Margaret Minnicks has been an online writer for many years. She writes articles that are interesting to her readers.
If you are a senior and have noticed that your appetite is not what it used to be, don't become alarmed. It is normal for the appetite of older people to decline over time. It is important to know what is going on because seniors need to eat to stay healthy. It will be helpful to pinpoint why seniors lose their appetites and refuse to eat, especially when they used to be big eaters before they got older.
Changes in appetite come with aging and it's normal for a number of different reasons. It doesn't necessarily mean something is wrong. Daily Caring gives reasons why the appetite of seniors change. Perhaps one or more of those reasons apply to you or someone you care for.
1. Side Effects from Medications
Older adults might lose their appetite because of some side effects from medications they are taking for a health condition. Not only do they lose their appetite, but seniors might also notice that some foods and beverages just don't taste like they used to. When people get older, their taste buds become less able to identify and enjoy certain flavors. Some foods that used to be their favorites are no longer desired at all.
Some serious illnesses could change the taste of food and loss of appetite. Some of those illnesses include thyroid disorders, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and sore throat.
2. Slow Metabolism
Older adults do not have a metabolism rate like they use to. Their metabolism slows down and their body usually has fewer nutritional needs as it once did. Therefore, it is easier for them to want to eat less since their dietary needs have changed.
3. Lack of Exercise
Usually, regular exercise and some form of physical activity will boost people's appetite. Unless seniors are working up an appetite, they might not want to eat because they are just not hungry.
Dehydration can cause a loss of appetite. When older adults don't get enough fluids, they because dehydrated and don't want to eat. Make sure seniors get enough fluids so they can stay hydrated which may increase their appetite.
5. Difficulty Eating, Chewing and Swallowing
When it becomes too difficult for older adults to feed themselves, they tend to give up trying. Because of dental problems, they might have a hard time chewing. If their throat hurts when they swallow, they may choose not to eat at all.
Keep plenty of healthy, delicious, and easy-to-eat snacks available for older adults when they don't want to eat a complete meal. Some suggestions include the following:
- Cheese sticks
- String cheese
- Cheese and crackers
- Peanut butter and crackers
- Cups of diced fruit
- Fat-free yogurt
- Full-fat cottage cheese
- Whole chocolate milk
6. Change in Routine
Sometimes when older adults change their daily routine and skip a meal, they forget to eat later. If they get into the habit of eating their meals at the same time every day and they miss a meal, they might not make up that meal.
If they miss eating at their regular time, their body will sense the difference and they might become weak from not eating. Older adults should have snacks to eat if they are out and about and a regular meal is not available.
7. Inability to Prepare Meals
Preparing meals themselves might not be as easy as it used to be for some seniors. If they live alone, they might neglect cooking their own meals because it involves too much trouble.
8. Inability to Smell and See
Nutritionists and registered dietitians contend that older adults lose interest in eating because they are unable to smell food like they used to. Also, they grow to not stand the smell of certain foods that make them nauseated.
As people get older, their vision decreases because of cataracts and other eye-related issues. When they can't see what they are cooking, they are not excited about eating it. Therefore, they stop eating certain foods. Before long, their list of foods is much shorter than it used to be.
Depression causes a loss of appetite. Seniors might be too depressed to eat. They remember times when they were able to cook dinners for their large family. Now that they are living alone, they refuse to cook for just one person Sometimes they are so depressed that they skip mealtimes altogether.
10. Food Not Readily Available
When seniors don't have a certain food they have a taste for, they refuse to settle for a substitute. Therefore, they don't eat anything.
11. Overwhelmed with Large Amounts of Food
Some seniors might feel overwhelmed when a large plate of food is put in front of them. Therefore, they end up eating a very small amount. It would be helpful to give them food on a smaller plate. You could even try switching from three or four big meals to five smaller meals throughout the day.
12. Can't Use Utensils
When seniors get to the point when they cannot use utensils comfortably, they become frustrated to the point when they don't try to eat at all. This can be avoided by giving them sandwiches cut in small pieces and by serving other foods that can be eaten without any utensils, such as chicken strips, fish sticks, and raw vegetables
How to Get An Older Person to Eat
It is normal and expected for the appetite of people to change as they get older. There is nothing to worry about unless they have given up eating at all. Keep in mind that at a certain age, fewer calories are required because of the reasons cited above.
When it does get to the point when seniors stop eating altogether, there are some things that could help.
- Have a doctor check to see if there is a medical issue that results in a loss of appetite for you or an older adult you care for.
- Have meals and snacks available at the same time every day to train the body to eat at those times.
- If all else fails, talk to your doctor about giving you a prescription for an appetite stimulant.
- 8 Types of Hunger
Most people think being hungry is just being hungry. They have no idea that there are different types of hunger. When you are hungry, do you know which type of hunger you are experiencing at that particular time?