Aging And Changing Appetites

Aging & Loss Of Appetite

Many people experience a loss of appetite with age. This can make mealtime an unpleasant experience for some seniors who either struggle or may be experiencing a loss in appetite. The consequence can sometimes be a refusal to eat. This is an important issue to address because we need good nutrition to stay as healthy and active as possible. And, it can be difficult to convince someone who has no appetite to eat.

If someone isn’t eating, the first thing to do is find out if there is a serious health condition or medication side effect causing the problem. If you know someone who suddenly loses their appetite, it is important to discuss this with a doctor and get a check- up as scheduled as soon as possible.

Illnesses That Can Cause A Loss Of Appetite

Some of the following illnesses can cause change in taste and appetite:

  • Dementia
  • Parkinson’s
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Gum disease
  • Cancer
  • Salivary gland problems
  • Medication side effects

10 Reasons For Loss Of Appetite

While not an exhaustive list, we have called out ten of the most common reasons for loss of appetitive below.

1) Lack of Exercise
Regular exercise and physical activity can help increase appetite.

2) Dehydration
Many seniors do not get enough fluids and get dehydrated.  This can cause a loss of appetite.

3) No Routine
Having a daily routine with meals can help the person be ready to eat.

4) Difficulty Preparing Meals

Seniors who live independently might not be eating because preparing their own meals has become too difficult.

5) Changing Sense of Taste

As we age, our taste buds are less able to detect flavors and therefore food may become bland or unappetizing to them.

6) Difficulty Chewing, Swallowing, or Eating Independently

There are many reasons why eating becomes challenging. The next article will focus on adaptations for people who are having difficulty eating.

7) Sensitivity to or Loss of Smell
Over sensitivity to smells can cause someone to not want to eat.

8) Depression or Loneliness
Having no one to eat with can increase someone’s sense of loneliness.

9) Loss of Control
Sometimes, not being able to choose what to eat makes someone not want to eat at all.

10) Mealtimes Become Unpleasant
When we try to convince someone to eat that doesn’t have an appetite, it can become conflictual and mealtimes can become emotionally unpleasant.

Orchard at Brookhaven’s team keeps hydration and healthy eating a TOP PRIORITY. You can learn more on our Dining page.

Difficulty Eating: Common Causes & Recommendations To Improve

Some of the common causes that can lead to difficulty eating are:

  • Normal aging
  • Dental problems
  • Medications
  • Medical treatments like surgery
  • Stroke, Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, other health conditions

There are a lot of different tips and tricks to make eating less difficult. Some of our recommendations to help are:

  • Have a regular meal and snack routine.
  • Do not wait for the person to tell you they hungry.
  • Serve smaller portions.
  • Large portions that fill an entire plate can be intimidating.
  • Give only two choices.
  • Don’t ask open ended questions like “What do you want to eat?”
  • Use adaptive utensils.
  • Offer finger foods.
  • Use smoothies, shakes, and protein powders to boost calories.
  • Add calories with healthy fat options like avocado, peanut butter, cheeses, olive oils etc.
  • Offer easy to eat and easily accessible snacks.
  • Use favorite aromas to boost appetite (bacon, bread, cookies, garlic, chocolate).

Orchard at Brookhaven’s teams are trained in how to help residents with their personal nutritional needs, as well as how to support residents with changing abilities so they can continue to engage socially with others during mealtime.  Meals are healthy AND delicious. Call now to schedule a visit and enjoy a meal on us!