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Managing Decreased Appetite in Seniors
If you are a senior or you care for one, you may notice a decrease in appetite over time. While decreased appetite is a normal part of the aging process to a degree, in the big picture it could be cause for concern or a sign of serious medical issues. As we age our stomachs begin to empty more slowly. If senses like taste, sight and smell are impaired the prospect of eating a delicious meal may not be as enticing as it once was, causing for the decrease in appetite.

There are several possible factors of why seniors lose their appetite:

  • Depression
  • Food becomes difficult to chew
  • Loss of a spouse
  • Medical conditions which make eating and digesting uncomfortable
  • Financial concerns - if food becomes unaffordable seniors are less likely to eat
  • Uncomfortable dentures
  • Dehydration - becoming dehydrated can cause loss of appetite. Make sure to drink plenty of water.
  • Difficulty gripping and using utensils

Here are a few tips to help increase appetite in seniors:

  1. Eat meals together: If you are a caregiver or a close relative or friend of a senior, it helps to bond over sharing a meal together. If you are able to go shopping with them, prepare meals with them, and eat with them they will be more likely to eat. When a senior lives alone it can be depressing to eat every meal by themselves, so having someone to visit with and talk with over dinner can make seniors more motivated to eat.
  2. Set a schedule: Eating breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks at the same time every day will help set a routine and make a habit of eating.
  3. Portion size: Another tip is to increase the number of calories consumed while making the actual portion sizes smaller. Adding foods like whole fat yogurt and peanut butter to meals will help add those calories. If a portion size is overwhelmingly large, a senior may not feel like they could handle it and shy away from eating that meal altogether.
  4. Is chewing difficult? Adding more casseroles and ready to eat breakfast drinks or smoothies to the diet should help with that.
  5. Gripping issues? There are a number of modifications that can be made and specialized utensils that can be used to allow for better gripping. Another option is to add more smoothies or nutrition shakes that are more easily consumed, rather than relying solely on food that needs to be cut or consumed using utensils.
We recommend speaking with a nutritionist or doctor to see other options and recommendations that are tailored to your loved one’s individual needs. A regular positive experience with food will keep seniors happier and healthier longer.
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