In order to improve appetite in the elderly visit your doctor and take your medication list with you. Drink a lot of water, serve smaller portions or drink meals. Check medication side effects if you have dry mouth. You should eat with others or make mealtimes a special occasion. For more on how to improve appetite check further advises.
There are many reasons why our appetite decreases as we become older. There are purely mechanical reasons such as ill-fitting dentures, or dental and gum problems. Alternatively, there are medical reasons such as illness, medication side effects, and depression.
Some people eat less because they think they can’t afford it, and some because they do less exercise and don’t need it. However, no matter what the reasons are, it is vital that everyone, including seniors, eat enough to provide their body with the required nutrients.
How to Improve Appetite in the Elderly?
Fix Oral Problems
The commonest reasons why seniors don’t eat properly is because they have problems with their teeth, gums or dentures. Visit your dentist for a check-up and ensure that these things get looked at.
Check Medication Side Effects
Every prescribed medication has a printed piece of paper listing possible side effects. Check your meds to see if ‘loss of appetite’ is on the list. See your doctor and ask whether there are some alternative meds you can take that don’t have the same side effects. Alternatively, your doctor might be able to suggest ways of overcoming your loss of appetite.
Many short term health conditions cause loss of appetite. Colds and flu are typical examples and you can be sure that your appetite will return to normal when these diseases have run their course. Many more health problems such as constipation, upset stomach, and acid reflux also cause appetite problems and these can usually be sorted out by a visit to your pharmacy or doctor.
On top of this, there are more serious health conditions that only a qualified doctor will diagnose and treat. If your loss of appetite continues after your flu has gone or after your course of self-treatment, visit your doctor to see if there is any other cause.
Create a Routine
Your body becomes accustomed to eating at certain times of the day and expects food at those times. Serve food at approximately the same time every day to establish a good routine. Seniors lose the ability to feel hunger as they get older so don’t rely on hunger pangs to tell you when to eat.
Eat with Others
Many seniors, especially those who live alone, often can’t be bothered to cook a proper meal for themselves. If this sounds like you, get together with a friend and share the cooking and preparation. Eating together is a joyful occasion and will make you look forward to the meal.
If you have several close friends, why not start a luncheon club and meet up once a month. Many seniors’ day-centers supply a good meal at a nominal cost. Go along to one, not only will you have a good meal, but you’ll also be able to chat with others in the same situation.
If you don’t feel the need to cook from scratch every day, why not cook in bulk, once a week. Divide the bulk meals into smaller portions and freeze. You can then reheat or microwave a ‘home-cooked’ meal whenever you want.
Serve Smaller Portions
Many seniors feel overwhelmed when faced with a large plateful of food. So, reduce the portion size and increase the nutrient quantity of the food. Alternatively, you can change the daily meal-time routine from three large meals to four or five smaller meals. There are plenty of suggested diets for seniors online, or you can ask your doctor or nutritionist for a diet sheet.
Drink Plenty of Fluids
Many seniors forget that increasing their fluid intake is just as important as eating the right kind of food. Drink plenty of water, tea, coffee, milk, and fruit juice. There are many hot drinks to choose from including soups, malted drinks, and hot chocolate. Many of these contain food value as well as water.
Try Finger Foods
Many seniors experience a lack of coordination and strength when using a knife, fork, and spoon. Try easily held foods. Perhaps, something like chicken nuggets, sandwiches, fruit, or fries. I’m sure you can think of many more. So, experiment and use the foods that work best.
Many seniors find chewing difficult, and some medications such as chemotherapy alter the sense of taste, completely ruling out normal food. In cases like these, try a liquid meal. Soups aren’t the only drinking meals.
Some nutritious milkshakes and smoothies are delicious. Alternatively, your pharmacist stocks liquid meals that are similar to a milkshake but contain all the nutrients a person needs to stay healthy. Also, check protein drinks.
Try Cooking Different Meals
Eating the same meal, day in and day out induces boredom just like any other sensory experience. When food becomes boring, the experience is less pleasing and some people would rather go without. Try cooking different meals. They don’t have to be fancy meals or expensive. All they need is to have a variety of flavors to experience.
Consider Appetite Stimulants
Some people use appetite stimulants to increase their appetite. These are available on prescription only as they’re often not compatible with other medications the senior might be using. Talk to your doctor if you feel this option might work and see what is available.
Make Mealtimes a Special Occasion
Combine this method with other options on this list. Invite a few friends around for a meal. Use the best table linen and crockery. Dress up and make an effort with your appearance. Finish off the evening with a game of bridge or a board game. Many things can make a meal special, and what you do will depend on your preferences.
A Dry Mouth is a Problem
Many medications cause an uncomfortable dry mouth. This can result in a loss of appetite as saliva production is necessary when chewing food. Perhaps you can use a mouth rinse or chew sugarless gum to stimulate saliva. A slice of lemon or lime in sparkling water often gets the saliva glands working and you should find that a dry mouth is a thing of the past.
Many seniors and older adults experience a decrease in appetite. The regulation of appetite is complex. Hopefully, this article has provided some good ideas to improve your food intake.