What do you do when food doesn’t taste good and may even hurt? To an increasing amount of seniors, the answer is often “you just don’t eat.”
A better answer, at least to the staff at Accredited Home Care, is to seek professional help, such as a primary health provider, or perhaps a nutritionist, a dietitian or someone who specializes in senior digestive and nutritional needs.
Malnutrition in seniors is a greater problem than people simply choosing to eat smaller portions or occasionally skipping a meal – it’s even called a national nutritional crisis! It can sometimes mean people going days or weeks without food, eating tiny amounts so the body has trouble sustaining itself, or eating unhealthy, even unsafe food. All of these options can affect quality of life.
According to the Mayo Clinic, malnutrition can quickly become chronic and lead to a weakened immune system, deteriorating muscles, dangerous weight loss, slow wound healing, memory problems, depression, and increased risk of injuries. Once a senior begins to establish a pattern of not eating, it often becomes easier to continue doing so.It’s not confined to seniors living at home either; malnutrition can be seen at nursing homes and assisted living communities. Although residents of these places may have access to regularly prepared meals and medical supervision, they may still suffer from the same lack of interest.
It’s not confined to seniors living at home either; malnutrition can be seen at nursing homes and assisted living communities. Although residents of these places may have access to regularly prepared meals and medical supervision, they may still suffer from the same lack of interest.
Because it’s such a large problem, medical professionals have declared Sept. 18-22 to be Malnutrition Awareness Week, which is designed to increase education and encourage caregivers to ask more about nutritional status and be aware of the signs.
If you’re concerned about the eating habits of a family member or loved one in the Northridge area, it helps to learn more about what can lead to this type of poor nutrition and methods to reverse it.
Multiple causes and factors
FamilyDoctor.org, a wellness site, said there are a variety of reasons why seniors may not be interested in food.
- Medications, which may affect digestion or change the taste or smell of certain foods.
- Poor dental health, which can cause certain foods to hurt more than others.
- Financial reasons, which could range from general thriftiness to prioritizing other costs like medication over food
- Loneliness, which means that someone who has to ‘cook for one’ may not be as eager to make anything complex – or may make larger meals last as long as possible, even after they’ve spoiled.
- Some may be more interested in snacks with less nutritional value vs. full meals.
- Difficulty going outside, whether due to disability, fear or not wanting to drive, could prevent regular trips to the store for groceries.
- Chronic substance use/abuse, such as alcohol, may decrease appetite.
- Depression could lead to a lack of interest in food.
- Environmental causes, such as old, spoiled food or a poorly working refrigerator, may impact diet.
- Medical impairment, such as some forms of dementia, could make it hard to focus on when to eat and how to prepare food.
- Aging, which can cause a general slowness in metabolism.
- Medically-imposed dietary restrictions, which could remove favorite foods and replace them with less appealing options.
Some of these factors likely will overlap, which can make it difficult to “fix” just one thing and make the person automatically go back to an interest in food again.
Medical officials acknowledge this as well. The U.S. National Library of Medicine’s Permanente Journal suggests that a multi-disciplinary approach can best help address the mental, physical, environmental and social reasons why some seniors aren’t just not eating, but creating significant health challenges.
For instance, a primary doctor can look at dietary issues, a dentist can look at if there are any problems chewing, and a speech therapist can discuss any swallowing problems. Mental health providers or neurologists can discuss if any mental problems or dementia are taking place.
Family members can also confer with a variety of medical professionals and even the person themselves to identify different solutions –something as simple as changing a daily routine or setting alarms to remind someone that it’s mealtime can go a long way.
Consider home health care
Consulting with a home health care agency can also be a smart solution.
Skilled caring employees in the Northridge area can get to know possible clients, look at their environment and try to figure out whether the reasons for the lack of interest in food are mental, physical or have other causes.
Besides providing regularly scheduled visits for medical/nursing needs, some agencies offer a much more wide range of assistance. For instance, Accredited Home Care’s in-home caregivers can provide light housekeeping, meal preparation, grocery shopping, transportation for errands and even assistance with eating and feeding.
Available experts can even include speech therapists to evaluate any problems with swallowing, or medical social workers, who can assess someone’s home and go over any financial challenges.
Plus, if the home health care staff knows that food intake is a concern, they can watch this aspect closer, everything from reminding the client to eat regularly or letting family members or providers know their observations.
Having this regular connection can be valuable for the client, who may be encouraged to correct poor dietary habits. The more things are improved, the better they’ll feel.
For more info about home health care options, visit Accredited Home Care.