Combatting Appetite Loss in Seniors

June 6, 2014
Combating appetite loss in older adults is important

Combating appetite loss in older adults is important

Appetite loss can be an ongoing concern for caregivers and their aging parents.  Proper eating and drinking is especially important during summer months when loss of appetite or loss of thirst could lead to sudden dehydration.

And although our metabolism may slow as we age, our bodies still need fuel and fluids.  It’s important that caregivers be aware of causes of appetite loss and various tips to combat appetite loss.  If your loved one experiences weight loss or lack of interest in eating or drinking, here are a few tips to help encourage better eating habits.

Causes of Appetite Loss

Here are some common causes of appetite loss in the elderly:

  • changing taste buds
  • depression or loneliness
  • lack of energy or inability to cook
  • medication side effects
  • other health related conditions
  • poor digestion
  • trouble chewing due to poor-fitting false teeth

There may be other factors as well and a frank, open discussion may reveal why your loved one has lost interest in food. Weight loss may be considered normal in old age, but it may also be a sign that something is wrong, or perhaps some simple adjustments need to be made.

What You Can Do

If a change in taste buds is the issue, you may simply try preparing different meals. Speak openly to your loved one about what he or she would enjoy eating and do your best to be accommodating, while keeping in mind that nutrition should also be a priority. Mealtime should not be a battlefield, so compromises may have to be made.

Zinc deficiency is sometimes linked to loss of taste, so consider speaking to your health care provider about a daily zinc supplement. Many meats are rich in zinc, although some elderly find red meat hard to digest, so a supplement may offer an alternative.

Many elderly are affected by depression, which in turn has a direct effect on appetite. If this is the case, speak with your loved one’s health care provider about how to manage depression.

If your loved one does not have the ability to cook for him or herself, you may try preparing a few meals ahead of time and storing them in the freezer. If you, like many caregivers, are already preparing meals for your loved one and you need a break, services such as Meals on Wheels may be just what you need.

Side effects from medication may also cause lack of appetite. If this is the case, speak to your loved one’s health care provider. He may be able to adjust the dosage or switch to a comparable medication.

Many elderly suffer from poor or sluggish digestion. Their stomachs may feel bloated or full much of the time and the sense of hunger isn’t present.  A simple solution might be some digestive enzymes or a supplement, as prescribed by your loved one’s health care provider.

Ill-fitting false teeth, or lack of certain teeth may also cause some to shy away from eating, so perhaps a trip to the dentist might be in order. Over time false teeth may need to be refitted or perhaps the addition of a false tooth would aid in chewing. Certain types of food may not be false-teeth friendly. Foods such as lettuce, apples, and certain meats can unseat false teeth.

Whatever the reason for appetite loss, a bit of investigative work or a trip to your loved one’s health care provider may hold the answer.

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