Dealing with Loss of Appetite in Seniors
Eating habits and appetites naturally change with age. However, when our loved ones grow older, their lack of interest in food and water can be concerning. It can be difficult to ensure your elderly loved one is receiving the proper nutrients until you understand where that loss of appetite stems from.
Common Reasons the Elderly Lose Their Appetite
Loss of appetite can be common in individuals 65 and up, but why? Here are some common, medically recognized causes of appetite loss in seniors.
Changing taste buds and olfactory senses
If food that your loved one once found appetizing no longer appeals to them, it is likely because senses like taste and smell become duller with age. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, age decreases the number of taste buds and shrinks the remaining taste buds – especially for those over the age of 60. Decreased saliva production and dry mouth can also make food less appealing.
Reduction in activity and metabolic rate
As seniors age, their metabolism slows down and their active hours decrease. As seniors become more sedentary, their bodies require fewer calories. This is a natural process in aging.
Certain medical conditions can take a toll on appetite. Elderly individuals with cancer, thyroid disorders, gastrointestinal changes, and dental problems, for example, can experience loss of appetite.
Side effects of medication
The side effect of some medications is loss of appetite. It is important to determine what medications your loved one is taking and how it might affect them.
How to Ensure Your Loved One Gets the Nutrients They Need
If you are worried about your parents or loved ones not eating enough, you have options.
- Set a schedule – Setting a meal schedule can help the body adjust to consistent food intake. The regularity can actually promote a healthy appetite by training the body to respond when it needs food.
- Prepare nutrient-rich meals – Many people believe that larger portions will help seniors obtain the vitamins and minerals they need. However, smaller portions of nutrient rich foods will have a greater impact.
- Account for medication side effects – After you learn what medications your loved one is taking and what the side effects are, prepare meals that take into consideration the adverse effects like appetite loss. For example, if your loved one complains of water tasting bitter, try infusing the drink with fruits or veggies. If the food tastes off, try adding protein or dairy.
- Eat together – Eating alone can reduce an individual’s appetite. Similarly, not having the energy to cook or grocery shop can also present limitations. Eating and preparing meals together can prevent the loneliness that so often leads to disinterest in food.
We understand that it can be difficult to monitor your parent or loved one’s eating habits on a regular basis. Your other responsibilities, such as children or work, can also limit the time you can spend with your loved one. Our At Home Healthcare team provides high quality care from the comfort of your loved one’s home. We offer private home services that include assisting individuals with meals, feeding, and running errands. Call today to request care.