LACK OF APPETITE
My mother-in-law didn’t have a big appetite. I believed that she needed to eat more to keep up her strength. I learned that a lack of appetite, with a complete disinterest in food, can be a real challenge to any caregiver. It will take patience, understanding and real persistence to see that your loved one gets a well-balanced diet.
Your doctor will give you any dos and don’ts for the patient’s diet, so be sure to check with them before making any changes.
A poor appetite can be caused by a number of things. Sometimes difficulty swallowing or nausea causes a patient to push away the food tray. Their sense of smell and taste can be altered by illness or medication. Then there is depression or pain, causing the patient to leave their food uneaten. Sometimes even a dry mouth makes it difficult to eat. Of course, when your patient is weak and in poor physical condition, these obvious factors play a big part in how they will eat. If the patient has dentures and loses weight, their mouth can shrink and the dentures won’t fit right anymore. Ill-fitting dentures can cause pain and sometimes sores in the mouth. It is reasonable that when your mouth is sore you lose interest in food because chewing hurts. It may take relining the dentures to make them more comfortable. A visit to your dentist will help.
Medications too can trigger a loss of appetite. Some medications will give the patient a sour stomach or make the patient feel full. Nobody wants to eat if their digestion is bad. Medications can also trigger constipation, which also takes away the appetite.
A hiatal hernia is common in elderly people and can cause gas or heartburn. Your doctor can prescribe medication that will alleviate the excess gas and the heartburn. A bland diet also helps.
Be sure you check with your physician or dentist to treat any of these conditions.
You can help the patient enjoy their meal a little more by joining them at mealtime with a little conversation, instead of just leaving the tray on the table. If you make mealtime a social time, chances are they will eat more and feel better. Bring them to the dinner table, if you can. No one likes to eat alone and it helps keeps them in touch with the family.