A senior loved one losing their appetite can be a hard pill to swallow – it can be caused by physiological or lifestyle changes. Noticing changes in their eating habits can be the first step to helping them.
Common reasons for seniors eating less are:
- A lower metabolic rate and less physical activity mean seniors need fewer calories
- Changes to sense of smell and taste can make food less tasty. We lose taste buds as we get older
- Dental problems or gastrointestinal changes, such as lactose intolerance, can accompany aging and make eating uncomfortable
Senior Health Conditions // Loss of Appetite
Sometimes lack of interest in food is not an effect of aging. Common health problems that can decrease hunger are:
- Depression or loneliness
- Dementia symptoms
- Side effects from medications
- Less energy to cook, possibly due to sleep problems
Less common, but serious, underlying causes of a lack of appetite are:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Head and neck cancers
- Mouth and throat infections
- Periodontal disease
- Salivary gland dysfunction
- Thyroid disorders
5 Steps to Help their Appetite
If your loved one’s lack of appetite is attributable to normal aging or a health condition there are a few simple things you can do to help them eat enough.
1. Medication Complications
A side effect of certain medications can be a dry mouth, meaning that the salivary glands don’t contain enough saliva. Chewing sugarless gum, brushing regularly or using an oral rinse before meals can enhance the sense of taste and eventually the intake of nutrients.
Some medications make foods taste metallic. If your loved one says their meat tastes off or metallic, switch to other sources of protein like dairy or beans. Add herbs or sliced fruits or vegetables such as lemon or cucumber if water doesn’t taste right to them.
2. Eat with Others
For people of all ages the idea of eating alone may be unattractive. For older people, mobility issues, a spouse’s death and lack of transportation mean they are less likely to share meals with others. Senior centers, temples, or churches, and community centers may have weekly dinners for seniors making a shared experience more enjoyable.
3. Nutrient Dense Foods are Key
Big portions can be overwhelming with a emphasis on calorie-rich choices. Caregivers should not increase portions, but raise the nutritional content of the food they provide. Examples of nutrient & calorie dense foods are:
- olive oil
- peanut butter
4. Get On A Routine
Our bodies love routine, so when we don’t follow our normal habits our appetites can be affected. If your loved one is not used to a mealtime routine, start slowly during a normal mealtime by introducing a small snack. This may help to stimulate the signals of hunger on the body.
5. Stimulate Appetite
Some seniors have been successful with stimulants for prescribed appetite. Your loved one’s doctor will be able to discuss the pros and cons, including side effects and suitability given their overall health condition.
This could be a side effect of normal aging to become less involved in food.But you can help your loved one get the nutrients they need, by seeking medical advice and taking steps to promote healthier eating.
Fairmont Grand Senior Living Community
Fairmont Grand is a resident centered senior living and memory care facility in Rapid City, SD. Our goal is to create an environment where resident well-being is at the heart of everything we do.
Our wide range of services are designed to meet you or your loved one’s daily needs. We offer restaurant style dining options, a variety of physical activities, and give residents the opportunity to live as independently as possible.