Despite conventional wisdom, weight loss is not a normal part of the aging process. We are not supposed to wither away in old age. Weight loss begins to occur in the elderly from a lack of vitamins and nutrients, which can be both upsetting and frustrating to witness as a caregiver. Older adults become more susceptible to weight loss with age because their stomachs do not digest as fast as they once did and the excitement of eating begins to diminish as sight, smell and taste wane.
Your loved one’s appetite may be suppressed for a number of reasons including cancer treatments, medications, depression or physical pain, to name a few. If your loved one is having trouble eating or has begun to experience weight loss, the following may help reignite their appetite:
- Serve smaller portions: Instead of feeding your loved one three large meals a day, which may seem overwhelming for some elderly, serve them six smaller meals throughout the day.
- Add calories: Combine protein powder mix with your loved one’s drinks to increase calories. Since many older adults are deficient in calcium and Vitamin D, adding a tablespoon or two of nonfat dry milk powder to yogurt, cottage cheese, soups or hot cereals will help them gain weight.
- Hydrate with water: Ensuring your loved one has enough water will allow them to avoid dehydration, which can lead to appetite suppression.
- Let your loved one choose the menu: When you give your loved one the power to choose what they want to eat, they will feel more in control and will be more likely to eat.
- Serve it soft: Soft foods are easier to eat and digest, try serving them pudding, ice cream or fruit smoothies.
- Add Seasoning: Bland food is not appetizing. If the food tastes better, your loved one will be more inclined to eat it.
- Set the mood: Make dinner a pleasant experience by playing soft music, discussing the day’s events, serving food on nice plates and topping off meals with a garnish.
- Keep a food journal: Track what your loved one is eating everyday as a reference of what they like to eat and what foods give them problems or complications. You can also go over the food journal with your loved one’s doctor or dietician to get some feedback on how their diet is serving their needs.
Your loved one should not view eating as a chore, making the experience a more pleasurable and rewarding one should help get their appetite back on track.