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Why Do Some Older Adults Have Decreased Appetites?

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A poor appetite doesn’t necessarily mean your senior loved one has a serious health-related problem. Even so, it’s critical that older adults get enough nutrition from the foods they eat to stay healthy, which is why it’s helpful to have a better understanding of why your loved one may lose his or her appetite.

Changes in Flavor Perception

It becomes more difficult to distinguish among common food flavors—such as sweet, salty, sour, and bitter—after the age of 60 because of the natural decrease in the sense of taste. If the main reason for your loved one’s decreased desire to eat as much as he or she used to is because of diminished flavor perception, encourage him or her to:

• Brush, use an oral rinse, or chew sugarless gum before meals
• Talk to the doctor or pharmacist about possible medication issues that could be affecting flavor or taste perception
• Try meals with ingredients that tend to be more flavorful, such as fresh herbs, sliced fruit, and sweet potatoes

A trained caregiver can provide expertise and additional support to encourage your loved one to eat well. Not every senior has the same care needs, which means they don’t all need the same type of senior care. Amarillo families can rely on Home Care Assistance to provide individualized care plans to meet your elderly loved one’s unique care needs. Our holistic Balanced Care Method was designed to help seniors focus on healthy lifestyle habits such as eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and maintaining strong social ties, and our Cognitive Therapeutics Method offers mentally stimulating activities that can stave off cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia.

Lack of Energy for Preparing Meals

A lack of appetite in older adults is sometimes linked to a decrease in the energy required to actually go through the daily meal preparation process. If this is a problem for your loved one, try rearranging the kitchen so regularly used items are more accessible and preparing some meals in advance that can be frozen and heated up later.

Gastrointestinal Changes

Some seniors lose their appetite because of the way their digestive systems change as they get older. For example, lactose tolerance levels can decrease later in life and result in excess gas and fluid in the digestive tract, making it difficult to eat much. Medication and dietary changes may be helpful for issues of this nature.

Poor Oral Health

Oral health issues, which may include poor-fitting dentures and gum disease, can also affect appetite in seniors. The solution here is to encourage your loved one to visit a dentist on a regular basis so oral health issues can be diagnosed and resolved.

Seniors who aren’t able to eat enough to get proper nutrition may need a higher level of care. If your senior loved one needs around-the-clock assistance at home, the Amarillo, TX, live-in care professionals at Home Care Assistance are here to help. Our proprietary Balanced Care Method was designed to promote longevity by encouraging seniors to focus on healthy eating, regular exercise, mental engagement, and other important lifestyle factors.

Loneliness or Depression

Older adults sometimes lose their appetite if they feel isolated, lonely, or depressed. If these problems are relatively minor, you may see improvements if you eat with your loved one as much as possible. For times when you’re not able to eat together, encourage your loved one to enjoy group meals at the local senior center or make “meal dates” with friends.

Normal Age-Related Appetite Changes

Your loved one may simply not be eating like he or she used to because of normal age-related changes, especially if underlying issues have been ruled out. But if you’re still concerned about a lack of sufficient nutrients, consider:

  • Adding healthy higher-calorie foods, such as avocados, to meals 
  • Talking to the doctor about appetite stimulants
  • Establishing a regular eating schedule for your loved one

Certain Medical Conditions

Chronic or recurring constipation is one of the medical conditions that could cause seniors to eat less. Appetite loss in the elderly may also be related to:

• Thyroid disorders
• Chronic liver disease
• Dementia-related conditions
• Stomach, ovarian, pancreatic, lung, or stomach cancer
• Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Helping aging adults get proper nutrition when they don’t want to eat can be exhausting. If you’re the primary family caregiver for an elderly loved one and need additional assistance providing high-quality senior care, Home Care Assistance can help. We are a leading home care agency committed to changing the way seniors age. If your loved one needs help with the challenges of aging, call one of our compassionate Care Managers today at (806) 803-9991.