A loss of appetite in your loved one can be scary.
It might be part of the aging process, or it might be the sign of an underlying health condition. Appetite loss in the elderly is common, so caregivers need to be emotionally prepared for it and armed with some knowledge.
What Causes Appetite?
Appetite is one of those mysteries that science still cannot entirely explain. We do know that appetite involves, not just the brain and the stomach, but the endocrine system which regulates hormones.
Hormones come into play both before and after a meal. When the stomach is empty, it secretes ghrelin and other hormones to alert the brain that fuel is needed. After a decent-sized meal, the colon and ilium will secrete peptide-YY which tells the brain that the body is fed and needs not to eat for a few hours.
These complex hormones even know what a body has recently ingested. For instance, some hormones only get secreted when there’s a healthy quantum of fat and protein in the food. This is the basis of high-protein weight loss programs, like the Keto diet.
Appetite also involves the nervous system, especially the nerves that respond to taste, smell, and sight. That’s why the smell of fresh-baked bread stimulates appetite in so many people. And sometimes, just the sight of a hamburger on television can make someone hungry.
Common Causes of Appetite Loss
Loss of appetite is sometimes an early sign of dementia. But it can signal many other things, so caregivers should be careful not to diagnose loved ones themselves. Some of the most common causes of appetite loss are:
-Reduced saliva production. Perhaps as many as one-third of people over 65 have reduced saliva, and this directly impacts appetite. Many medications are implicated in the loss of saliva.
-Dentures. Dentures or bad teeth make eating some foods more difficult. In this case, patients need to eat softer foods and liquidized foods.
-Constipation. Many patients will need to take laxatives and/or stool softeners to regain normal bowel movements. Appetite should soon return if that is the cause.
-Slower gastric emptying. Bodies change as they age. Elderly stomachs and digestive systems work slower to pass food out of the body. Because food sits in the stomach and intestines longer, the elderly person doesn’t feel hungry as often.
What You Should Do
If your mother or father has lost his or her appetite, the first step is to discover whether there are any serious underlying medical issues. This discovery usually starts in your mother or father’s primary care physician’s office. A review of medications may be needed. From there, your loved one may be referred to a specialist in geriatric medicine or other fields.
Some lost nutrition can be recovered just by making a few dietary tweaks. Make sure your parent has easy access to nutritious snacks like power bars, milk, and bananas. Microwaveable soups and stews are easy to prepare, and many people like the taste of them. Canned nutritional supplements, like Ensure, have excellent nutrition. If your parent hates the taste of Ensure, ask your home care aide to prepare homemade smoothies that your senior can tolerate.
In conclusion, appetite loss can point to a myriad of health issues, and you should definitely consult the medical community if your loved one has started eating too little. Treating an underlying health condition is the first priority. Many seniors can return to full health with attention to their diet and treatment of underlying conditions.
If you or an aging loved-one is considering Home Care in Staten Island, NY, please contact the caring staff at Home Care For Adults, Inc. today. (929) 205-5558