Concerns about loss of appetite

It’s normal for older adults to experience loss of appetite. Loss of appetite will often counterbalance the decrease in physical activity and resting metabolic rate that is part of aging. However, there’s a point at which loss of appetite becomes worrisome and when resulting weight loss can become life threatening.
What can you do to predict and prevent what some professionals call the “anorexia of aging”? First, become familiar with the many reasons older adults may experience loss of appetite. Causes may be psychological or physical. If it’s psychological, for example, it could stem from depression. Depression can occur due to loss of independence, loss of a spouse, moving out of their family home, or transitioning to another level of care. Or the depression could be due to a chemical imbalance in the brain.
There are several physical causes of anorexia, including medical disorders such as congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, malignancies, and gastrointestinal complaints ranging from a gastric ulcer to bowel obstruction.
Studies have shown that elders aged 75 and older may not respond to the hunger regulatory hormones ghrelin and cholecystokinin in the same way they did when they were younger and that this may contribute to early satiety.
Loss of appetite can also stem from the side effects of medications. For example, antidepressants such as Zoloft and Paxil can affect appetite negatively. This can be a problem when an older person’s anorexia is caused by depression. However, there are newer classes of antidepressants that don’t have this side effect.
Look for Simple Causes.
Loss of appetite in older adults may stem from something much simpler, such as a reluctance to eat due to ill-fitting dentures. It’s particularly important to dig deeper for the information necessary to understand the extent of an elder’s anorexia.
Potential Solutions
If older adults’ experience extreme loss of appetite, It may be helpful to remove restrictions such as cakes, cookies, or pies, even if they may be on very restrictive diets. Liquid dietary supplements can be an important tool to encourage appetite and weight gain. It’s especially effective if clients drink these between meals for a net gain, not as a meal replacement.
Finally, there’s nothing like socialization to spark the desire to eat. For seniors living at home, this may mean encouraging a friend or family member or professional caregiver to share mealtimes.