“My father seems to get skinnier every time I see him. What can I do to make sure he is eating properly and getting enough nutrients?” – Rhonda from Sandy Springs

This is a tricky situation. You want to respect the dignity of your elderly loved one, but you also need to make sure that malnourishment is not an issue. Consider some of the causes for lack of appetite as well as ways to address nutrition concerns and the elderly.

What Do You Mean, You’re not Hungry?

As people age, they do not have the same caloric intake needs as a younger, more active individual. Seniors may not have much of an appetite, which can be caused by medical conditions, prescription medication, or a loss of the sense of smell or taste. The result is that food may not taste as good to them, or they find a preference for sweets or other less healthy options.

In addition, the physical act of eating can be a challenge. A lack of muscle strength can impact the ability to self-feed. Your loved one may develop difficulty with chewing and swallowing because of an oral health issue or a neurological disorder. Dementia or memory problems may also impact nutrition and the elderly. It is hard to imagine, but some older people may simply forget to eat or forgot when the last meal was served. They may even lose their ability to use utensils.

Make Every Bite Count!

Seniors who look thin or wan may be suffering from malnourishment, but you can take action and retain the dignity of your family member. Here are some tips to increase appetite or make meals more pleasurable:

  • Opt for nutrient dense foods, and add seasonings to add flavor and appeal.
  • People eat with their eyes, so present food attractively.
  • Taste the rainbow! Your loved one is more likely to be able to meet nutritional needs with a variety of foods that are different colors and offer multiple benefits.
  • Watch out for foods that interact with medications. For example, foods such as grapefruit or leafy greens can interfere with statins and blood thinners.
  • If three meals are too much, break portion sizes down to smaller meals and snacks throughout the day.
  • Use nutritional supplements and other calorie dense foods if needed, but not as the first line of defense.
  • Encourage eating meals with others to incorporate socialization in the daily routine.
  • Look into community options for meal delivery or hire a personal chef to customize meals to meet your senior’s nutritional needs.
  • Talk to a medical professional about any conditions that may affect appetite and prescriptions that could stimulate hunger.

Better nutrition and the elderly can be resolved with a little bit of effort. Healthy and adequate eating can also help with other medical conditions as well as mood, energy, and sleep.

Good Luck to your family, and Bon Appetit!


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