As we age, we may notice a shift in many of our regular habits. We may sleep less, become quieter, and, most importantly, will generally begin to eat less as our metabolism shifts. However, if you notice a drastic change in the way a parent, grandparent, spouse or other loved one eats, it’s important to pay close attention.
There are a variety of reasons that someone may slow down in their normal food and drink consumption. In addition to the decrease in metabolism that occurs naturally with age, our bodies do have fewer nutritional needs as we get older. Our senses can begin to diminish as well. While our sense of smell and taste decrease, making eating less appealing. Even poor vision can contribute! And, of course, our bodies feel full quicker as digestion takes longer, which means that we’ll be more likely to eat less.
Finally, certain medications as well as other physical medical concerns such as arthritis, poorly fitting dentures, or painful gums or teeth, can have a negative effect on appetite. As a result, there are many normal reasons for an elder relative to slow down eating. A significant shift, though, may require medical attention as it could point towards a more severe psychological, emotional or physical ailment. If someone has stopped eating and drinking completely, it’s time to call the doctor before it’s too late, as health can deteriorate rapidly.
If it’s not so extreme that a hospital visit is necessary, you can take a few steps to increase caloric intake. Provide smaller portions during mealtime so that it’s less overwhelming. Make sure to have snacks and meals at the same time every day, so that it becomes habit to eat. Start serving food that’s easier to eat – either food that doesn’t require significant chewing, or finger foods that don’t require utensils or cutting. Proteins like chicken nuggets or strips, raw vegetables like carrots and zucchini, and cubed or sliced cheese are great snacks and small foods that are simple to eat, easy on the stomach, and provide nutrients and calories. Soft foods can also be a great way to encourage the appetite, from soups and smoothies to the occasional milkshake.
In-home caretakers are trained to make sure that their clients get the food they need to be as healthy and happy as possible, and if you’re finding it difficult to monitor and regulate your loved one’s appetite, give Compassionate Care a call. We can help!