Appetite is defined as the need or desire to eat. The control of appetite is interdependent as it involves an interplay of the nervous system, the digestive system, and the endocrine system. As you grow old, it is natural to experience reduced appetite. The latter may be due to physiological changes, chronic disease, or regular use of medication.
What Are the Causes of Appetite Loss Among Seniors?It is crucial for the elderly to eat since they have the same nutritional requirements as any other adult. Loss of appetite leads to malnutrition that already worsens their fragile health. Here are the probable causes of appetite loss in the elderly.
1. Chronic IllnessAs you grow old, you are at a higher propensity to develop health conditions that will affect your appetite. Neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, mainly affect your muscles and memory, so it’s more likely you’ll forget mealtimes when left unsupervised. Other conditions that may promote loss of appetite include hyperthyroidism, cancer, dry mouth, and dental infections.
2. MedicineOlder adults are more likely than any other population to suffer from dry mouth. Reduced salivary gland secretion makes chewing and swallowing food challenging, which can result in a loss of appetite. Therefore, physicians should exercise caution when prescribing medicines that reduce salivary gland secretion to seniors. Additionally, doctors should opt not to prescribe medications that alter the taste sensation, especially to seniors.
3. DepressionStatistics reveal there is a 10% prevalence of depression among geriatrics, which could be associated with living in isolation. Research suggests that seniors dislike mealtime because it reminds them of how lonely they are.
4. Lack of HelpFrequently, older people continue to live at home with their families and are dependent on the younger generation. However, in some cases, they prefer to stay independent. This makes them completely dependent on themselves. In consequence, some seniors have limited mobility and can’t go to the grocery store or prepare meals as often as they’d like.
What Can Be Done to Alleviate Appetite Loss Among Seniors?There is a need for seniors to eat to meet their daily nutritional requirements. Therefore, the following steps can help alleviate appetite loss among seniors:
1. Withdrawal of Medicines That Cause Appetite LossIf a drug causes dry mouth or alters the taste and causes appetite loss, it is important for the physician to either withdraw the drug or offer an alternate. If the doctor cannot substitute the drug, the physician may be able to provide a drug that counteracts the drug’s side effects.
2. Encourage Social MealsStudies have shown that individuals are more likely to eat more if they are at a social gathering. The same applies to seniors. Social meals alleviate depression and ensure that older people eat at the right frequency.
3. Establish and Maintain Regular Meal SchedulesHunger, thirst, and other types of natural impulses thrive off the repetition of patterns. Once you stick to a mealtime schedule, you’ll naturally feel hungry at the same time every day.
4. Increase the Frequency of MealsFor seniors who find it hard to eat, it’s crucial to reduce food portions and increase the frequency of meals. Switch up meals to make mealtime more enjoyable and fun. Provide fruits, salads, and snacks, even when you are not hungry. If you are a caregiver, it would be best to ask the seniors what they are on the lookout for. Eating what one wishes to eat stimulates the appetite.
5. Encourage Seniors to ExerciseExercise is crucial if you suffer from chronic appetite loss, as it increases caloric expenditure and, as a result, promotes appetite. It also eases depression by releasing the feel-good hormone endorphin.
6. Make Mealtime More FunFun meals will make you eat more. You can make meals more enjoyable and fun by incorporating spices to make the food tastier, setting up the dinner table in a colorful and presentable fashion, or frequently switching up the menu. Alternatively, involving seniors in meal planning and preparation or playing some music in the background during mealtimes could make mealtime more enjoyable. Additionally, you may offer two or more types of foods during mealtime to ensure that the senior has various choices. The use of small plates with simple cutlery effectively serves small food proportions and eliminates the confusion associated with a lot of cutlery.
7. Use of Appetite StimulantsA physician may prescribe an appetite stimulant to aid in alleviating the lack of appetite. Some of the commonly prescribed appetite stimulants are dronabinol, oxandrolone, and megestrol. However, caution needs to be exercised due to the profound side effects associated with these medicines. Alternatively, one may use natural appetite stimulants such as coriander, cinnamon, black pepper, and ginger. These herbs can be naturally incorporated into foods or taken as supplements. In addition to their appetite-stimulating properties, they also provide nutritional benefits for the elderly. Seniors with mouth ulcers would benefit from softer foods since creamier foods are easier to swallow than solid foods. Such foods include mashed potatoes, smoothies, and pasta. Note that it is essential to hydrate after eating dry foods.
Based on the discussion, seniors should routinely eat their meals both for nutritional reasons and to prevent diseases. If you or your elderly loved one is having trouble eating, use one of the techniques discussed in this article. For additional questions, reach out to us at Brookfield Senior Living.