For so many seniors today, particularly those living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, appetite loss has simply become a part of their life. It may sound like a relatively small issue in the senior community, but the epidemic of appetite loss among the elderly has led to a startling number of seniors are actually malnourished. While so many people think of malnourishment as being an issue that specifically relates to the poor, it is actually most common among seniors today, even those who live seemingly normal lives in assisted living.
Many friends and family members start to notice weight loss issues in their senior loved ones as they age, and in most situations, the problem is not a serious, life-threatening condition, but instead a decreased appetite. Understanding this issue and the signs of a developing problem can help any senior get the assistance they need to overcome their issue and maintain a safe, healthy and nutritious life.
What Causes a Loss of Appetite in Seniors?
There are a number of causes that have been linked to a loss of appetite in seniors. Some of the most common issues include:
Side effects of Medications-Many of the most common medications that seniors today need to take come with a great deal of side effects, and at times, these side effects can lead to a loss of appetite. When seniors experience dizziness, nausea or even dry mouth, it can lead to a complete loss of appetite.
Depression-Depression and loneliness are very serious problems that impact many seniors today. When elderly adults are faced with depression, it can often have a number of physical side effects, including loss of appetite and weight loss. Many times, treating the depression at its core can eventually help seniors regain their appetite.
Denture Issues-For the many seniors who have dentures, issues with ill-fitting dentures can cause a loss of appetite. When dentures do not fit as they should it can make it difficult or even painful to eat, which can ultimately cause a loss in appetite. When seniors continuously wear ill-fitting dentures it can cause severe gum pain, so severe that seniors can be put off by the idea of eating solid foods and ultimately lose their appetite.
Changes in Senses-As seniors age, they experience a number of changes in their body and the way it works. One of these changes is a change in senses. Many times, seniors experience a change in their taste buds and a change in their smell, meaning some foods they used to enjoy may no longer seem appealing.
Dislike for Food-While it may not be as serious of an issue as other causes of appetite loss, a change in food types and meal offerings can cause an appetite loss. Sometimes when seniors move to an assisted living facility or a nursing home, the change in diet and the way their food is prepared can spark a sudden loss in appetite, especially in seniors who had particularly strict diet to begin with.
If this is the case, many senior living facilities are willing to work with special dietary restrictions in order to ensure all seniors are able to enjoy meals that fit within their dietary needs and preferences.
Dementia-Seniors who already have dementia, Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease are actually very likely to suffer from a loss of appetite issue. If this is the case, it is important to talk to their primary care provider about approaches to help dementia patients overcome appetite loss.
Illness-While there are many things that can ultimately lead to a loss of appetite in an elderly individual, sometimes an unexplained illness is really to blame. Certain cancers, thyroid issues, mouth infections, issues with salivary glands and even periodontal diseases can cause a sudden loss in appetite and rapid weight loss. It is important to always rule out illness as a cause of appetite loss before anything else.
The most important thing to remember, is that getting to the root of the problem first is paramount when it comes to helping seniors overcome appetite loss. Before the problem can be resolved, seniors need to know what is that is causing the loss of appetite to begin with.
Helping Seniors Overcome a Loss of Appetite
When a senior completely loses their appetite, it is an understandable cause for concern. There are some ways, loved ones and caregivers can help encourage seniors to eat more. Trial and error to find foods that actually appeal to a senior with a diminished appetite is a great start, while others have found that setting an eating schedule can actually help encourage seniors to eat more.
Other times, replacing big meals with smaller but higher calorie replacements is a great way to make sure that seniors are still getting the amount of calories and nutrients that they need to have energy and stay active, even if they only want to take a few bites of food at a time. Easy addition to small meals that will boost calories, include coconut or olive oil, almond butter, eggs with yolks and yogurt. These small additions can really boost a senior's calorie and nutrient intake, and help them still eat healthy, even when they aren't physically consuming that much food.
If little tips and tricks don't help, you may want to start by reaching out to their caregivers or their senior living community. Staff members and experts may have a there are many professionals that are well-versed in handling appetite loss in seniors. If these experts are not able to come up with solutions that can encourage a senior resident to eat, then a medical expert may need to be consulted.
There are certain treatments, diets and even fluids that can help seniors get the nutrients that they need, even if they are It is important to not ignore an issue like appetite loss. If it is not handled, then any senior can become seriously malnourished and eventually quite sick from a lack of eating. Professional help can ensure that any senior is getting the vitamins, nutrients and calories that they need in order to stay healthy.