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Managing Appetite Loss in Seniors

Have you noticed that your aging loved one doesn't seem to enjoy their favorite foods as much as they once did? Are they turning into picky eaters? Maybe they've lost all interest in food?


Appetite loss is a common symptom of aging. However, a decreased appetite can lead to health problems and can even point to other health issues in older adults. Learn more about appetite loss and how you can help your loved one regain their interest in food.


Causes of Appetite Loss in Seniors

A lack of appetite can be different factors. Here are some of the most common reasons that an aging loved one may not want to eat:

  • Mental health condition, like depression

  • Medical conditions, like dementia or an infection

  • Changing taste buds

  • Lack of energy

  • Medication side effects

  • Dental problems

  • Natural changes in the digestive system

  • Eating disorders

Whatever the reason a senior loses their appetite, maintaining good nutrition is still crucial for overall health. So, it's important for you to help ensure your loved one receives proper nutrients.


Signs of Decreased Appetite

At first, you may not notice changes in your loved one's eating habits. However, pay attention to these signs of appetite loss to help address it early on and prevent long-term damage.

  • Lack of interest in food

  • Lack of a desire to eat even favorite foods

  • Skipping meals

  • Changes in weight

If you notice these signs in your loved one, you may need to step in and help. Encourage your loved one to see a doctor. They can identify any underlying medical conditions or medication side effects that are causing appetite loss. And together, you can develop a tailored plan for improvement.


How to Help Overcome Appetite Loss at Home

Ultimately, the underlying cause of a decreased appetite will dictate the treatment. Work with a healthcare provider to develop a specific plan to keep your loved one eating and healthy.


Here are general guidelines to help you manage appetite loss at home.

  • Set a regular eating schedule. Try scheduling small meals throughout the day instead of 3 main meals. Eating smaller meals may actually help a senior's digestion and maintain steady levels of insulin. Additionally, large meals can seem overwhelming to someone who doesn't feel like eating.

  • Try meal planning. If you're having a hard time getting your loved one to eat, try including them in menu planning. Ask them to pick out at least one meal or snack for the week. Hopefully, this will help encourage them to the eat foods they picked out.

  • Incorporate nutrient-dense foods, such as peanut butter or avocado to help your loved ones maximize nutrient intake. Opt for colorful fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Consider adding foods that are high in calories as well to help your loved one get more energy.

  • Create a conformable eating environment. Choose a well-lit and peaceful dining area, free from distractions. Set the table with favorite dishes and utensils to make eating more enjoyable. Or, go out to eat if your loved one has a favorite restaurant.

  • Make sure your loved one has regular dental exams. This will help ensure there are no additional dental problems that could interfere with eating.

  • Eat together. If possible, eat a few meals at home with your loved one. If you do not live in the same city, have another family member or friend eat with your loved one. Not only does this give you the opportunity to monitor your loved one's eating habits, but you can also provide social support.

  • Spice it up. As we age, our appetites change as well. Food can become bland, and tasteless. To add extra flavor, try simmering foods in either beef or chicken stock rather than water, or use fresh herbs.

  • Stay hydrated. Dehydration can cause appetite loss and lead to other health issues. Ensure that seniors drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Include water, herbal teas, and diluted fruit juices as options.

  • Modify textures as needed. Consider modifying the texture of food to make it easier to eat. This might involve pureeing or softening foods to reduce the risk of choking or discomfort.

  • Try supplements. If you are worried that your loved one isn't getting enough nutrients, talk with a healthcare provider about using nutritional supplements like protein shakes or dietary supplements. Whole foods are always the best source of nutrients, but supplements can help seniors get the vitamins and minerals they need.

  • Encourage exercise. Encourage light physical activity before meals. A short walk or simple stretches can stimulate the appetite and improve digestion. This could help your loved one start feeling hungry before a meal.

Conclusion

Managing appetite loss in seniors requires patience, creativity, and a personalized approach. With guidance from a doctor, you can help your loved one maintain a healthier diet and overall well-being at home.


Remember that it's essential to be flexible and adaptable in your approach. A balanced diet is a key component of a fulfilling and active senior life. It's worth the effort to ensure that appetite loss doesn't stand in the way of good nutrition.


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