While it is normal for many to feel a loss of appetite as they age, it’s important if you see this happening with your loved one to make sure they’re eating enough, and still getting the nutrients they need. A lack of appetite can be caused by anything from a slowing metabolism and medicinal side effects to illness, so if you do notice an abrupt change, don’t hesitate to reach out to their primary physician. While it can be difficult to convince a stubborn loved one to eat more, there are ways you can make meals more enticing. Below we’ve listed some strategies that can help.
1. Have a routine
If you don’t have one already, get a set eating schedule in place for your loved one. By eating at the same time every day, the brain can be trained to expect a meal—triggering the body to feel hungry at that time.
2. Try smaller portions
This doesn’t mean eating less—instead, it can help meal times feel less overwhelming. For those lacking in appetite, having a big meal set in front of them can be daunting when they don’t feel very hungry to begin with. Instead, try multiple meals a day with smaller portions. This way, your loved one can be getting enough nutrients and calories in a less stressful way.
3. Keep easy-to-eat snacks available
While some individuals do best with set mealtimes, others can do better with the option of “grazing” all day. This is where nutrient filled, easy to eat snacks can be useful, so your loved one can take advantage of the moments when they do get an appetite and feel hungry.
4. Try different forms of foods
For some, finger foods may be more appealing and encourage more eating as it can be frustrating to hold utensils. For others, switching between different textures can help peak an appetite. Try a healthy smoothie in the morning for breakfast, or for a snack to give teeth and jaws a reprieve from chewing. They key takeaway here is to make meal times and snack times as stress free as possible, making changes to encourage more eating.
5. Put the focus on nutrient dense, high calorie foods
There are times when it may seem impossible to get your loved one to eat, and some days will be better than others. It’s important in cases like these to make sure that your loved one is eating both high calorie and nutrient dense foods to prevent malnutrition from occurring. Doing so allows for smaller portions to be ingested without sacrificing health and well-being.
These strategies are a start, but keep in mind that every senior is different and has different needs. A solution that works for one person may not work for another. Keep track of what works and what doesn’t—and remember to be patient. Don’t be afraid to keep trying different things until you land on a solution that works!
With 19 specialized programs and facilities and 2,500 hundred dedicated caregivers, Loretto is dedicated to providing quality care to the Central New York Community. We proudly serve 9,000 residents and their families with a system of care that addresses the unique needs of every individual. Looking for more information on care for you and your loved one? Visit our Choosing Your Care page, or feel free to contact us!