We naturally burn less calories and require less food as we age, therefore, it is not uncommon for seniors to lose their appetite. Often this change is due to loneliness or side effects of different medications. But caregivers should be concerned if an elderly person begins to have a serious lack or energy or experience medical issues like dental difficulties due to poor nutrition. Sometimes more serious medical reasons can be the cause. Here are a few tips on how to help a senior regain their interest in eating.
How to Help Seniors Regain Interest in Eating
1. Have a Set Meal Time
If a senior knows that they are having dinner at 5:30 every night they may be more accepting of a meal. Have them choose the times and the place that they eat.
2. Quality not Quantity of Food
Pick foods for them that are high in nutrients. Eating a few florets of broccoli is much more beneficial than several pieces of bread.
3. Eat with Them
Loneliness (and cooking for one) is often a factor in loss of appetite. Take the time to sit and eat with them. Make it an enjoyable experience. Try not to focus on what and how much they are eating. They will often eat more if they are enjoying themselves.
4. Include in Meal Prep
Elders sometimes don’t like the idea of being dependent on other people. Ask them if they would like to help. They may actually teach you something.
5. Increase Exercise
Clearly if you are more active, you burn more calories and your body will want more food. Try more small walks, chair exercises, community senior exercises. Try to find something that they may be willing to do on a regular basis, especially if it can be social.
6. Small meals
Large meals can be overwhelming to a senior. Try to keep things small. If they finish it, increase the portions for the next meal. But be careful of “waste”. Many seniors get upset by food being discarded.
7. Don’t introduce Too Many New Foods
Taste buds change in our old age. It is unlikely that an older person will take up enjoying Thai food if they have never liked or experienced it. Stick with the foods that they have been eating regularly.
8. Use Supplement Drinks and Vitamins
Sometimes we just don’t want to eat. Encouraging a senior to occasionally drink a meal replacement drink like Ensure can be helpful in keeping up strength and nutrition. Regular vitamins can help too.
9. Soft Easy Chew Foods
If a senior has dental, mouth, or swallowing issues, eating might be painful. Find foods that take less effort to eat and are low in acid levels.
10. Look for a Medical Reason
If you have tried everything and nothing is working, talk to a doctor. They may have further insight into why this is happening, and there might be an underlying medical condition of concern.
Hopefully, these tips can help if you are living or working with a senior that has lost interest in eating.
Last posted by Martha Scully at eldercare.com