New Year’s resolutions aside, eating healthy is important year-round, for all of us! For the elderly, what looks like dementia can actually be malnutrition. However, shopping and cooking for one isn’t always easy. For the elderly, obstacles such as lack of transportation, winter weather conditions, medications or health issues that may inhibit appetites, or concerns about finances (your loved one may qualify for food stamps) may contribute to poor eating habits.
If you are worried about your senior parent’s nutrition, take a quick look at a few red warning flags that may be contributing to poor nutrition. Some are as simple to overcome as a having a short conversation about changing routine and habits, while others may require medical intervention.
10 Warning Signs that Your Senior May Not be Eating Properly
1. Loss of appetite – If your senior has always been a hearty eater but not longer eats as he or she did, it’s time to find out why. Underlying illness could be a possibility.
2. Little to no interest in eating out – If your loved one has always loved dining out but no longer cares to, dig deeper to determine why. Could it be a result of ill-fitting dentures? A list of free clinics in Virginia shows at least one that offers denture assistance.
3. Depression – Change in appetite is a classic sign of depression. Please follow up with a physician if you suspect depression could be the problem.
4. Sudden weight fluctuation – A weight change – losing or gaining 10 pounds in six months – is another sign classic warning sign. Check it out.
5. Expired or spoiled food – Check the refrigerator for expired or spoiled food. Seniors could be “saving” food until it’s no longer safe. Clearly label and date all food. Consider adding a “throw out” date.
6. Skin tone – If your senior is eating properly, her skin should look healthy and well-hydrated.
7. Lethargy – If your loved one has been active and enjoyed taking walks but suddenly becomes lethargic, encourage him to see a doctor. Poor nutrition and bad eating habits could be to blame.
8. Cognitive problems – Seniors who live alone might forget to eat. Dementia and other cognitive problems can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Intervention is vital.
9. More than three medications – Medication can influence both appetite and weight. Check with your senior’s doctor to find out if his medications could be the culprit.
10. A recent illness – Illness or a hospital stay could make a senior stop eating. Keep tabs on your loved one’s recovery, making sure she has reliable help at home.
Fairfax has resources such as Meals on Wheels Home Delivery that can help make certain that your senior is eating enjoyable and healthy foods. Or, check out www.foodsforseniors.com for more cooking and shopping tips.
If you have a great tip for helping seniors with nutrition issues, please share your thoughts on our Caregiver Forum.