Few things are more synonymous with the finer things in life than a delicious meal. If you grew up in a household where home cooked meals were a cornerstone of comfort, it can feel jarring when elderly people lose their appetite altogether.
Often changes in appetite set in slowly. Family members may not notice eating changes until there is a health consequence or drastic weight change. Changes in appetite occur throughout life as we age. Some changes are good like moving away from hotdogs and instead choosing broccoli. But, when elderly people rapidly lose weight, there may be underlying health issues that affect nutrition. Malnutrition is the elderly population is a problem. There are things you can do to help your loved one who has lost her appetite.
Visit Your Doctor
When you notice your loved one is not eating or has lost weight, it is time to schedule an appointment with your loved one’s primary care doctor. Changes in cognition or acute illness can suppress appetite and cause drastic weight loss. You doctor may be able to address these physical illnesses and get to the root of what is causing your loved one’s loss of appetite. Your loved one’s doctor may also be able to make nutrition suggestions. Your doctor can also order medical services like home health which may include the support of a nutritionist. You may also want to schedule an appointment with your loved one’s dentist. Poor fitting dentures can cause discomfort and can lead to a decrease in nutritional uptake.
Contract with a Meal Service or Home Care Provider
There are many meal services that cater specifically to the homebound senior community. Some of the meal services have free or reduced meals depending on the financial needs of your loved one. Meals are delivered regularly. Senior centers often have meal programs. These programs meet an important need because they offer nutritious meals and socialization. Some of these senior centers offer transportation services as well. So, even people who have limited transportation can participate. Home care companies like Green Tree Home Care send caregivers into the homes of clients to help with tasks like meal preparation. Depending on the wishes of the client and family caregivers can prepare home cooked meals to the clients task. Caregivers can also dine with clients to encourage eating and socialization.
Plan to Eat Together
Eating is a social event! Sometimes elderly people lose their appetite when they feel lonely or depressed. Sometimes, the simple act of sharing a meal will perk your loved one right up and bring a lackluster appetite back to normal. Arrange family and friend visits around meal times and offer to bring favorite foods. If you aren’t close by skype or call your loved one. Set a virtual lunch date or offer a gentle reminder to eat. Help get your loved one involved in groups and organizations who regularly get together to socialize and eat.
Simplify the Plate
If your loved one is suffering from dementia or cognitive decline. One noticeable symptom is a decline in appetite. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, people who have dementia may experience perception changes. These changes include difficulty recognizing food and distinguishing between food and non-food items. Keep the plate orderly and limit the number of foods on a plate to reduce confusion. Do not clutter the table and give plenty time for your loved one to eat.
Make Food Easily Accessible
As people face reductions in mobility and stamina they may struggle to prepare food for consumption. This can lead to a cycle of decline. Put nutritious food within easy reach. Make sure your loved one can open bottles and heat meal. Sometimes pride and embarrassment keep people from asking for help. Instead they turn to more convenient foods that may have poor nutritional value. Grocery delivery services can ease the burden of shopping. You can help your loved one set up regular deliveries. There are also online services that deliver entire meals to the door in cooled boxes.
A wide variety of physical and environmental circumstances can cause elderly people lose their appetite. Without addressing the root cause of changes in appetite elderly people are at increased risk for decline and malnutrition. You can follow these five suggestions to help your loved one get her appetite back.