't be viable right now.

Is there a way to stimulate taste buds, or help the brain recognize taste again?

Edited on Tuesday, March 8: After we heard that one of his somewhat recently prescribed medications might have been causing a bad taste (additional source) in his mouth, we discontinued use about two weeks ago. Now there might be more foods he will tolerate (it's hard to say for sure since we're trying foods we hadn't before), but he still hates others. I haven't found a significant number of sources that seem credible suggesting a correlation, and wonder if it's probably not related.

I know that Health.SE "is not intended as a substitute for individualized diagnosis and treatment by a qualified healthcare provider." He is on hospice, and therefore his insurance won't cover hospital visits, and his finances are quite minimal, so any reasonable advice I can get would be greatly appreciated, and won't really be substitution for professional advice. (Of course, unreasonable advice would also be welcome, given good references.)

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    I edited your question to make it less of a request for personal medical advice. If you object to my edits, you can revert them. – Carey Gregory Feb 22 '16 at 13:34
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    @CareyGregory, Thanks! I am curious how permanent the cause of this trouble is, but I do see some benefit in your edit. Besides, even had the condition been likely to persist, I don't know that realizing it would dramatically alter our anticipated course of action; and if time will cure it, we may well find that out anyways. – Kai Maxfield Feb 22 '16 at 14:21
  • Oh, and thanks for the title change; that's far more fitting. – Kai Maxfield Feb 22 '16 at 17:33
  • I'm sorry this answer came so late. I starred this almost two years ago, but never had a chance to reply. Best wishes to recovery. – Dave Liu Feb 18 '18 at 4:35
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According to this case report,

Testing should be considered if the patient is not meeting goals of rehabilitation, because altered taste perception may lead to depression, weight loss, and malnutrition, all of which may act to confound rehabilitation efforts.

I could not find research about directly re-stimulating the taste buds, but at the very least, supporting the person emotionally and helping them reach nutritional goals should contribute to the rehabilitation efforts by their own body.

It seems that recovery is slow, but possible.

... by 9 months post stroke [she] had identified several foods that she could taste and enjoy. She found that tomato sauce with pasta or beef dishes were the most palatable, and she replaced coffee with tea. She noted that sweet foods and sugar tasted as expected, and she was able to enjoy chocolate. One year following the stroke, she continued to perceive the taste of chicken and potatoes as “sawdust.”

Best wishes to anyone recovering from a stroke and their families.

Altered Taste and Stroke: A Case Report and Literature Review

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  • Thank you very much for your reply at any rate, even if it's a little late. My grandpa passed away shortly after I asked this – Kai Maxfield Feb 18 '18 at 12:22
  • I'm sorry. Our thoughts go out to you and your family. – Dave Liu Feb 18 '18 at 20:03

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