For many people, they find that their appetite diminishes as they age. Over time, we are prone to become less interested in food and eating. This can be frustrating for both the caregiver and the senior, especially if they reside in independent living in Rancho Mirage.
So you might ask, why is it that seniors lose interest in food? Is it health-related? Caused by medications? We are going to explore some of the reasons why your senior loved one might be refusing to eat even some of their favorite dishes, as well as look at some ways that might help.
What causes appetite loss?
Before you can really help your senior loved one improve their appetite, it is important to identify the root of the issue. You have to take the time to figure out what exactly is causing your senior to either refuse to eat or only graze and nibble a little.
Lack of Exercise:
Believe it or not, a lack of appetite might be due to not getting enough exercise. Regularly participating in activities that get the body moving can help work up an appetite.
Older adults are prone to be more dehydrated and don’t get enough fluids throughout the day. This can be caused by age related changes or even medication. Make sure to help your senior get enough water throughout the day to keep them hydrated as well as their appetite up.
Not staying on track with a routine can be a huge factor in decreasing one’s appetite. Serving meals around the same time every day will do wonders for helping your senior’s body feel prepared to eat during those specific times.
Depression or Loneliness:
Did you know that 1 in 10 seniors struggle with loneliness and depression? Meal times are often viewed as a great way to connect with other people, and if your senior feels like they have no one to talk to or spend time with, they may forgo eating altogether.
While these are only a few of the examples, there could be a multitude of reasons why your senior is struggling to eat. Have a conversation with them as well as their doctor to see if you can pinpoint the primary reason they are struggling. This will help you to make a plan and move forward. If it is due to a medical issue, a doctor can help mitigate this.
6 Ways That You Can Help
If you have identified what is going on and it’s not being caused by a medical issue, there are some things you can do to help your senior bounce back and enjoy food once again!
1.) Maintain a Routine Snack and Meal Schedule
Changing things up, especially meal times, can be super disorienting and cause issues for seniors. Do your best to serve each meal around a designated time throughout the week. This will work great especially if they have medications that are dependent upon them eating. If they are a resident at independent living in Rancho Mirage, you can rest assured knowing that we have designated meal times that we follow. Since appetite and the desire to eat declines with age, don’t wait for your senior to automatically tell you when they’re hungry before you serve them a meal.
2.) Small. Nutritious Portions
Sometimes, older adults can get overwhelmed if they see a large portion of food set down in front of them. While Americans are notorious for serving large portion sizes, it is important to scale this back as we age. Instead, focus on quality over quantity, and ensuring that delicious and nutritious foods are prioritized. Another good suggestion is to maybe serve 5 small meals a day instead of 3 larger ones.
A few foods you should try to feature:
- Finely chopped cheese, eggs or protein
- Peanut butter (or any other nut butters)
- Soft cheeses, such as ricotta or mascarpone
For added convenience on your part as a caretaker, try meal prepping things in advance. This will help cut back on time spent in the kitchen while still ensuring your senior gets what they need.
3.) Minimize Utensils
For older adults who struggle with mobility issues or fine motor skills, using utensils like a fork or a spoon can be extremely frustrating. Oftentimes, they might even feel embarrassed or ashamed because of this. If this is the case for your loved one, try either investing into adaptive utensils or serving foods that can be eaten with the hands. A few suggestions are:
- Chicken strips / nuggets
- Fish sticks
- Cut, raw veggies, such as carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers
4.) Make Snacks Available
If your senior’s appetite ebbs and flows, it can be super helpful to keep a variety of go-to snacks on hand. These can be nutritious and require little to no prep. Just take a moment to grab them and your senior has something great to eat!
- Apple slices, grapes, bananas, strawberries
- String cheese
- Full-fat yogurt (add some fruit or granola to it as well!)
- Peanut butter and crackers
- Whole milk
5.) Easy to Eat Foods
Chewing and swallowing whole foods can be difficult for some older adults, especially if they have digestive issues or have dentures. For cases such as these, consider serving softer foods. This can include soups, milkshakes, and smoothies. You can also go for yogurt, applesauce, or oatmeal. Talk to your senior and find out what their favorite foods are and go from there!
6.) Take Notes
As you go about your day, take notes of what works and what doesn’t. This will help you to put together a meal plan that is both delicious and nutritious. Focusing on the foods that they enjoy, as well as establishing a routine that works for them, is going to be the best bet on getting your senior’s appetite back. Don’t be afraid to talk to your loved one’s doctor or the staff at independent living in Rancho Mirage. They are there to help as well!