If you are providing a beloved senior adult with at home care, you may be noticing some weight loss, especially if she suffers from an illness such as Cancer, AIDS or Alzheimer’s. The cause is commonly known as Cachexia-anorexia and is fairly common in elderly people who have terminal illnesses.
There may be a number of reasons that an elderly adult’s appetite is suppressed, such as: intense treatments, complex medications, changes in taste reception, emotional depression, and feeling nauseous. Senior adults may also have physical limitations including throat pain or swallowing challenges. Jennifer Buckley, contributor for Caregiver.com, offers a variety of ways to help elderly care at home patients to eat.
First, she cautions in-home caregivers, “This list doesn’t necessarily reflect the needs of care recipients on special needs diets such as diabetes or restricted salt intake diets. Remember to consult your physician about the specific dietary needs of your loved one.”
- Hydration! As a companion or caregiver, make sure your senior loved one has plenty of water to stay hydrated. Dehydration can suppress appetite.
- Change pacing. Try giving six small meals a day instead of three larger ones. These smaller meals will help reduce the overwhelming look of a large meal. Some seniors may find that always having a little something in their stomach calms nausea.
- Up the calories. Any way a caretaker for an elderly adult can add calories to a meal will help. There are great protein powders on the market today in plenty of flavors. Try adding some to milk for the meal’s beverage.
- Think soft. Problems with swallowing and digestion can be helped by preparing soft foods such as fruit smoothies, pudding, mashed potatoes, etc.
- Tasty. Many senior home care providers say their patients report change in tastes. This has to do with changing taste buds. Provide food that is flavorful but steer clear of sour flavors.
- Provide choices. Try to offer choices whenever you can. Buckley suggests giving your senior loved one the “power to decide what they would like to eat; it helps them to feel in control.”
- Pretty and pleasant. Don’t forget how we all attach such importance to environment. Senior adults are no different! Add a lovely garnish, play soft music and engage in light conversation. All these touches make meal time more pleasant for everyone.
- Take notes. If you encounter any eating problems while providing elderly care at home, keep a food diary. This will guide you in making adjustments when needed. Also, the information is helpful for her RN or geriatric physician during assessment.
- Get in the action. Try to get her moving to help increase appetite. Taking a walk can be a great distraction but it isn’t always possible. Buckley suggests folding laundry or peeling vegetables together.
The bottom line? This is a complex problem. Using even a few of these tools every day can help your senior loved one get her required nutrients to stay healthy.