Eating technique for seniors that caregivers should know

Our sense of smell and taste defines our acceptance of certain foods and textures. But when they change and loss of them begins, food simply does not become enjoyable anymore. This causes us to lose our appetite. Appetite loss is one of the most common causes of malnourishment in the elderly. How do you get someone to eat more? Change it up and keep it exciting and try some of these techniques.

Have a Conversation and Get Medical Advice First

By talking to an elderly about their appetite, you can properly gage the reasons why they do not want to eat. Ask them about the foods they used to enjoy and what they think of them now. Monitor any changes and keep track of what works. Have they been asking for saltier food? Does the smell of food they used to eat often now make them feel ill? Before adding new food formats or ingredients or supplements, first rule out any serious health problems, which requires consulting a Physician. Conditions like dry mouth, poor oral health, inflammation, sudden allergies, irritable bowels, and medication affects appetite.1, 2  

Routine is Key

Irregular meal numbers and times can affect the metabolism and blood glucose levels which can lead to high blood pressure and diabetes. Eating regular meals helps the body to send out hunger signals around those same times. Schedule for them to have breakfast by 9:00 AM, lunch about 4 hours after breakfast time, and dinner no later than 6:30 PM. These times may seem early for someone in their youth, but for a senior it is appropriate as it gives their body time to process the food with their slowed metabolism and organ efficiency.1, 2 

Bite sized portions and reducing utensils

Large portions of food can be an appetite turn off for some seniors. Bite sized portions not only makes it easier to chew, but also gives them an option of eating a variety of items versus a large portion of one thing. With bite sized portions, you can get creative with formats and serving styles to encourage them to eat. It is said that we eat visually first so if the food looks good enough to eat, they would want to do so. By reducing the amount of plates, spoons, and knives, the difficulty of handling them due to shaking hands or grip loss is reduced for them as well.1, 2 

Every meal does not have to be Solid Food

The elderly often prefer soft or liquid foods because they have trouble chewing and swallowing as their muscles, including the organs, are not as strong as yours. For this, you do not have to force them to eat solid foods at every meal. Instead of going for a vegetable stir fry, go for a hot vegetable puree soup. If they are not in the mood for hot foods, a vegetable and fruit smoothie packed with vitamins and minerals with pulp is an option. Plus the fiber from the pulp will help them feel full even though it is a liquid. As for which combination works best, you will have to see what your loved one likes by trying out many.1, 2 

If fresh ingredients are limited, you can add nutritional supplements to your recipes. For example, various products from Ensure in multiple formats are easily customizable to be used in from breakfast cereals to replacing dairy products in main meals like meat pies and egg tarts. Ensure products have been scientifically formulated to include all the essential vitamins and minerals so it is rest assured that while they are enjoying food, they are getting their daily essentials. Balance is important and supplements should never be a 100% substitute for real food, but to only fill in where it is needed. Consult a medical professional before making any major diet changes to reduce any preventable side effects.3  

References:

  1. https://www.parentgiving.com/elder-care/appetite-stimulation/
  2. https://dailycaring.com/6-ways-to-get-seniors-with-no-appetite-to-eat/
  3. https://ensure.com/recipes