Yesterday, we here at Freedom Home Care took a closer look at why older individuals are prone to lose weight. And we learned that a certain amount of weight loss can be considered normal. As it turns out, the actual decrease in pounds isn’t always attributed to a loss in body fat. Some of it can be due to a decrease in bone density, as well.
Therefore, observing weight loss in your elderly loved one might not be something to lose sleep over. However, it’s also not something to ignore. In some cases, weight loss can cross the line from normal to unhealthy. And at that point, the Mayo Clinic has a few suggestions to make sure that the senior in your life gets the care – and calories – they need.
- Engage doctors. If your loved one is losing weight, work with his or her doctors to identify — and address — any contributing factors. This might include changing medications that affect appetite, suspending any diet restrictions until your loved one is eating more effectively, and working with a dentist to treat oral pain or chewing problems. Request screenings for nutrition problems during routine office visits, and ask about nutritional supplements. You might also ask for a referral to a registered dietitian.
- Encourage your loved one to eat foods packed with nutrients. Spread peanut or other nut butters on toast and crackers, fresh fruits, and raw vegetables. Sprinkle finely chopped nuts or wheat germ on yogurt, fruit and cereal. Add extra egg whites to scrambled eggs and omelets. Add cheese to sandwiches, vegetables, soups, rice and noodles.
- Restore life to bland food. Make a restricted diet more appealing by using lemon juice, herbs and spices. If loss of taste and smell is a problem, experiment with seasonings and recipes.
- Plan between-meal snacks. A piece of fruit or cheese, a spoonful of peanut butter, or a fruit smoothie can provide nutrients and calories.
- Make meals social events. Drop by during mealtime or invite your loved one to your home for occasional meals. Encourage your loved one to join programs where he or she can eat with others.
- Encourage regular physical activity. Daily exercise — even if it’s light — can stimulate appetite and strengthen bones and muscles.
- Provide food-savings tips. If your loved one shops for groceries, encourage him or her to take a shopping list to the grocery store, check store fliers for sales and choose less expensive generic brands. Suggest splitting the cost of bulk goods or meals with a friend or neighbor, or frequenting restaurants that offer discounts for older adults.
- Consider outside help. If necessary, hire a home health aide to shop for groceries or prepare meals. Also consider Meals On Wheels and other community services, including home visits from nurses and registered dietitians.
To learn more about healthy eating and maintaining a healthy weight, don’t hesitate to reach out to the folks here at Freedom Home Care. We’re here to help.