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What to do when an elderly person is not eating?

Fonthill House, St Albans, Hertfordshire

When an elderly person refuses to eat or lacks interest in food, it can be a cause of concern for caregivers and family members. Unfortunately, however, this is a reality that many of us face. Poor appetite in seniors is very common and can result from various factors, including medical conditions, medication side effects or psychological issues. 

This guide offers insights into understanding the reasons behind a loss of appetite and provides practical tips on how to encourage and support elderly individuals to maintain proper nutrition. By understanding the unique challenges faced by seniors, both you and our specialist 1-2-1 carers at Fonthill can take proactive steps to improve your loved one’s eating habits and overall quality of life.

Why is my elderly loved one not eating?

Ageing brings many physiological and lifestyle changes that can cause a loss of appetite in the elderly. There are many reasons why your loved one may lose their appetite, the most notable being: 

  1. A decreased metabolic rate and reduced physical activity, resulting in lower calorie needs.
  2. Changes in the senses of smell and taste, leading to decreased food enjoyment.
  3. Hormonal changes that alter hunger signals, reducing feelings of hunger.
  4. Dental issues or gastrointestinal changes, like lactose intolerance or periodontal disease, making eating uncomfortable.
  5. Difficulty in preparing meals, particularly for seniors living independently.
  6. Disruptions in daily routines causing discomfort or confusion during meal times.
  7. Feelings of loneliness or isolation, especially after the loss of a loved one or relocation to a new environment.

Decreased metabolic rate

Appetite loss due to a decreased metabolic rate is a common phenomenon as people age. The body’s metabolic rate, responsible for converting food into energy, naturally slows down with advancing years. As a result, older adults require fewer calories, leading to reduced feelings of hunger.

Ageing also affects the efficiency of organs and tissues, including the digestive system, which can lead to a diminished interest in food. Not only this, but changes in hormone production can influence appetite-regulating signals to the brain, causing seniors to feel less hungry.

Caregivers and healthcare professionals must be aware of this natural process and adjust dietary recommendations accordingly. Always offer your loved one nutrient-dense food, as well as smaller, more frequent meals so that they receive the required nutrients.

Oral health issues

Oral health issues are a significant concern that can impact the elderly’s nutritional intake and overall health. Dental problems, such as missing or decayed teeth, ill-fitting dentures, gum disease, or even mouth and throat cancers, can cause discomfort and pain while eating, leading to a reluctance to consume food. 

Poor oral health can also compromise the taste sensation, making food less enjoyable and further diminishing the desire to eat. As a result, seniors may not receive the essential nutrients their bodies require, leading to malnutrition and weight loss.

Regular dental check-ups, denture adjustments, and proper oral care can alleviate discomfort, enabling seniors to eat comfortably. It’s also essential to provide softer and more easily chewable foods to maintain adequate nutrition. 

By addressing oral health concerns, caregivers can help ensure their loved one enjoys a balanced diet and maintain their health and quality of life.

Constipation

Appetite loss in the elderly due to constipation is a common issue that can significantly impact their nutritional intake. Constipation is characterised by infrequent and difficult bowel movements, causing discomfort and bloating. As such, this discomfort can lead to a decreased appetite and aversion to food.

The elderly are more susceptible to constipation due to reduced physical activity, medication side effects and changes in bowel habits with age. Additionally, inadequate fluid intake and a low-fibre diet can also contribute to constipation.

Addressing constipation through dietary changes, increased fluid intake, and regular exercise can help alleviate discomfort and improve appetite. Try to encourage high-fibre foods, fruits and vegetables, and proper hydration to promote regular bowel movements and restore the appetite of your loved one. 

Regular medical check-ups are crucial to address constipation-related issues and ensure their overall health and wellbeing.

Unable to cook

Appetite loss in older adults can occur due to being unable to cook and look after themselves sufficiently. As individuals age, physical limitations or cognitive decline due to dementia often affects their ability to prepare meals independently. This means they typically turn to pre-packaged or convenience foods, which might lack the essential nutrients needed for a balanced diet.

Moreover, the loss of cooking as a pleasurable activity can also contribute to a decreased interest in food. In fact, many seniors feel very isolated and lose the social aspect of sharing meals with loved ones. Meal times become a chore and a very lonely part of their day. 

Addressing this challenge involves providing practical solutions, such as meal delivery services, pre-prepared healthy options, or assistance with meal planning and preparation. Enlisting the support of care homes, like Fonthill, can help ensure that your loved one maintains a well-balanced diet, regains their appetite and enjoys the pleasures of eating.

