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How to Help a Senior Who Refuses to Eat

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

Following the indulgence of the holiday season, a lot of people decide to scale back on calorie consumption. But if you’re caring for a senior who refuses to eat altogether, or is making unhealthy or unbalanced dietary choices, it’s important to ascertain the reason behind this behavior, and to discover how to encourage them to get back on track with more nutritious eating.

What Can Cause Changes in an Older Adult's Eating Habits?

There are many key reasons an older adult may stop eating or begin to make poor dietary choices—and strategies you can employ to help overcome them:

  • Issues with dental health. Talk with the dentist to see if dentures should be refitted or if perhaps there are any other dental concerns that should be addressed. You may want to provide foods that are softer and/or cut them into smaller pieces. Ground meat, lentils, and beans, for instance, are easier to chew than a steak or pork chop.

  • Loss of taste or smell. Aging in general often causes a dulling of these senses, which can affect the pleasure of eating. Try experimenting with more aromatic and flavorful herbs and spices while preparing meals, such as ginger, garlic, and thyme.

  • Side effects from medications. Schedule an appointment with the doctor for a full examination of all meds being taken, and find out if one or more may be leading to a loss in appetite or troubling gastrointestinal side effects. See if the medication can be changed to something more tolerable or if the amount can be adjusted.

  • Low vision. If the older adult struggles to see clearly, they might perceive foods differently and lose interest in eating. Vision problems can also make it difficult and even dangerous to prepare meals as well as pick up groceries. Offer to help with shopping and meal prep (or let us help!) and serve foods that are vibrantly colored and contrasted to the colors of serving dishes, place mats, the tablecloth, etc. so they are more easily seen.

  • Loneliness. This is a standard problem among older adults, and can make mealtime less enjoyable. Share meals whenever you can with a lonely senior loved one, invite neighbors and friends to join them, or contact The Care Company for a caregiving companion to help.

The Care Company is here for senior loved ones struggling to keep up a healthy diet for whatever reason. We can partner with you to make sure all the bases are covered in providing seniors with every opportunity to once again enjoy meals and establish improved eating habits. Call us at 416-422-2273 to learn how we can help.

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