Weight Loss in Old Age
All of us will go through changes in the body as we become older. Not only will there be a decrease in energy but the water content and muscle mass in the body also decrease. That’s why bodies of older people look frail and tired. Furthermore, the metabolism also changes. Nutrients aren’t fully absorbed and take more time to be processed. There are various reasons of weight loss in old age and they should not be ignored.
Oftentimes, when clothing becomes more loose, bones protrude, handshakes become feeble; these are associated with signs of aging. But these are frequently ignored symptoms of malnutrition. The causes vary so it’s important to have a quick consultation before the weight loss takes over and cause riskier diseases.
Possible causes of extreme weight loss
Weight loss can be a good thing if necessary, but if it is unintentional and drastic, there could be underlying reasons.
In senior people, weight loss can be caused by mental disorders. When the person forgets to eat, dementia and Alzheimer’s are possible. Loss of teeth or a badly fitting denture, can prevent the person from eating properly. Swallowing disorders caused by diseases such as stroke or Parkinson’s can be a cause of drastic increased weight changes.
Diseases may not always be the reason but there is something behind the weight loss. Many older people are malnourished because they are unable to prepare their own food because of limited mobility. Poverty in old age is also an important issue that should be taken into consideration.
Some possible causes of unwanted weight loss in old age:
- Loss of teeth/Ill-fitting dentures
- Dysphagia or difficulty in swallowing
- Mental illnesses like Alzheimer’s and dementia
- Chronic conditions such as diarrhea, COPD and heart failure
- Loss of smell and taste
- Loss of appetite due to side effects of required medications
Most of the time, a combination of several reasons leads to malnutrition. Prior to treatment, malnutrition must first be diagnosed by a doctor. Or the individual may take a short test at home. If the score is below normal level, one can assume that malnutrition exists.
As soon as causes are identified, one can counteract weight loss with the targeted treatment. The goal should be to avoid any more weight loss and slowly increase the energy and nutrient supplies.
Here are some tips for those affected with unwanted weight loss of a loved one:
➜ 1: Eat several small meals a day
In old age, the appetite is decreased and the stomach cannot store much food. Rather than eating heavy meals three times a day, seniors should take several small portions of meals a day. Three main meals and two snacks. Food should be appetizing, so that they can have fun and enjoy what they’re eating.
➜ 2: Eat as you wish
How the food looks is important as the taste. Just like a small child, an adult has certain favorite dishes. These should be included in their meal plan. If their favorite food is hard to ingest, it can be pureed. With a bit of decoration on their plate, any food can be appetizing.
➜ 3: Shop, cook, eat with them
Food tastes much better if there is someone to eat it with. This may not always be possible but should be done at least once a day.
You could make it a tradition to get together to work out a meal plan, then go shopping, prepare the meal and enjoy it together. While eating, enjoy your time and the food you have prepared.
➜ 4: Extra food increases the calorie intake
Sometimes it is necessary to have a little help with the calorie intake. There are products available like special drinking food with increased nutrients and fiber, which loss calories can be compensated from. These are based on natural foods and is real food in fine form.
➜ 5: Develop regular exercise habits
Aside from promoting the general well-being, exercise also stimulates the appetite. Before or after meals, take a walk outside in the open air. By doing this, older people will develop an increase in appetite.
➜ 6: Artificial diet in rare cases
There are situations when the older person is unable to eat or swallow without the help of a device or if if the food isn’t pureed. An artificial diet may be necessary which can be done intravenously or by probe. As mentioned earlier, there are drinking food products available and there is a special probe food in different flavors. They’re all based on natural foods and can be used as an exclusive or complementary diet.