You may be noticing your older loved one is experiencing several changes. Mobility can be more challenging. Bathing safely might become a hazard. Keeping up with friends or participating in activities may be more difficult. These can all have a negative impact on both physical and mental health.
However, there is another risk for older adults and that is a loss of appetite. Signs to look for can include weight loss, skipping meals or showing little interest in food. More common than you might have realized, families will want to make sure they’re aware of this possibility and the steps they can take.
Appetite loss in older adults
Eating well and getting the right nutrients contributes greatly to health and wellness. However, nutritional deficiencies and other poor health issues can occur due to a loss of appetite. Consequences can include an increased risk of frailty, falls, osteoporosis, hip fracture and muscle weakness. Immune functions as well as quality of life can also be impaired.
Why does appetite loss occur more frequently as we grow older? The reasons can vary.
- Changes to the digestive system: this can include reduced saliva production often caused by medication side effects.
- Hormonal changes: changes in levels and responsiveness to hormones involved in appetite control are more common in older people.
- Disease or illness: chronic diseases which are more prevalent in older people can worsen appetite.
- Pain: chronic pain is more common in older people and can contribute significantly to loss of appetite.
- Sense of smell, taste and vision changes: interference with the enjoyment of food can reduce appetites.
- Decreased energy needs: determined by body composition and levels of physical activity, many older adults lose mass as they age and are less active. Lower requirements for energy can lead to a loss in appetite.
- Psychological and social changes: experiencing depression and living or eating alone can reduce appetite.
- Medication: older adults are likely to take at least one medication and many can alter sense of taste and smell or cause nausea, all impairing appetite.
Addressing appetite loss in older adults
1. Encourage meals with others
Dining can be an uplifting experience when it’s shared with others – but it can also boost the appetite. Research has shown that older adults who ate with others took longer to dine and reported eating healthier and more nutritious meals. They also felt happier and felt more engaged.
2. Provide foods that are nutrient dense
Serving larger sizes to someone who has a decreased appetite doesn’t encourage eating but instead is unappealing. It’s better to provide foods that pack more of a nutritional punch and keep the amounts smaller.
3. Create a regular dining schedule
Like sleeping or exercising, we seem to do better with routines so our bodies and minds know what to expect next. Keeping meals at relatively the same time, including snacks, can help better intake and address appetite loss.
4. Suggest exercise and movement
Staying active and keeping up a routine of regular movement can help stimulate appetites by increasing energy needs. Not only will your loved one benefit from the physical fitness but also the activation of the signal of hunger that cues the body it’s time to satisfy its fuel needs.
5. Consider smaller meals more often
Large meals, like the standard breakfast, lunch and dinner that many people eat each day can be unappealing to someone with a decreased appetite. When not hungry, the visuals of a full plate don’t help. Try several smaller meals instead.
6. Encourage healthy snacking
Snacks can be a great way to encourage more nutrition and help offset appetite loss. Make fruit, nuts or other healthy foods easily available throughout the day.
7. Provide a wide menu variety
Boredom with eating the same meals frequently can contribute to a continued loss of appetite. Introduce new recipes and food selections or resurrect old favorites. Try new recipes, use spices and other flavorings to spark interest.
How a senior living community can boost appetites
Healthy dining is one of the great benefits that residents receive when they move into an assisted living community. Not only are the meals delicious but dietary restrictions can be met.
Communities are knowledgeable about nutrition, different health conditions, appetite loss and the challenges that older adults often face. Menu selections and presentation appeal to the palate and can stimulate appetites. The social interaction while dining with others provides benefits to both the body and the mind.
Assisted Living in Broward County at Seaside Hallandale Beach
We’re here to answer any questions you may have about senior living. If your family is searching for assisted living in Broward County, we invite your family to see how our community can encourage and promote a higher quality of life.
Supporting our residents to age well, we believe you or your parents will enjoy the services and amenities available in our pet-friendly community:
We encourage you to visit Seaside Hallandale Beach assisted living in Broward County which is designed to provide activities and social opportunities to help our residents in reaching their wellness goals.
- A monthly social calendar of activities
- Beautiful common spaces to socialize
- Weekly housekeeping
- A spacious courtyard
- An outdoor pool with a covered patio
- Personalized fitness and wellness programs
- Scheduled transportation
- Easy and safe access to the beach