What Causes Decreased Appetite in Older Adults?

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It’s important that older adults maintain good nutrition and robust appetites. If seniors don’t consume enough nutrient-dense foods, nutritional deficiencies may develop. Here are some reasons your aging loved one may lose his or her appetite and what you can do to restore it.

Drug Side Effects

Seniors often take multiple medications that produce unwanted side effects. Medications known to cause appetite loss and gastrointestinal problems include antibiotics, blood pressure medications, diuretics, and pain medications. If your loved one takes medication and develops a loss of appetite, tell the doctor. A reduction in dosage may enhance the appetite. However, the medication may need to be discontinued and replaced with a different one that’s less likely to diminish the appetite. 

A trained caregiver can provide expertise and additional support to encourage your loved one to eat well. Not every senior has the same care needs, which means they don’t all need the same type of elder care. Lincoln families can rely on Home Care Assistance to provide individualized care plans to meet your elderly loved one’s unique care needs. Our holistic Balanced Care Method was designed to help seniors focus on healthy lifestyle habits such as eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and maintaining strong social ties, and our Cognitive Therapeutics Method offers mentally stimulating activities that can stave off cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia.

Lack of Exercise

If aging adults don’t engage in enough physical activity, they may not have strong appetites. Encourage your loved one to take leisurely walks before mealtimes to stimulate his or her appetite. The combination of walking and fresh outdoor air promotes hunger. However, your loved one shouldn’t engage in strenuous activity before meals because doing so may suppress the appetite, resulting in decreased caloric intake.

Depression

Depression can cause sleep problems, self-isolation, and appetite loss. If you notice behavioral changes in your loved one, talk to him or her about it. Your loved one may be depressed about his or her living arrangements, health problems, the loss of a spouse or close friend, or his or her financial situation. If your loved one seems depressed, make an appointment with the physician. Your parent may be a candidate for antidepressant medication and psychological counseling. While antidepressants are typically effective, it can be weeks before the depression lifts.

Seniors who aren’t able to eat enough to get proper nutrition may need a higher level of care. If your senior loved one needs around-the-clock assistance at home, the Lincoln, CA, live-in care professionals at Home Care Assistance are here to help. Our proprietary Balanced Care Method was designed to promote longevity by encouraging seniors to focus on healthy eating, regular exercise, mental engagement, and other important lifestyle factors.

Medical Disorders

Appetite loss in seniors can be caused by certain illnesses, including renal disease, liver problems, congestive heart failure, Parkinson’s disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. If your loved one has any of these illnesses or another disorder that causes appetite suppression, make an appointment with the doctor. Loss of appetite may indicate disease progression, or it might be related to new medications. Poorly managed diseases are more likely to cause appetite problems than those that are managed well.

Swallowing Problems

Strokes can cause seniors to have swallowing problems, which may make them afraid to eat. If your loved one has swallowing problems as a result of a neurological injury, talk to the doctor about speech therapy. A speech therapist can teach your loved one effective exercises that strengthen the muscles responsible for swallowing. A swallowing evaluation may also be performed to find out which types of foods your loved one can tolerate. Mechanically altering food so your loved one can swallow it more easily may reduce his or her fear of eating, resulting in a stronger appetite.

Helping aging adults get proper nutrition when they don’t want to eat can be exhausting for family caregivers. If you’re the primary family caregiver for an elderly loved one and need additional assistance providing high-quality elderly home care, Home Care Assistance can help. We are a leading home care agency committed to changing the way seniors age. For more information about our flexible, customizable home care plans, call one of our compassionate Care Managers today at 916.226.3737.