While appetite changes are a natural part of the aging process, adequate nutrition remains a significant concern for older seniors.
If your aging loved one has lost his/her appetite, consider these steps toward ensuring optimal nutrition in the golden years.
An Overview of Appetite Changes
Loss of appetite is common in older adults and can be attributed to several different factors, ranging from changing taste buds to depression to medication. For others, there may be no cause at all; appetite changes may simply be a natural part of growing older. Regardless of why your loved one is experiencing appetite changes, failure to correct the issue can lead to serious health problems.
What You Can Do
These five tips are designed to help your aging loved one regain their appetite.
1. Choose Nutrient-Rich Foods
While you may want to load up a plate with all of your loved one’s favorite foods, resist the temptation. Instead, offer reasonable portions of nutrient-dense foods, like avocado or peanut butter. Of course, offering favorite foods can also provide incentive to eat, just keep portions within reason and offer a variety of options. Consult with your loved one’s physician to determine how much of these “favorite foods” are okay to encourage.
2. Stick to a Schedule
Establishing a routine can help your loved one enjoy a better quality of life in a number of ways, especially when it comes to nutrition. As much as possible, encourage mom or dad to eat at regular meal times. This can help the body relearn to trigger natural hunger signals, making it easier to develop a routine.
3. Be Social
Do you like to eat alone? Your loved one may not either. Loneliness can play a significant factor in reduced appetite, and this can particularly affect older adults. Look for opportunities to enjoy meals together, and encourage friends and family members to do the same. Scheduling regular breakfast dates with a neighbor or a trip out to lunch with a local senior center can not only give your loved one something to look forward to, but provide a better environment for eating.
In some cases, a decreased appetite may have nothing to do with the individual, but everything to do with other outside factors. Medications and dental issues, such as poorly fitting dentures, can directly impact your love one’s appetite.
If your loved one experiences dry mouth or "off"-tasting sensations, try increasing herbs and spices to add a boost of flavor to foods. Sugarless gum can also help eliminate the feeling of dry mouth. Encourage your loved one to stay hydrated and talk to a physician about dealing with side effects of medications that can inhibit appetite.
5. Supplement If Necessary
Any new changes in your love one’s dietary health should be discussed with a physician. A conversation with a registered dietitian may also be a helpful way to gain advice and information. A physician or dietitian may recommend specific food choices or dietary supplements, such as natural/prescription appetite stimulants or nutritional shakes that can help your loved one get much needed vitamins and nutrients.
A loss of appetite can be a natural part of the aging process, but fortunately there are many resources for support. By encouraging his/her appetite and promoting weight gain if necessary, you can help your aging loved one enjoy a fuller, healthier life.
While a loss of appetite can be normal, insufficient nutritional intake can lead to serious health problems.
Explore external factors, such as medication and dental problems and speak to a physician with any concerns.
Talk to a healthcare practitioner or registered dietitian about changes in your loved one’s appetite and creative ways to manage those changes.
About Marissa Salvesen
My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!
Connect with Marissa Salvesen
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