As your loved ones age, you might notice that their appetite is not what it once was. This can be due to a variety of factors, including medication side effects, health concerns, and changes in taste or smell. As a result, many seniors end up not getting the nutrition they need, which can lead to health problems down the road. If you're caring for a senior loved one, it's important to be aware of this issue and take steps to encourage them to eat healthy foods. You can start by preparing nutritious meals that are appealing to them and making sure they have plenty of healthy snacks on hand. If all else fails, you may need to seek professional help to ensure your loved one is getting the nutrition they need.
Loss of appetite can be alarming for family caregivers. Uncovering why this might be happening can be challenging since there can be many reasons seniors might lose their appetite. Here are eight of the most common causes:
Medication Side Effects
Many medications can cause a loss of appetite as a side effect. This is especially true of medications used to treat cancer, heart conditions, and other serious illnesses.
A poor diet can lead to malnutrition and a loss of appetite. If your loved one is not eating enough nutrient-rich foods, they might start to lose their appetite. This is because the body will try to conserve energy by slowing down its metabolism. Make sure older adults are eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources. Inadequate protein, vitamin, and mineral intake can all contribute to a lack of hunger.
Dehydration can also cause a loss of appetite. Make sure they are drinking plenty of water every day, especially if they are not eating many fruits and vegetables.
Lack of Exercise
Not getting enough exercise can also lead to a loss of appetite. Make sure your loved one is getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day.
Depression and Anxiety
Depression is often accompanied by a loss of appetite. This may be because depressed individuals often have low energy levels and don’t feel like eating.
If your loved one is feeling stressed out, it's common to lose an appetite. Find ways to reduce their anxiety levels, such as through relaxation techniques or yoga.
Reduced Senses of Taste and Smell
Adults often see a decrease in their sense of smell as they age. With this loss of smell, comes an inability to taste food as strongly, causing food to become less appetizing or interesting to them.
Poor Oral Health
Poor oral health can make eating uncomfortable and lead to a loss of appetite. Dentures that don’t fit well or cavities can make it difficult to eat.
Illness or Surgery
Many illnesses and surgeries can lead to a loss of appetite. Surgery can be very taxing on the body and cause a decrease in hunger.
There are many medical conditions that can cause a loss of appetite, such as diabetes, cancer, dementia, organ failure, and liver disease. If you have any concerns about your loved one’s health, be sure to talk to their doctor.
Why Loss of Appetite in Seniors Should Not Be Ignored
One of the most common health problems faced by seniors is a loss of appetite. Unfortunately, this problem is often ignored or dismissed as a natural part of aging. However, a loss of appetite in a senior can be a sign of a serious medical condition and should not be ignored.
If you are concerned that you or a loved one is not eating enough, it is important to speak to a doctor. There are many reasons why someone might lose their appetite, and most of them can be treated successfully.
How to Encourage your Aging Loved One to Eat
One of the most common concerns caregivers have when caring for older family members is whether or not they are eating enough. There are a few things you can do to encourage your loved one to eat:
- Troubleshoot why your loved one has stopped eating so you can work on a proper solution.
- Try serving smaller meals more often throughout the day instead of large meals only once or twice a day.
- Serve food that is familiar and appetizing to them.
- Encourage them to drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
- If they are not interested in eating, try giving them nutritional supplements or shakes.
- If they are still not eating, consult their doctor to see if there is an underlying medical issue causing their lack of appetite.
If your loved one is not eating for an extended period, it's important to contact their doctor to rule out any underlying medical issues. Your loved one's health should always be your top priority.
Consider Professional Home Care Services
Some seniors who are suffering from decreased appetite can be at risk for dangerous nutritional deficits and need a higher level of care. If your aging loved one is showing signs of reduced appetite and activity, consider recruiting the medical professionals at BrightStar Care to help. Our RN-led team has been trained with effective methods for encouraging seniors to eat more healthily, to exercise more regularly, and to have better mental engagement for prolonged living and improved quality of life. You don’t have to go it alone! Learn how you can get started today by contacting BrightStar Care and recruiting the expertise and compassion you need for your loved one!