A decreased appetite is often seen among seniors.  Emotions such as stress, sadness or grief can cause an older person to lose his or her appetite.  Losing a spouse or other close family member can make one feel depressed.  If your family member’s spouse did most of the cooking, your senior may not want to or know how to prepare food for him or herself.  Others choose not to eat rather than cook a meal.  Health factors such as an illness or medications can also affect one’s desire to eat.[1]  In some cases, certain foods should not be eaten when taking a particular medication.  Many seniors experience a loss of the sense of taste or smell which causes foods to be less desirable.  Also, many older adults become sensitive to certain foods such as onions, peppers, dairy products and spicy foods.  Some medications can cause stomach upset which results in a decrease in appetite.

According to the National Resource Center on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Aging, one in four older Americans has poor nutrition.  Malnutrition puts one at risk of becoming overweight or underweight, can weaken muscles and bones and leaves one vulnerable to disease.[2]  Signs of malnutrition include frequent falls, broken bones or fractures, delayed wound healing, chronic digestive upset, brittle nails and rapid cognitive decline.

There are many things you can do if your senior is not maintaining a healthy diet.

  • Prepare healthy, colorful meals.  These can be leftovers from your previous meal which is prepared on a smaller, attractive plate.  Use fruits and vegetables of different colors to make the plate attractive.
  • The meals should contain items the senior enjoys eating.  If the senior doesn’t like creamed potatoes, prepare a baked potato with sour cream or butter and chives.  Use colored pasta or rice instead of potatoes.
  • Visit the dentist.  Often the senior does not want to eat because of mouth sores, tooth decay or other problems which cause pain.  Encourage your senior to maintain good oral health including brushing teeth, flossing and rinsing.
  • Ask the doctor if the senior should be taking supplements such as a multi-vitamin, Vitamin D or Vitamin B-12.
  • Make sure your senior stays hydrated.  Try to get him or her to consume 64 ounces of fluids a day which can include coffee, tea, some juices, and soups.
  • Social activities and eating with family and friends can make a meal much more enjoyable.  Participating in activities at the local senior center or day care program can also help.
  • Report any change in eating habits to the senior’s health care professional immediately.
  • HelpGuide.org is a good source of information regarding healthy eating.   Their publication mentions that it is never too late to change one’s diet.  Such an improvement includes living longer and stronger, sharpening one’s mind and feeling better.  They give many options on ways to  maintain good nutrition.

Keeping a watchful eye on your senior and eating habits can be stressful and time consuming.  You should try to make your time spent with him or her enjoyable to both of you.  Plus, your senior probably needs other help such as grocery shopping, laundry and light housekeeping.  We at Home Assist Senior Care have aides who are experienced in grocery shopping, meal preparation, and other duties.  We also can brighten the senior’s day by our presence when you are not available.  Please give us a call and see what we can do.

Crane Home Care

[1] Appetite – decreased: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia

[2] http://www.healthline.com./health/healthy-eating-for-seniors