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Nutrition Tips | May 13, 2016 | By Jonita Dixon

Loss of Appetite in the Elderly

care-worker-with-seniorIt is a natural part of aging to experience a loss in appetite, but that does not mean that we should suddenly stop worrying about getting enough nutrients when we get on in age. If our older loved ones refuse to eat, there are a few things that we can do.

While poor appetite does not necessarily mean that you have to start worrying right away, there are some warning signs to be aware of. We want to explain what might be causing the sudden lack of appetite in your aging loved one.

Why Is Their Appetite Different?

As previously mentioned, it is normal for our appetite to be a bit lessened as we get older. Yet there are several factors that cause a lack of appetite in the elderly

  • Medication side effects
  • Loss of appetite due to health conditions
  • Lack of interest in food due to changing taste buds, loneliness or depression
  • Lack of energy to cook

It is a normal part of aging to experience a loss of appetite, it does not necessarily mean that something is ‘wrong’. However, it is important that we help minimize the negative side effects of poor nutrient intake, regardless of whether someone is struggling with low appetite.

What Should I Be Concerned About?

There are normal physiological and perceptual changes that cause the elderly to have a decreased appetite. A few examples of this include:

  • Changes to the sense of taste and smell – If food does not taste or smell the same as it did before, the overall enjoyment of food goes down.
  • Gastrointestinal or dental problems – These are able to affect appetite, but are normal issues to go along with aging.
  • Lessened physical activity and lower metabolic rate – The body simply needs fewer calories when not doing as much, which means that our demand for food is going to be lessened.

Some serious illnesses lead to a change in appetite or taste. These include:

  • Thyroid disorders
  • Salivary gland dysfunction
  • Mouth and throat infections or periodontal disease
  • Head and neck cancers
  • Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseas

What would be cause for concern would be if our loved one is not getting enough to eat or begin to make poor nutrition options because of their changing tastes. Considering that they have changing dietary needs, seniors have to get the right nutrition. It is possible that they would experience significant health problems because of vitamin or nutrient deficiencies.

Because decreased food intake can lead to a number of problems, many families rest easier knowing that their loved one have shared meals or at least have meals provided for them at the facilities found at www.carltonseniorliving.com. Knowing that trained care professionals are watching over our loved ones is a great way to alleviate some of the caregiver stress.