There are many reasons behind adults in their later years losing their appetite. While a loss in appetite might be due to a health condition, sometimes your parent may just need a small push to help them regain appetite. If your parent has been refusing to eat, the 5 tips we’ve listed below can help.
Before we start, however, you should rule out any serious health problems your parent may be facing. Health issues, dental problems or reactions to certain medications could be a reason for a decline in their appetite. It is best to consult with your doctor to determine what you should do next.
Implement Regular Schedules
A regular schedule keeps the body on the “clock”, and helps it get ready for certain activities. Implementing a regular daily routine when it comes to meals and snacks can help your parent get used to eating at certain times. This is also helpful as our ability to feel hunger declines with age, so simply relying on your parent’s hunger level as a prompt to eat is not the best idea. Having a regular routine ensures that they get their necessary amount of daily nutrients.
High Nutrients and Small Portions
Large portions of food laid out all over the table can be overwhelming to your loved one, deterring them from eating from the onset. Instead, focus on smaller portions of high-nutrient meals. You can also switch to a routine where your loved one eats 5 small meals throughout the day instead of 3 large ones. Boost the healthy calories in each meal by adding:
- Soft cheese such as mascarpone or ricotta
- Finely-chopped meats
- Olive oil
We’ve also compiled a handy guide to seniors’ nutrition for more ideas!
Make it Easy to Eat
If your loved one has mobility issues, it can be frustrating to have to rely on utensils to eat. Help them out by serving foods that can be eaten without utensils, such as fish sticks and chicken strips, steamed vegetables and nuggets. You can also look into adaptive utensils that are easier for your loved one to use.
Your parent may prefer to snack throughout the day rather than have full meals. Make a stash of snacks available for them throughout the day, and ensure that the options are delicious and nutritious. We recommend:
- Dried fruit
- Peanut butter
- String cheese
- Whole or chocolate milk (which also provides calcium, reducing the risk of osteoporosis!)
While we’re on the subject of milk, your loved one could also refuse to eat because they find chewing to be difficult. If this is the case, try serving softer foods such as soups or smoothies rich in fruits and vegetable ingredients. Also schedule a visit to the dentist and doctor to explore solutions for your loved one.
You may have to try several of these ideas, and tweak them where necessary, before you and your parent find something that works. Keep at it, and make a note of what works and what doesn’t, so that you have something to refer to in the future.