Practical Tips to Help Your Aging Loved One Who Forgets to Eat
It is common for some older adults to experience a loss of appetite as they grow older. Loss of appetite and a decline in thirst are normal parts of aging and don't necessarily mean that something is amiss. Older adults typically need fewer calories as their metabolic rate slows, and they aren't as physically active as they were in their younger years. Some older adults face dental problems, which makes it difficult for them to chew their food. Others experience gastrointestinal changes with age, such as developing an intolerance to dairy or wheat. Even changes in the sense of smell and taste can make food less appealing for older adults.
In addition, memory loss, chronic medical conditions, and depression can cause a senior to forget to eat. If you are concerned about your aging loved one's appetite, it's best to start by having a conversation with your loved one's doctor. Then, use the practical tips below to encourage your aging loved one to eat.
Focus on Nutrition
Larger portion sizes can be intimidating for some older adults. Focus on filling your loved one's plate with nutrient-dense foods rather than a higher volume of food. Blend a nutrient-packed smoothie to sneak in vitamins, minerals, and protein. Aim for more healthy fats and protein, which take longer to break down, and less sugary foods, which quickly leave the system.
Prepare Meals in Advance
Seniors with memory loss, depression, or chronic health conditions can be overwhelmed by the prospect of cooking. Help them by preparing meals in advance that they can reheat in the oven or microwave. Portion meals into individual servings so they can reheat only what they want to eat. Label the meal, along with specific instructions on how to reheat. If possible, work beside your aging loved one to prepare meals together. The aromas in the kitchen just might whet their appetite.
Flavor with Herbs and Spices
Combat dull taste buds and a decreased smell sensation by flavoring foods with herbs and spices. Try garlic, onion, curry, chili powder, or pepper. For a sweeter taste, add cinnamon, nutmeg, honey, or cloves.
Another tip is to establish mealtimes to encourage your aging loved one to eat. Consistent mealtimes can help stimulate the body's hunger signals. It can also help them navigate their entire day. If they live alone, write a meal schedule on a poster board, and place it in the kitchen. Include snack times as needed. Set alarms or call them to remind them it's time to eat.
The thought of eating alone can add to feelings of loneliness, sadness, and depression for some seniors. Encourage your aging loved one to eat with family or friends, as it's safe to do so. Invite them over for dinner as often as you can. Schedule video chat meal dates with other family members to encourage them to eat. Consider hiring a companion caregiver who can help them prepare a meal and share it together.
Keep Foods Visible
Ensure healthy foods are always readily available and in sight. Place grab-and-go snacks, such as yogurts, sliced vegetables, string cheese, or fresh fruit, at eye level in the refrigerator. Put individually wrapped protein bars on the kitchen counter. Store bananas and a jar of peanut butter on the kitchen island. Keeping foods out on the counter serves as a visual reminder to eat.
Include Food in Your Plans
Finally, when you have plans with your aging loved one, ensure those plans always include a meal or snack. Bring them their favorite sandwich from their favorite restaurant when you stop by to visit. Swing by the bakery for a special treat after a doctor's appointment. This is a great way to ensure they eat at least one meal that day.
If you are concerned about your aging loved one's loss of appetite, let Visiting Angels Sarasota help. Our job is to provide the assistance seniors need so they can get through their day with ease. This includes assistance with meal planning and preparation. The caregivers we refer would also be delighted to share a meal with you so that eating alone isn't another barrier for your aging loved one. Get your loved ones the senior home care they need, with dedicated referrals from Visiting Angels Sarasota. Please call us today to schedule your free consultation.