What to Do If Your Elderly Parent Won't Eat

Fluctuations in appetite are common at every age, but in the case of the elderly, prolonged periods of appetite loss can be particularly concerning. Adequate nutrition is required to maintain good health and without it a number of issues can arise, including increased bone loss, weight loss, and malabsorption of medications. Knowing what signs to watch for and what you can do to help are the best ways to help your aging parent and ensure they have the quality of life they deserve.

Reasons For Loss Of Appetite In The Elderly

A decrease in appetite is a normal part of the aging process, but when a parent begins to make unhealthy food choices or can’t sustain a healthy weight it’s important to identify and address the underlying cause. Common reasons for reduced intake can include:

  • Declining senses. A decrease in sense of smell, vision, or taste can make food unappealing. Without the tantalizing aromas, colors, and tastes normally associated with food, your elderly parent may find they are disinterested in eating.
  • Medication side effects. A number of prescription medications list a change in appetite as a potential side effect. Certain medications can cause dry mouth, which can have an adverse effect on taste, while others may cause foods such as meat to have an unpleasant, metallic taste.
  • Constipation. This condition triggers a sensation of fullness which can hinder the appetite. Constipation can also be a side effect of medications or the result of inadequate water or fiber intake.
  • Loneliness. Meal time is a ritual for many who have memories of family dinners full of conversation. The thought of dining alone may be enough to cause your elderly parent to skip meals and every effort should be made to encourage social dining with friends, family, or caregivers.
  • Trouble chewing. Painful teeth, dentures, or gums are a deterrent to eating and soft foods may be required until any issue(s) can be resolved.
  • Inability or unwillingness to prepare meals. Those who lack the skill or have physical limitations that prevent them from preparing nutritious meals may simply choose not to eat.

Signs Your Aging Parent May Not Be Eating Enough

The signs of malnutrition aren’t always immediately apparent, but the earlier you discover there is an issue with your elderly parent, the better. Watch for the following:

  • Clothing that no longer fits. Drastic changes in weight where clothes are noticeably hanging or needing to purchase clothing in a smaller size.
  • Excuses for an empty fridge or cupboards. Periodically running out of staple items or canned goods is normal, but if you notice a pattern your parent may be forgetting, unwilling, or unable to shop for food.
  • Dental issues or other physical signs. Gum or dental issues, wounds that are slow to heal, and frequent bruising can all be signs of poor nutrition.
  • Lack of energy. Dizziness, unexplained weakness, or falls can be attributed to hunger or malnutrition.

What To Do If Your Elderly Parent Won’t Eat

If you’re concerned about a loss of appetite in your elderly parent, there are a number of steps you can take to help, including;

  • Encouraging socialization. Make an effort to arrange for, or eat with, your elderly parent several times a week.
  • Increasing nutritional density. Focus on the quality and variety of food, rather than quantity, to pack in as many nutrients as you can.
  • Arrange for in-home care. Advanced Nursing & Home Support can provide the perfect balance of companionship, professional in-home care, and assistance that your elderly parent needs to remain independent, while ensuring they receive enough nutrition to maintain good health.

Schedule a Free In-Home Assessment Today in Maryland

If you have a loved one in Montgomery County, MD who would benefit from any of our home care services, contact us today to schedule a free assessment. We can discuss your needs and match your family member with a homecare professional that fits their unique personality, interests, and needs.

At Advanced Nursing, we offer in-home care services to senior citizens as well as loved ones who have been in catastrophic accidents or are disabled, and we can cater our services to suit your specific situation.

Contact us online or by phone at 240-283-4984 to schedule your in-home assessment!