Robert Collier said, “Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out.” Like many other challenges, dealing with the loss of appetite in an elderly person can take lots of hard work and lots of small steps.
There can be a number of causes of loss of appetite in the elderly.
While a gradual loss of appetite is common among elderly people due to decreased energy levels and less physical activity, maintaining healthy eating habits and ensuring that they are consuming nutritious food is still very important.
However, this loss of appetite could also be caused by more serious health concerns such as:
If loss of appetite is ongoing, it is best to consult with a physician to ensure that it is not a symptom of another condition.
It is also important to remember that a decreased interest in eating can be caused by either psychological or physiological methods and it is important to discover which one it is to try strategies that will work.
Once serious health concerns have been ruled out, here are some tips and tricks to stimulate appetite in the elderly and ensure that they are receiving the nutrients that they require for daily life and living.
Encourage Sharing Meals with Friends and Family
Mealtime which older people often have fond memories of sharing with their partners and friends throughout their life, can become a lonely experience if they have no one to eat with. This sense of loneliness can cause a lack of appetite and resistance to wanting to even sit down at the table.
Sharing meals with family and friends can often increase the desire to eat as it helps embody feelings of:
Organising visits for children and grandchildren to eat with their parents and grandparents can help achieve this goal.
If there are social clubs that the senior can attend, they can also help create a feeling of community as well as allow them to look forward to mealtime because it is an experience that can be shared with others.
Build and Stick to a Meal Schedule
Having a regular eating schedule helps seniors build up an appetite for food and helps their body understand when the next meal is coming.
In addition to a food schedule, a schedule for other aspects of daily life such as exercise and sleep can help with healthy eating as well. If seniors are not participating in some type of exercise or getting the required amount of sleep, it is likely that they will be resistant to eating as well.
Another thing to note is that sometimes, for an elderly person, the sight of a large plate of food can be overwhelming. If this is the case, try to serve smaller portions or meals that include healthy proteins such as avocado, cheese or nut butter.
Many elderly people report that they prefer to graze during the day or eat 5 smaller meals as opposed to 3 larger meals.
Enhance the Presentation of the Food
Physiologically, people’s taste buds change as they age, making it more difficult for them to detect flavours and therefore enjoy their food. Medications can also leave a strange taste in people’s mouth making food taste abnormal.
If this is the challenge, a trick to stimulate appetite in the elderly is to try focusing on healthy meals with bright colours and a variety of flavours. If elderly people are struggling because of decreased taste buds, having food that is visually appealing can help stimulate their appetite and encourage them to eat.
Give them Independence
A gradual loss of appetite can serve to reinforce a difficult reality that seniors no longer have the independence and ability to cook and prepare food. Especially for women who often viewed their cooking as a sense of pride and accomplishment for their family, being served food by others can remind them of their age and physical limits.
If seniors struggle to use utensils or have dental problems, try serving them liquidy foods such as soups and smoothies that still provide the required nutrients.
Certain types of cutlery and crockery can also help maintain this independence. For example, Amefa Cutlery or Caring Cutlery can help people with limited wrist or finger movement by providing them with utensils that are easier to grip and eat with. An inner lip plate helps prevent spills because food can be pushed to the side of the plate before being eaten.
Like everyone else, seniors want to feel empowered with their choices around how and what to eat and how it is prepared. Hopefully, if your elderly mother refuses to eat, with a little bit of creativity and some feedback from her, she will feel more inspired by the food and therefore more interested in not only eating it but also helping to prepare it as well.
If you need help finding a product to help your loved one increase their independence around food and eating, feel free to visit our showroom on Nepean Highway, Brighton East, VIC and one of our knowledgeable staff members will be happy to help suggest a suitable product.
Statewide Home Health Care. Your Home. Your Health. We Care.