Not hungry at mealtime? Are there special meals or “comfort food” that you prepare, or are there ethic or cultural dishes that you eat regularly? What if someone who did not know your favorite foods, recipes, or spices began to shop and prepare meals for you? It just isn’t the same when you are dependent on someone else. This and many other reasons might make mealtime a challenge.
Loss of appetite is common in seniors
Many older adults struggle during mealtimes or simply refuse to eat because they’ve lost their appetite. This causes caregivers to worry because seniors need to eat to stay as healthy and active as possible. How can you convince someone with no appetite to eat? Why do seniors lose their appetites in the first place?
First rule out serious health conditions or medication side effects.
If your senior suddenly loses their appetite, it’s important to talk with their doctor. A check-up might be needed to rule out serious health conditions or medication side effects. Some serious illnesses cause changes to taste and appetite, including:
- Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
- Thyroid disorders
- Mouth and throat infections or gum disease
- Salivary gland problems
Medication side effects like dry mouth or a metallic taste can change how food or water tastes, which can cause loss of appetite.
10 reasons for loss of appetite
If loss of appetite isn’t caused by a health or medication issue, here are ten other reasons why someone wouldn’t want to eat.
- Lack of exercise
Regular exercise and activity helps boost appetite. Sometimes, seniors need to work up an appetite before they can eat.
Being dehydrated can cause loss of appetite. Many older adults don’t get enough fluids and become dehydrated more easily because of age-related changes or medications they’re taking.
- Lack of routine
Getting into a daily routine where meals are eaten around the same time every day can help the body feel ready to eat at those times.
- Inability to prepare meals
Seniors who live independently might not be eating because preparing their own meals has become too difficult.
- Loss of taste
With age, many people’s taste buds become less able to detect flavors. Normal food might be bland and unappetizing to them.
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
These problems can be caused by:
- Normal aging (wear and tear on the body)
- Dental problems
- Medical treatments like surgery
- Dementia, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, or other health conditions
- Sensitivity to smells
Sometimes people develop a sensitivity to the smell of certain foods that can make them feel nauseated or unable to eat.
- Depression or loneliness
Depression affects 1 in 10 seniors and often causes loss of appetite. Many older adults also dislike mealtimes because they have nobody to eat with and their loneliness gets intensified.
- Loss of control
When older adults are dependent on others for everything, they’ve lost control over how they want to live their lives. Sometimes, not being able to choose what you’re going to eat makes you not want to eat at all.
- Mealtimes are unpleasant
If mealtimes have become a time for disagreements or arguments about their eating, seniors can associate food with unpleasantness.