How to Help with Loss of Appetite in Elderly Family Members
After the indulgence of the holiday season, many of us decide to cut back on our calorie consumption. But when an older adult refuses to eat altogether, or is making unbalanced or unhealthy dietary choices, it’s important to determine the cause behind this behavior, and to know how to help them get on track with healthier eating.
What Causes Changes in a Senior’s Eating Habits?
There are several key reasons an older adult may stop eating or start making poor dietary choices – and ways you can help overcome them:
- Side effects from medications. Schedule an appointment with the doctor for a full review of all meds being taken, and find out if one or more may be causing a loss of appetite or troubling gastrointestinal effects. See if the medication can be changed to something more tolerable or if the dosage amount can be adjusted.
- Loss of smell or taste. Aging in general often leads to a dulling of these senses, which can affect the enjoyment of eating. Try experimenting with more flavorful and aromatic herbs and spices when preparing meals, such as garlic, thyme, and ginger.
- Problems with oral health. Check with the dentist to see if dentures need to be refitted or if there are any other dental concerns that need to be addressed. You can also provide foods that are softer and/or cut them into smaller pieces. Ground meat, lentils, and beans, for instance, are easier to chew than a pork chop or steak.
- Low vision. If the person is unable to see clearly, they may perceive foods differently and lose interest in eating. Vision problems can also make it difficult and even dangerous to prepare meals or pick up groceries. Offer to help with shopping and meal prep (or let us help!) and serve foods that are brightly colored and contrasted to the colors of serving dishes, placemat, tablecloth, etc. so they’re more easily seen.
- Loneliness. This is a common problem among older adults, and can make mealtimes less enjoyable. Share meals whenever possible with a lonely senior loved one, invite friends and neighbors to join them, or contact Generations at Home for a caregiving companion to help.
Generations at Home is here for older adults struggling to maintain a healthy diet, for whatever reason. We can partner with you to ensure all the bases are covered in providing older adults with every opportunity to once again enjoy meals and establish improved eating habits. Call us at 727-940-3414 to find out how we can help.