Your Elderly Parent’s Appetite
It’s easy to become concerned when you see your parent picking at their full plate of food and leaving half untouched. Uncovering the cause behind their decreased appetite will help you know the next step to take to ensure their health and your peace of mind.
Age and Appetite
Appetites change as a natural progression of aging. Diminished sense of taste or smell can make food unappealing. Ill-fitted dentures can make eating uncomfortable or even painful. Physical activity has usually decreased causing fewer caloric needs. Certain medications can affect appetite. Antidepressants such as Zoloft and Paxil are two such drugs that can decrease the desire to eat. Any medication that has reached a toxic level can also cause loss of appetite.
Other possible reasons include depression, dementia and other illnesses such as thyroid problems, some cancers, COPD and stroke. Don’t jump to the worst-case possible scenario. Talk to your parent. Consider yourself a modern-day Sherlock Holmes uncovering the secret that few can see. His greatest asset was his attention. Paying attention to your loved one and really hearing what they have to say will, in many cases, give you the answer to their loss of appetite. If you notice weight loss and are still concerned, don’t hesitate to contact their health care provider for further evaluation.
Many seniors find it easier to eat smaller meals throughout the day. Once the underlying cause is determined, you will be able to make any appropriate changes to their menu. If their dentures proved to be the culprit, make an appointment with their dentist and, in the meantime, keep meals soft and easy to chew. Consider protein-rich smoothies with added antioxidant packed berries. Baked potatoes filled with steamed broccoli and topped with melted cheese make a nice small meal. Nutrient-packed avocados on whole grain bread provide nutrient-dense foods. Again, communication is essential. Find out what comfort foods they may be missing. Does chicken noodle soup warm their soul? Chili and corn bread? If they’ve been on a strict diet for health concerns, throw caution to the wind every once in a while. “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”—Oscar Wilde.
Eating is considered a social occasion for many societies. If you or other family members are unable to share a meal with your loved one often, consider obtaining the services of a home care provider. While your parent may scoff at first, often times they become the closest of companions. Not only can they share a meal with your parent, they can do the grocery shopping, meal preparation and some of the other daily activities of living, leaving you more time for quality time with your parent and time to refresh for yourself.