Is Mom just being picky…or has she really lost her appetite? And if so, why? It’s important to find out, because the loss of appetite in older adults can be a sign that something else more serious is going on.
Loss of appetite in older adults: staying vigilant before there is a problem
The best course of action is always to try and keep an older loved one healthy and nourished before there is a problem. That way, you can avoid complications that could occur as a result of loss of appetite and poor nutrition. These can include heightened fatigue, loss of mobility, which can lead to falls and serious injury, a weakened immune system, or the inability to complete everyday tasks.
Signs of loss of appetite in older adults
Care.com reports that there are indicators that can tell you that someone might be losing their appetite and thus is more likely to not get the nutrition they need:
- Smaller portion sizes or eating fewer meals per day
- Not wanting to eat more than one meal a day, or eat with others
- Resisting foods they previously enjoyed
- Changing weight trends
- Loss of muscle (often most noticeable in the arms, face or around the collarbone)
- Changing patterns in physical activity (which may be a result of decreased energy or muscle)
- Weakness and/or fatigue
If you spot any of these signs, you might wonder what you can do to turn the situation around. First, you want to try and determine why your Mom or Dad doesn’t seem as interested in eating as they once did.
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What can cause loss of appetite in older adults?
DailyCaring.com lists these possible causes of loss of appetite in older adults:
- Loss of taste
- Lack of routine
- Lack of exercise
- Inability to prepare meals
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing or eating independently
- Sensitivity to smells
In addition, dental issues can make it difficult to eat. The side effects of medications can be a factor. Poor digestion also can cause loss of appetite in older adults. And there are more serious health conditions that also can be to blame, such as:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Kidney disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Chronic liver disease
- Changes to salivary glands
- A thyroid disorder
As with any physical change in your older loved one, seeing a physician is an important step to determine the root cause. Seeking medical advice can give you the answers you need.
You also might try having a conversation about why they don’t seem to be interested in eating lately. It could be something like boredom or inability to get to the market for ingredients, or it could be they don’t even realize they are avoiding meals.
Strategies for helping improve a senior’s appetite
A few suggestions for helping an older adult improve their appetite include:
- Instead of three large meals a day, consider serving smaller, more frequent meals. Keep high-protein snacks around as well.
- Concentrate on foods with a higher vitamin and mineral content, such as peanut or nut butters, avocados, finely chopped meat, cheese or eggs, and fruits and vegetables.
- Try finger foods, especially if your Mom or Dad is having trouble using utensils. Foods to try include chicken fingers, fish sticks, or raw vegetables such as carrots, broccoli or bell pepper strips.
- Add some smoothies to the daily diet. It’s easy to add healthy foods like blueberries, banana, non-fat yogurt, and even protein power for a delicious result. This works especially well when a senior is having difficulty chewing foods
- Increase physical activity. If possible, take your parent for a daily walk outdoors or try some chair exercises to help get their heart rate up.
- Make sure they are hydrated. Some people lose their sense of thirst as they age, which can have a big impact on their level of hydration. When a person is dehydrated, they can experience weakness, diarrhea, vomiting and fever, all of which will impact their appetite.
Eating well is an important part of overall wellness
And at St. Mark Village in Palm Harbor, Florida, our Wellness Matters program focuses on the whole person. Our professionals work with residents to create and implement customized wellness plans to achieve their wellness goal, including proper nutrition.
Let us tell you more about how living in our community can enhance healthy aging, backed by the reassurance of seamless access to future care options.