For most seniors, losing their appetite as they age is normal. You might find your aging loved one eating a bit less at each meal, not snacking as much during the day or only half filling their plate at a family get together. A smaller appetite is not necessarily a bad thing and may even help your loved one to maintain a healthier weight. However, sometimes, it is cause for concern. When weight loss is significant or health and wellness are impacted, it is time to work to address the problem. It might even be time to seek medical attention.
When trying to deal with an unhealthy loss of appetite, it is helpful to understand why seniors might want to eat less. Some common reasons include:
- Lack of taste due to changing taste buds
- Lack of energy to prepare healthy meals
- Depression or isolation making mealtimes less interesting
- Side effects from some medications
- Dental problems that make chewing difficult or painful
Overcoming Eating Problems
Overcoming eating problems takes a little detective work. If your loved one is dealing with changing taste buds, that is a difficult problem to remedy. Some ideas include making foods more flavorful or preparing favorite meals. For many of these other problems, seeking medical attention is the best place to start. Depression needs to be diagnosed. Counseling or medications may help to remedy it so a normal appetite can return. Dental problems require an evaluation from a dentist. That is why it is important for seniors to see a dental professional for bi-annual visits. Many medications can be changed or the dose might be able to be altered. Appetite stimulants can also sometimes be prescribed. Any of these things can help to remedy eating problems and keep a senior healthier.
Companionship and Assistance
Ensuring that the senior has the right company during mealtimes is another way to overcome an unhealthy loss of appetite. Family, friends, volunteers and professional in-home care providers are excellent resources. They might prepare healthy meals when seniors lack energy, maintain a schedule for mealtimes and provide the company that helps prevent feelings of isolation and depression. Having someone sit with the senior at mealtimes also helps to recognize signs of Alzheimer’s or other health concerns. These might include not eating, forgetting how to use utensils or having difficulty swallowing. If noted, these problems should immediately be addressed by a medical professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Nutritionally Dense Foods
Finally, if a senior is eating less than normal, it is more important than ever to make sure meals are nutritionally dense. Empty calories cannot fuel the body properly. Seniors who lack valuable vitamins, minerals and nutrients are often more susceptible to bacteria and viruses. This can lead to illnesses including the cold, flu or pneumonia. Fill the plate with colorful fruits and vegetables, lean meats and whole grains. Make sure the senior is drinking plenty of fluids too, preferably water. Even in small portions, these choices help us all to lead healthier lives and avoid dangerous weight loss.
Eating problems in seniors are sometimes difficult to overcome. A good start is to learn what is causing the concern. Next, seek medical attention so concerns can be properly addressed. The right level of assistance and companionship are also often of benefit.
If your senior loved one is losing weight or not following a healthy eating plan, we are here to help. Salus Homecare San Gabriel Valley offers professional in home care for meal preparation, companionship and many other activities of daily living. To learn more, contact us and request a free, no obligation in-home evaluation.