The media makes a big deal about eating problems and malnutrition in children and young adults, but you rarely hear about eating issues that involve seniors. Sadly, while these problems arise from different motives for seniors than they do for young people, they are still fairly prevalent.
There are various reasons why seniors may ignore healthy eating habits. However, most of them stem from the same problem: they don’t want to admit to the people who love them that they are aging and may no longer be able to take care of themselves. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to your loved ones and be aware of signs they are not eating properly. Here are some reasons why seniors may have an eating problem:
- Dental Problems. We spend a large portion of our life chewing. This is a natural part of life; however, it causes wear and tear to our teeth and jaws, which may cause some pain and other chewing difficulties later in life. Many seniors don’t eat simply because it hurts and they don’t want to see a doctor about the problem.
- Loneliness and Depression. It’s been long known that depression can cause people to eat less and lose weight. In addition to this, if a senior doesn’t have company at meal times, they often just won’t eat, because eating has always been a social time for them.
- Inability to shop or cook. While it may seem like a breeze for us, some seniors have physical limitations that keep them from going to the store or cooking their food. Whether it be that they just can’t walk that far anymore or that their arthritis keeps them from picking up a frying pan, many seniors don’t eat – not because they don’t want to, but because the physically just can’t do it anymore. While it seems simple enough, asking for help can be embarrassing and hard for many older people.
- Medication. Today there are many prescriptions and over-the-counter medications that can improve the lives of seniors, but many of these have undesired side effects. Many seniors have medication that decreases their appetite or upsets their stomach.
- Money. A lot of older people have to make tough decisions when it comes to money, and many times this means cutting something out. In order to pay for other living expenses and prescriptions, many seniors eat less food because they just can’t afford to eat enough.
Unless their parents look extremely thin or pale, most people don’t think to worry about an eating problem. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Be sure to watch for signs of malnutrition such as easy bruising, poor healing, and dental problems like rotting teeth. You should talk to your parents and their doctor regularly so you know what medication they are on and what issues might be keeping them from eating properly.
If you think your parent isn’t getting enough nutrition, talk to their doctor about it. They may be able to recommend a solution, whether it is medical, or referral to a financial assistance or therapy program.
While sometimes you will need to take other steps, one of the best ways to spot and treat eating disorders in seniors is to simply eat with them. Go to their home and cook them dinner, or invite them to your house. You’ll be helping them and bringing your family closer together.