While eating disorders are generally thought of as a problem only young people experience, they are increasingly becoming an issue for seniors as well. To help prevent your senior loved one from developing an eating disorder, it’s important to recognize some of the common causes.
1. Depression and Anxiety
Incidences of depression and anxiety in seniors have increased significantly in recent decades. In addition to the other symptoms and risk factors that come with depression, one of the most common is a decreased appetite. Depression tends to blunt many emotions and bodily needs. A senior who is depressed doesn’t eat because he or she simply doesn’t feel hungry, but after weeks or months this can take a serious toll on health. Be aware of concerns and struggles that can trigger depression and anxiety in your loved one such as health conditions, worrying about the need for Mississauga at-home care, losing friends or family members, and not being able to get out as much. Finding appropriate ways to help your loved one face his or her frustrations makes depression less likely to develop. Understand the signs of depression and anxiety and get your loved one medical help if you think he or she might be experiencing these emotions.
2. Reduced Taste and Smell
Studies show 75 percent of seniors aged 89 or older have significantly reduced abilities to taste and smell. Those in their late 70s and early 80s can be impacted as well. If you’ve ever tried to enjoy the taste of a meal with a head cold and a stuffy nose, you may be surprised to learn this is what many seniors experience when eating on a daily basis. It can be difficult to have a desire to eat when nothing tastes or smells particularly appealing. You can help your loved one retain these senses by ensuring overall health and wellbeing to the best of your ability. Additionally, oral health is an important aspect of helping the mouth do its job. Doctors may be able to offer solutions to slow the worsening of sensory loss as well. If you notice your loved one doesn’t react as well to foods he or she once loved, find out why. If poor taste or smell is the reason, consider adding more healthy spices to your loved one’s food. In addition to making food more appealing, spices like garlic, ginseng, cinnamon, and turmeric all have added health benefits.
3. Poor Dental Health
As people age, it’s not uncommon to develop a few dental problems. Many seniors have dentures, which can make it difficult to eat due to weak attachments or food getting stuck. If your loved one has dentures, make sure they’re well cared for to keep them in proper working order. Look for denture paste or strips that help prevent attachment problems when chewing. Dental care is just as important for seniors who still have their own teeth. Bring your loved one to the dentist twice a year for cleanings and inspections of his or her fillings, crowns, and other dental work so the dentist can ward off problems before they occur. If your loved one has sensitive teeth, ask for a recommendation on treatment such as a special toothpaste. Preventing dental problems or fixing them if they do occur can help alleviate the issues that make eating painful or awkward for seniors.
Whether a normal part of aging or an early stage of cognitive decline, forgetfulness often comes with age. Sometimes seniors can become busy or distracted and skip meals out of forgetfulness. Talk with your loved one’s doctor about how to keep your loved one mentally stimulated to preserve memory and function. Then, implement a system to help your loved one remember to eat that is mutually agreeable, whether it’s an alarm, a reminder sign, or a phone call. If necessary, subscribe to a program like Meals on Wheels, take food to your loved one from your own family meals, or consider hiring an Alzheimer’s or dementia caregiver in Mississauga.
If your loved one needs assistance with meal preparation and grooming or could benefit from regular companionship, a Mississauga live-in home caregiver can help. At Home Care Assistance, our caregivers are expertly trained to provide emotional support and meet a wide variety of other senior care needs. We also offer part-time care for seniors who only need assistance a few hours a day or a few days a week. To schedule a complimentary consultation with a friendly Care Manager, call (905) 337-1200 today.