Good nutrition helps fight off illness, provide strength, and fuel the body. Eating well is important for everyone. As a family caregiver, you keep track of what your loved one is eating.

But sometimes appetites diminish in the elderly. Your loved one may stop eating all together. It’s a heart-wrenching feeling when you realize your loved one isn’t getting the nutrients they need.

What You Can Do When Your Loved One Is Not Eating

When your loved one refuses to eat, what can you do? Here are five tips to help you inspire your loved one to eat again.

1.   Rule Out Any Medical Problems

Whenever eating patterns change, it’s important to rule out medical problems.  Ask your loved one about a sore throat, stomach aches, or any other pains that make eating difficult.

Be sure to mention the lack of appetite to the doctor and see if any tests are recommended. You may learn the change is due to a medication side-effect, or constipation.  

In addition to the doctor, take your loved one to the dentist for a cleaning and exam. Tooth pain can make eating a challenge, so you want to make sure they aren’t dealing with cavities or gum disease.

2.   Experiment with Flavors

Eating can be a pleasurable experience, utilizing multiple senses. People don’t just eat with their mouths. They use their sense of smell, sight, and taste to get the most out of mealtime.

As you age, it’s common for your senses to dull. This means food doesn’t taste as good as it used to.

To help overcome this challenge, experiment with flavors. Add bold seasoning to dishes. Try adding a squeeze of fresh citrus, or a sprinkling of fresh herbs. Your goal is to make the food as flavorful as possible, so it wakes up the taste buds.

You can improve the visual appeal of the food as well. Prepare a variety of healthy, colorful foods. Take time to plate them nicely.

Try to keep the food from all looking or tasting the same. This will keep mealtimes more interesting for your loved one.

3.   Serve Easy to Chew Foods

Chewing can become more difficult with age. Sometimes eating tires an elderly person out.

If this is the case, prepare easy to chew foods. These soft foods will be easier to eat and may encourage your loved one to eat more.

Here are ten nutritious, easy to chew foods you can add to the menu:

  • Soups
  • Yogurt
  • Smoothies
  • Fruit
  • Shredded meat with gravy
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Eggs
  • Rice
  • Tuna salad

4.   Ask Your Loved One to Help Meal Plan

Often, having a say in the food choice makes everything more palatable. If your loved one is able, ask what they’d like to eat.

You may discover they have a craving for a casserole their mom used to make, or a cheese zombie like they had in the elementary school cafeteria. Food memories are powerful and utilizing them can help encourage consumption.

5.   Eat Together

Eating alone can reduce the appetite of your loved one. Eat together whenever possible.

If joined meal times don’t work because of your schedule, you may need to get creative. Is there someone else who may enjoy a meal date? Could your loved one occasionally eat at a community center or church meal?

Think of ways to turn mealtimes into a social affair. Being around others who are eating can help spark an appetite.

Switch Things Up

Don’t be afraid to change things up a bit if your loved one isn’t eating. Try eating later in the day or having a snack between lunch and dinner.

Check out recipes together, and pick something new to try. Head to an unfamiliar restaurant.

You want to do what you can to ensure your loved one has the necessary nutrition.

Do you know someone else struggling because their loved one isn’t eating? Please share this post with them so they can benefit from the tips.