Every year around this time, Dad eagerly anticipates the homemade turkey soup you make only during the holiday season. This year, however, he seems disinterested as you place a steaming bowl in front of him. What could have caused such a drastic change in his appetite, and should you be concerned?
Uncovering the Reason Behind Appetite Loss in Seniors
Loss of appetite is common for many older individuals, for a number of reasons, such as:
- Feeling lonely and/or isolated
- A change in how food tastes or smells
- A less active lifestyle
- Problems with preparing meals due to mobility or other health issues
- Difficulty with eating independently or with chewing or swallowing
- Feeling like they’ve lost control over other parts of their life
- Lack of a regular mealtime routine
How to Help Someone With No Appetite
The first step is to contact the person’s doctor and dentist for an evaluation to see if there are any health problems or medication side effects occurring. If the person receives a clean bill of health, there are some steps you can take to help restore the enjoyment of mealtimes.
- Offer soft options. Try softening up the menu by blending up fruit and yogurt smoothies, homemade milkshakes, cream soups, etc. These types of foods are easy to eat independently and eliminate any chewing problems.
- Make smaller portions of high-calorie foods. Three big meals a day may be overwhelming for the person. Try more frequent and smaller servings that are often more palatable for someone with appetite loss. Good options to try that are high in nutrients and calories include peanut butter and other nut butters, cheese, yogurt, avocado, whole milk, eggs, and finely chopped meat.
- Create a mealtime routine. Although it might take some trial and error, determine set times for the person to eat and then stick with that schedule, rather than waiting for the person to say they are hungry. Engaging in physical activity prior to eating is often a helpful way to boost appetite, so a morning workout before breakfast may be better than serving a meal as soon as the person wakes up.
- Provide adaptive tools. Problems with eating independently can often be overcome with the use of adaptive tools and utensils. Think through how you serve food as well. For instance, cutting food into bite-size pieces and offering finger foods like fish sticks, chicken tenders, sandwiches, and string cheese promotes independence as well.
At Senior HomeCare of Tucson, our caregivers are skilled and experienced in planning and preparing healthy meals and snacks according to individual preferences. We can also make mealtimes more enjoyable with friendly companionship and conversations, and help overcome appetite loss in seniors in a variety of other ways as well.