We all occasionally lose our appetites. Sometimes it’s just a bit of stress, while at other times we’re not feeling well, and the thought of eating is far from our minds. Caregivers often must play the sleuth, deciding if skipping a meal is well…just skipping a meal. Or, if it’s a reason to be concerned.
First and always, there’s a concern that a senior’s loss of appetite is a signal that there’s a serious health condition on the horizon. Age often isn’t kind to our bodies, and seniors can quickly develop health issues. There are also side effects from medications, as well as dental problems to consider. But, if you’re confident that it’s not a health issue, here are some tips to help seniors regain an appetite.
You don’t have to be a senior to appreciate the benefits of a predictable schedule. However, when we’re younger our brains send us stronger hunger signals. In other words, don’t rely on a senior’s ability to feel hunger as a cue to serve a meal.
It’s a better idea to create a daily routine, where meals and snacks are served at the same times. Seniors will get into the habit of being prepared, and they’ll be more receptive to eating.
For most seniors, gone are the days when they’re excited to see heaping helpings of food on their plate. Help them get past this obstacle by serving smaller portions and assuring them they can have more if they want.
Another option is to switch from the traditional 3 large meals a day to 5 or 6 smaller ones. At the same time, you can introduce them to foods that are conducive to smaller portions, such as eggs, cheeses, and even an avocado.
You don’t have to necessarily change the way you cook to make these smaller meals. Food can still be prepared in larger batches. Just be sure to store them in smaller individual containers, which will be easier to reheat and serve.
Ditch the Utensils
Arthritis and a general loss of dexterity introduce a whole lot of frustration to eating. Seniors may not tell you about it. They may just decide they’d rather skip eating. There’s an easy way to find out.
Increase the types of foods that can be eaten without a fork, spoon, or knife. It doesn’t mean you’re stuck with serving pizza or sandwiches. Let’s face it, most of us—when no one’s looking—will pick up a fish or chicken stick and bite off a piece, rather than cutting it into bite-size pieces. We’re hardly devolving into savages if we decide to snatch a meatball off our plate with our fingers. Besides, should you really be worried about etiquette if that’s what it takes to help a senior enjoy eating again?
Keep track of what works, and look for creative ways to widen variety. The important thing to remember is that it’s hardly ever a reflection on you as a caregiver.