In later life, elderly people can begin to lose their appetite and eat less. However, even if they do not feel like eating, their body needs fuel. It is important to encourage them to eat even if they have no appetite. Here we will look at some methods for encouraging elderly adults to eat, including food ideas that may support this process.
Before exploring methods of encouraging your elderly loved ones to eat, it is important to understand why they may have no appetite. It could be due to a health problem, and therefore it is important to rule this out before exploring other solutions.
One possibility is that they have lost their sense of routine. Regular mealtimes are great for establishing a pattern for your body to follow. You may notice that you tend to get hungry around the same times every day; for many elderly people, tiredness and boredom can mean mealtimes get forgotten, which leads to a loss of routine. As such, they may become more inclined to random, small snacks rather than set meals, which can lead to a loss of appetite.
Another possible cause is depression and/or loneliness. When our mood is low, we often do not feel like eating. It can also be difficult to motivate ourselves to do everyday tasks such as cooking and eating. Mealtimes can exacerbate these issues, as many elderly people find themselves eating alone.
One of the main problems facing many elderly people today is loneliness. In fact, more than half a million older people go at least five days a week without seeing people. This feeling of isolation can lead to poor eating habits, especially as many of us do not like eating alone. Naturally, then, one of the solutions to elderly people having no appetite is to spend time with them.
Elderly people are likely to benefit from visits at mealtimes, especially if the visitor is a friend or family member. If they do not feel like preparing a meal themselves, loved ones can do the cooking instead. A pleasant chat over sandwiches could do wonders for their wellbeing.
Of course, it is not always possible to visit your loved one regularly. Fortunately, care options are available, such as domiciliary carers who can attend the property at mealtimes. Joining an elderly person at set times can help to reassert a routine and bring back their appetite.
Despite what we tend to think, sometimes more calories are exactly what we need. This is especially true if your loved ones are already eating irregularly. In later life, our bodies can begin to deteriorate if they do not get the nutrition they need. We also tend to lose energy quicker.
Bones, for example, become more fragile with age. As such, elderly people should be encouraged to eat foods containing Vitamin D and calcium. Opting for meals that include fatty fish or eggs is great for upping your loved one’s intake.
Extra helpings of butter or full fat milk are also great for fortifying the body. An extra knob of butter in your mashed potato or some cheese on top of your meat dishes ups the calorie intake whilst also providing valuable nutrients.
Making these changes also introduces some extra variety into mealtimes, which can help to counter your loved ones having no appetite.
Sometimes a lack of appetite can some down to one simple thing: struggling to eat. It is not unusual for elderly people to lack teeth or suffer from receding gums. Dental problems can make it difficult for our loved ones to eat, especially if their food is too hard or chewy. As such, it may be beneficial to switch out certain foods in favour of softer alternatives.
One such example would be to switch to soups. A well-made soup is a great way to eat a balanced meal of vegetables and proteins without the chore of chewing. Flavours can be improved with a sprinkling of spices, and adding cream can help to thicken a soup, adding some variety in texture. Soups are also great when complemented with bread – wholemeal and seeded breads are healthiest.
It may also be worth encouraging your elderly loved one to trade their cups of tea for fruit smoothies. If they are not fond of the texture of certain fruits, or simply struggle to bite into the harder varieties, a smoothie makes for an easily digestible substitute.
Sometimes we may be surprised at how filling a picnic can be. Cocktail sausages, cheese on crackers, vegetable samosas, and slices of quiche go down a treat, and more importantly are easy to eat. There is no reason why these foods cannot be a part of daily mealtimes.
These finger foods provide extra calories in small portions and tend to be easier to eat than full cooked meals. They also eliminate the need for cutlery, which your loved one may struggle to use; it also cuts down on washing up, which can be an obstacle for many elderly people.
Whilst regular mealtimes are preferable, sometimes there is nothing wrong with snacking throughout the day. When our loved ones have no appetite, any food is better than no food. If your elderly loved one is snacking occasionally, then introducing specific food items can help to ensure they are consuming the right nutrients.
Nuts are a great, healthy alternative to crisps; yoghurts are a tasty option that increase calcium intake and are easily eaten. If your loved one has a craving for chocolate, dark chocolate is considered the best option.
As mentioned earlier, many of us cannot spend every day with our loved ones. This can have a negative impact on routines and wellbeing, which in turns results in no appetite. However, options are available for ensuring your loved ones have the support they need when you are not around.
Abing Homecare offer affordable homecare services tailored to your loved one. This means that whether your aging relative just needs some company at mealtimes or requires more complex support with medical conditions, you can trust our staff to care for them.
We offer two main packages. Domiciliary care is where a pre-arranged carer visits your loved one at specified times. This could be at mealtimes, or it may be before bed. Choosing domiciliary care may also be a great choice if you need some respite.
Alternatively, you and your loved one may opt for a live-in carer. This option involves a carer moving in with your aging relative to provide 24/7 care. Not only does this provide peace of mind, but it is also a solution to loneliness.
To learn more about our services, check out the other posts in our Help Hub. If you have any questions, our friendly team are always happy to help. You can get in touch using our handy form, or call us on 0800 008 7000.