Helping seniors with loss of appetite

Loss of appetite among the elderly is a common issue and it can have a wide variety of causes. Seniors may not be eating because of consistent pain, medication side effects, difficulty chewing or swallowing or even loneliness and depression caused by the death of a loved one. While some might assume that a low appetite is a normal part of aging, this is not always the case, and caregivers can take some steps toward making sure their elderly loved ones are getting enough to eat.

Appearance matters
It’s no secret that how a food looks can have a significant impact on whether a person wants to eat it, and this certainly applies to the senior population. An attractive arrangement could be the difference between seniors forgoing a meal or eating some delicious food. How food looks and is served certainly comes into play when Food Service Managers at Chartwell Retirement Residences prepares meals says Ian Sarfin, the Director of Food and Beverage at Chartwell.

“Items and flavours on a plate need to complement each other,” Sarfin said. “A plate needs to be colourful and exciting looking. [You] need to change how everyday items are placed on a plate to avoid boredom.”

Eat efficiently
Aside from crafting a meal that looks appealing, caregivers should also think about packing in as many nutrients into their loved ones’ meals as possible. According to the National Institute of Senior Health in the U.S., nutrient-dense foods offer plenty of dietary value but have a relatively low calorie count. Some of the best options include fruits, vegetables, whole grains and seafood.

Add a social aspect
Loneliness might play a factor in loss of appetite, which is what makes communal meals offered by retirement living residences such an appealing feature, HealthCentral notes. Seniors might be less reluctant to enjoy a full, nutritious meal if they are sharing it with their fellow residents. Additionally, having an event to look forward to with friends offers its own rewards, regardless of the nutritional value. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, seniors who are more socially active often have a lower blood pressure, reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and are less likely to develop signs of depression.