How can you help an elderly person not eating?

Loss of appetite can have significant implications for their health and wellbeing, making it vital to address the issue with compassion and understanding. However, helping an elderly person who is not eating requires a multi-faceted approach. This can include identifying any underlying causes, creating a conducive dining environment, offering nutritious and appealing meals, promoting social interactions during mealtimes and providing emotional support. 

The use of medications and arranging live-in care are also appropriate long-term strategies for maintaining adequate nutrition. 

By implementing these methods, caregivers and loved ones can encourage healthy eating habits and improve the overall quality of life for the elderly individual.

The use of medications and arranging live-in care are also appropriate long-term strategies for maintaining adequate nutrition. 

By implementing these methods, caregivers and loved ones can encourage healthy eating habits and improve the overall quality of life for the elderly individual.

Moreover, the loss of cooking as a pleasurable activity can also contribute to a decreased interest in food. In fact, many seniors feel very isolated and lose the social aspect of sharing meals with loved ones. Meal times become a chore and a very lonely part of their day. 

Addressing this challenge involves providing practical solutions, such as meal delivery services, pre-prepared healthy options, or assistance with meal planning and preparation. Enlisting the support of care homes, like Fonthill, can help ensure that your loved one maintains a well-balanced diet, regains their appetite and enjoys the pleasures of eating.

Medication

One highly effective way of helping your loved one regain their appetite is to turn to a healthcare professional for medication. However, medications should never be used as a primary means to stimulate appetite, as this may lead to adverse effects. Instead, focus on identifying and addressing the underlying causes of appetite loss, such as physiological changes, medical conditions, medication side effects or emotional issues. If their appetite loss is linked to medication side effects, their doctor should make the necessary dosage adjustments. 

Consulting a healthcare provider is essential to determine the appropriate course of action to address your loved one’s specific needs and concerns regarding eating and nutrition.

The use of medications and arranging live-in care are also appropriate long-term strategies for maintaining adequate nutrition. 

By implementing these methods, caregivers and loved ones can encourage healthy eating habits and improve the overall quality of life for the elderly individual.

Moreover, the loss of cooking as a pleasurable activity can also contribute to a decreased interest in food. In fact, many seniors feel very isolated and lose the social aspect of sharing meals with loved ones. Meal times become a chore and a very lonely part of their day. 

Addressing this challenge involves providing practical solutions, such as meal delivery services, pre-prepared healthy options, or assistance with meal planning and preparation. Enlisting the support of care homes, like Fonthill, can help ensure that your loved one maintains a well-balanced diet, regains their appetite and enjoys the pleasures of eating.

Arrange live-in care

Arranging live-in care can be a beneficial solution for an elderly person experiencing appetite loss. Having a caregiver present around the clock ensures that their nutritional needs are consistently met. At Fonthill, our carers offer personalised meal planning, prepare nutritious and appetising meals and encourage regular eating habits. We also monitor your loved one’s overall health and identify any underlying medical or emotional issues that may be affecting their appetite. 

Our continuous companionship and emotional support provided by our live-in caregivers can help alleviate feelings of loneliness or isolation, which may also positively impact the individual’s willingness to eat and improve their overall wellbeing. With our continuous presence and supervision, Fonthill’s long-term care promotes a consistent eating routine and offers immediate responses to any concerns. 

If you’re concerned about your loved one’s loss of appetite and malnutrition, Fonthill’s specialist carers are here to put both your and your family member at ease. With a focus on promoting wellbeing and independence, Fonthill caters to the unique needs of residents, ensuring a comfortable and fulfilling living experience in a safe and caring environment. Contact us today to find out more.

Consulting a healthcare provider is essential to determine the appropriate course of action to address your loved one’s specific needs and concerns regarding eating and nutrition

The use of medications and arranging live-in care are also appropriate long-term strategies for maintaining adequate nutrition. 

By implementing these methods, caregivers and loved ones can encourage healthy eating habits and improve the overall quality of life for the elderly individual.

Moreover, the loss of cooking as a pleasurable activity can also contribute to a decreased interest in food. In fact, many seniors feel very isolated and lose the social aspect of sharing meals with loved ones. Meal times become a chore and a very lonely part of their day. 

Addressing this challenge involves providing practical solutions, such as meal delivery services, pre-prepared healthy options, or assistance with meal planning and preparation. Enlisting the support of care homes, like Fonthill, can help ensure that your loved one maintains a well-balanced diet, regains their appetite and enjoys the pleasures of eating.

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