Dealing with Loss of Appetite in an Aging Parent
One of the most difficult aspects of watching our loved ones age is any deterioration in their physical or mental health. As kids, we rely on our parents always to be there for us, whatever the circumstances, so when it comes to the point where that role is switched the other way around, it can take some getting used to.
As their children, we always want to do right by our parents, so we’ll do all we can to keep them happy & healthy. That’s one of the reasons it can be so frustrating to witness them losing their appetites. Deep down, we understand that food is the fuel that keeps the body going, and so without it, they’re only likely to get weaker.
Convincing a senior to eat more is, unfortunately, not just a case of trying a variety of different foods until you stumble across something they like. In most cases, seniors naturally eat less due to a reduction in the elasticity of the stomach’s lining, meaning they become fuller much more quickly. Instead, it’s important to try a variety of different methods to ensure they’re taking in the essential nutrients they need to thrive.
Allan and Angela Encarnacion, owners of the in-home care provider, Always Best Care, have had to do just that with many seniors in their home care in San Mateo now eating more than they have in the last five years.
The Encarnacions have been kind enough to share three of the ways they’ve managed to achieve this.
One of the risks of living on your own in older age is isolation, which if left untreated, can quickly lead to depression. This can have a huge impact on a senior’s desire not only to cook but also to eat.
The best way to counter the condition is being in the company of others, especially during meal times. A trip to the local community center with friends or a meal out with the grandchildren once in a while can help make the world of difference.
It’s natural human behavior to copy the behavior of those around us, so we find that, if a senior is sitting around others while they’re eating, they’re much more likely to do the same.
While a strict meal schedule may sound a little regimented, it can really help the body to know when to release hunger signals to the brain.
In doing so, a senior’s appetite will start to kick in, which will make them much more likely to try to eat a meal.
If your loved one is eating less but is happy to have six or seven mouthfuls, it may be time to start thinking about changes to their diet.
As you can imagine, eating 12 French fries isn’t going to have much of a positive impact on their health, but if you can swap those French fries for some vegetables or fruit, their overall health should steadily improve.