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Nutrition Tips: Helping Elders Overcome a Lack of Appetite

By Debbie Waddell, 8:00 am on

It can be frustrating to watch an aging loved one push away the meal you’ve just prepared after one or two bites. For family caregivers in Placer County, this frustration can lead to arguments and tension as you beg, cajole or plead with your loved one to eat his or her food. Although reduced appetite is common among elderly adults, poor nutrition can lead to physical and cognitive problems. To avoid issues with malnutrition – without driving yourself crazy trying to get mom or dad to eat – keep these simple meal time tips in mind.

  • You’re not confined to 3 meals a day. A full plate of food can be very off-putting to an elderly person who is struggling with appetite issues. One of the most common things you will hear is an exclamation of “But I can’t eat all that!” In order to work around this problem, give up the idea that your family member must eat three meals daily. Instead, serve five to six small snacks throughout the day, preferably on a saucer or smaller sized plate to make it appear less intimidating.
  • Choose foods carefully. If you are going with the snacking plan as described above, you want to make sure that the food provided is as nutritious as possible. Small servings of fresh fruit or veggies and dip are a great source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. To make sure your loved one is taking in enough protein, snacks like cheese or peanut butter and crackers, hard-boiled eggs, yogurt and cottage cheese are all excellent choices. These options are sometimes better than meat, which takes more energy to digest and can cause an unpleasant feeling of being overly full.
  • Shake up the eating routine. There will be good days and bad days when it comes to appetite. If your loved one is having a bad day and is simply not interested in food, try substituting one or more of the snacks with a high-quality shake. These shakes are usually based on some form of dairy or dairy substitute (for instance, you can use milk or almond milk for the base) and include frozen or fresh fruits, spices like cinnamon or nutmeg and healthy sweeteners like honey. Shakes are also a good option for seniors who require Parkinson’s or dementia care in Placer County and have difficulty swallowing foods. Shakes provide them with their daily nutritional requirements, and can reduce the risk for choking.

Consider these options for your family member if they are struggling with their appetite – you may be surprised at how easy mealtime can become! If you are unable to monitor each of your loved one’s meals and are concerned about their health, consider help from Home Care Assistance of Placer County. Our caregivers are highly trained in how to prepare nutritious and balanced meals for seniors and can also help with personal care, medication reminders, transportation and more. For more information or to schedule a free, in-home consultation, reach out to a Care Manager at 916-226-3737.

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