Loss of appetite in elderly is quite common. They either refuse to eat anything at all or they will eat only in small amounts. If this problem persists for a long time, then their body will not get adequate nutrition. As a result, they will feel fatigued and lethargic all the time. Their body cannot heal the wounds or damage caused by injuries or infections. Unexplained weight loss can also be observed in them. In short, it leads to deterioration in their overall health condition. If you notice lack of appetite in them, then you must look for the causes that have triggered it.
Some of the causes of appetite loss in elderly are related to their physical health but there are some psychological reasons too. The most prevalent causes behind this problem are as follows -
Difficulty in Chewing Food: Chewing food becomes a problematic issue mainly because of rotten teeth, absence of teeth or ill-fitting dentures. In all these conditions, they feel pain in the mouth while eating and so they may avoid eating food.
Sides Effects of Medicines: Most elderly people take several medicines on a regular basis. These medicines often have an adverse impact on their appetite. Even their sense of taste may get affected and they cannot enjoy the flavor of the food that they are eating. For this reason, they often lose interest in eating food.
Psychological Reasons: The elderly are prone to depression because of their failing health, loss of near ones, loneliness, isolation from the society, financial worries and many other such reasons. Many of them cannot move around freely due to some age related physical disability, which also puts them under a lot of stress. All this may make them suffer from appetite loss.
Underlying Health Conditions: The pain and other discomforting symptoms associated with various diseases and infection can be responsible for loss of appetite. Stomach problems like peptic ulcer, intestinal obstruction, gallbladder problems, etc. decrease their appetite for food. Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy face the problem of loss of appetite and nausea as they feel a constant metallic taste in their mouth. Similarly, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, thyroid problems, etc. can be directly linked to appetite loss in the elderly.
How to Improve Appetite in the Elderly?
The moment you discover some change in appetite of the elderly people, you must report the matter to their health care provider. They will be able to identify the exact cause and provide you with suitable guidance to overcome it. They may prescribe some medicines to increase their appetite. If possible, they may also change some of the medicines that they take in order to improve the appetite. Meanwhile, you can try on your part, some tricks to feed them. Here are a few such tips that can help stimulate appetite in the elderly.
Tip #1: Keep their meal time fixed. Prepare a timetable and offer them food as per the schedule whether they are hungry or not. This will help their body to adjust with this routine and the appetite will get stimulated naturally at the right time.
Tip #2: Serve them foods that they like to eat. For this, you have to prepare a list of their favorite foods. They will feel happy to get their choice of foods and may eat a little more than usual. However, take care that you give them healthy foods only and do not give any such food that can cause harm to their health.
Tip #3: Try out different recipes for them. There are certain dietary restrictions that they need to follow. So, they often refuse to eat anything simply because they are tired of eating the foodstuff again and again. Make the taste, smell or color of the food slightly different by adding some herbs, spices, dressings, etc. just to increase their interest towards the food.
Tip #4: Keep the size of their meals small. When they see a large meal on the table, they start feeling that it cannot be finished as they are not hungry. On the other hand, when they get a small meal, they can give it a try to eat it up.
Tip #5: If they are facing trouble in eating and swallowing, then you must help them out. Those who have swallowing difficulty should be fed with liquid or semisolid foods and that too in small amounts. The chewing problem can be resolved to some extent by cutting the food in small sizes.
Tip #6: They should drink sufficient amount of water throughout the day. This will facilitate faster digestion of the food and they will feel hungry more often.
Finally, I would like to tell you all that you can tackle the problem of appetite loss in the elderly quite easily by giving them lots of love, care and support. Interact with them on a regular basis so that they can share with you their worries and concerns. Do not neglect their needs and demands. When you provide a calm and positive environment at home, they will feel inspired to overcome all such difficulties that come with aging.