Loss of Appetite! How to Increase Appetite in Elderly! 🥤
Good nutrition is important in all stages of life. Seniors, in particular, should consume healthy and nutritious food to remain strong and healthy in their golden years. Besides, it helps them to recover from the medical complications they face. Unfortunately, loss of appetite is common in this group, and if one is not careful, it may lead to malnutrition. The elderly tend to consume less food due to various reasons, including dental problems, change in taste sensation, slowed metabolism, or side effects of drugs. It is necessary to identify the root cause of poor appetite and deal with it early to prevent poor nutrition and other associated complications.
Rule Out Medical or Dental Problems
Dental problems  can prevent proper nutrition among the elderly by making it painful to chew and swallow. The elderly can face different dental and health problems that make them lose appetite. These problems should be resolved as soon as possible to prevent malnutrition.
The buildup of tartar and plaque causes tooth decay and this is common among the elderly. They can forget to maintain proper dental hygiene leading to tooth decay. When a tooth decays, it gets a cavity that is very painful and prone to infection. Sometimes, cavities cause tooth loss. The pain and discomfort caused by tooth decay can make the elderly refuse to eat. Reduced food intake means that their dietary requirements are not met and predisposes them to acute or chronic malnutrition. Tooth decay is mostly associated with the consumption of sugary foods. Among the elderly, it can also be caused by other medical conditions. Seniors who have arthritis may find it extremely hard to brush their teeth, while those with dementia can forget to brush their teeth.
Loss of appetite due to tooth decay can be prevented by brushing teeth two times a day using fluoride toothpaste. The elderly should also consume adequate amounts of water after meals and reduce the consumption of sugary foods. If brushing the teeth is difficult, one should consider using an electric toothbrush. If decayed teeth are causing poor appetite, the senior should see a dentist who can use crowns or fillings to deal with the challenge.
Periodontal/ Gum Disease
Gum disease is caused by bacteria in the tartar or plaque, and the risk of this disease is higher among smokers. This disease causes red, irritated, and bleeding gums. These symptoms make it hard to chew and swallow. If left untreated, malnutrition and additional gum health problems can arise. You can treat or manage periodontal disease by brushing and flossing every day. It is also crucial to see a dentist who will assess the disease’s severity and offer a treatment plan.
As one age, the gums recede gradually. The recession is faster in people who do not maintain proper dental hygiene. Gum recession makes the teeth very sensitive because the roots of the affected become exposed. When this happens, chewing and swallowing become a challenge. All older adults with receding gums should book a dentist appointment for immediate treatment. In severe cases, the dentist will perform gum tissue surgery.
Advanced age comes with reduced saliva production, which causes dry mouth. Sometimes, dry mouth is a side effect of medications. Reduced saliva production allows for the buildup of acids and sugar, thus increasing the risk of cavities. It also causes dry and cracked lips and tongue swelling, which makes it challenging to eat normally. Seniors experiencing dry mouth should consume more water and avoid sugary soft drinks. Lozenges and chewing sugarless gum is also advised because it stimulates saliva production.
The risk of oral cancer is higher among seniors and people who consume alcohol or smoke frequently. Oral cancer causes mouth sores and ulcers that make eating an uphill task. It is crucial to have regular dental checkups to detect signs of oral cancer early enough for proper medical care.
NB: If one of the above dental and medical conditions is the cause of poor appetite, schedule an appointment with the dentist. A qualified dentist will assess the problem and come up with an appropriate treatment or management plan. Once the dental issues are dealt with, the older adult should be able to eat normally.
Have a Daily Meal and Snack Schedule
If you have ruled out dental or medical issues as the cause of the poor appetite, watching and adjusting the eating schedule  should be the next course of action. Some seniors forget to eat, and this becomes a habit that can be detrimental if not corrected early. Therefore, having a meal and snack schedule is extremely important. In fact, an alarm should be set to remind the older adult or their caregiver that it is time to eat. Having a schedule will allow the body to adjust to specific meal times. With time, the body will send signals of hunger at the set meal or snack times. Having a routine helps seniors to look forward to the next meal and skipping meals should not be encouraged.
Serve Small Portions
Most seniors cannot tolerate large meals. In fact, large meals put some of them off, especially those that are too lazy to eat. Instead of serving seniors large meals, small but frequent portions are recommended. This way, meeting the daily dietary requirements will be met. The small portions of food should be nutritious and healthy, and never junk food full of empty calories. All meals should be carefully chosen to balance between what the particular senior enjoys eating and proper nutrition. Small meals should be served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and at least two snacks in between the three.
Prepare Easy to Eat Snacks and Meals
Although some foods, maybe something that an older person preferred eating years back are healthy, they may not be easy to eat. This is because of physiological changes, especially reduced jaw strength and dental diseases. Foods that are too hard or those that are complicated to eat should be avoided. Instead, the selected snacks and foods should be soft and palatable. To make cleaning up easier after meals because some seniors are messy eaters, you can consider buying the best adult eating bibs.
Seniors who live alone should be encouraged to prepare easy-to-make and eat snacks and meals to avoid spending too much time in the kitchen. If they have long cooking hours, they are likely to be too tired to eat afterward. Those with caregivers should be allowed to choose the foods they wish to eat. Allowing them to choose makes them feel empowered and valued, so they are more likely to eat the food.
Try Milkshakes or Smoothies
If consuming solid meals becomes increasingly challenging, smoothies and milkshakes should be offered to seniors with poor appetite. The milkshakes and smoothies should be nutritionally-dense to prevent malnutrition. Fortunately, there are many fantastic online recipes and recipe books specifically created to meet the nutrition needs of seniors. Smoothies and milkshakes are rather easy to consume, but as you prepare them, ensure you use ingredients that the older adult prefers.
Loss of appetite among seniors is widespread and can be resolved through very simple steps. The first is addressing any dental and medical issues that make it challenging to chew and swallow food. Once this is resolved, it is crucial to have a meal and snack schedule during which small but nutritious foods are served. The chosen foods should also be easy-to-eat. If a senior does not accept solid foods, nutritious milkshakes and smoothies should be offered instead. We hope that the tips and solutions discussed above will help you to increase appetite in the seniors in your households.