Top 4 Reasons for Eating Disorders in Aging Adults

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While eating disorders are generally thought of as a problem only young people experience, they’re increasingly becoming an issue for seniors as well. To prevent your senior loved one from developing an eating disorder, it’s important to recognize some of the common causes.

1. Depression & 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’s depressed may not eat because he or she simply doesn’t feel hungry, but after weeks or months, this can take a serious toll on his or her health. Be aware of concerns and challenges that can trigger depression and anxiety in your loved one, such as health conditions, worrying about the need for 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.

Helping a loved one with an eating disorder can be exhausting, so it’s important for caregivers to make time to attend to their own wellbeing. Families who find it difficult to care for their aging loved ones without assistance can benefit greatly from professional respite care. Potomac, MD, family caregivers who need a break from their caregiving duties can turn to Assisting Hands Home Care. Our caregivers can encourage your loved one to eat well, exercise regularly, get plenty of mental and social stimulation, and focus on other lifestyle factors that promote longevity.

2. Reduced Taste & 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 his or her overall health and wellbeing to the best of your ability. Doctors may also be able to offer solutions to slow the worsening of sensory loss. 

If you notice your loved one doesn’t react as enthusiastically to foods he or she once loved, find out why. If a poor sense of 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.

Professional caregivers with training in nutrition and healthy habits can be a wonderful source of information and encouragement for seniors with eating disorders. Maintaining a high quality of life can be challenging for some seniors, but professional caregivers can help them attain this goal. Families can trust homecare experts to help their elderly loved ones focus on lifestyle choices that increase the chances of living longer and healthier lives.

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 poor fit, weak adhesive, 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 prevent attachment problems when chewing. 

Dental care is just as important for seniors who still have their own teeth. Take 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 prevent problems before they occur. If your loved one has sensitive teeth, ask for a recommendation for treatment, such as a special toothpaste. Preventing dental problems and fixing them if they do occur can alleviate the issues that make eating painful or awkward for seniors.

4. Forgetfulness

Whether it’s a normal part of aging or a sign of early 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’s 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 a caregiver.

Not every senior has the same care needs, which means they don’t all need the same type of in-home care. Potomac families can rely on Assisting Hands Home Care to provide individualized care plans to meet their elderly loved ones’ unique care needs. Our caregivers help seniors focus on healthy lifestyle habits such as eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and maintaining strong social ties, and we offer mentally stimulating activities that can boost cognitive health and delay the onset of dementia. Call one of our friendly Care Specialists today to schedule a free consultation.