Eating disorders are usually associated with young females. Anorexia and bulimia often plague teen girls because they feel as if they need to live up to the airbrushed images in magazines.
When you hear about eating disorders, you do not usually think about senior citizens. The truth is that eating disorders among the elderly is quite common. In fact, in the last few years, the majority of anorexia-related deaths were among the elderly – close to 78 percent.
Senior citizens usually aren’t worried about body image or staying on top of the latest trends. So why has it become so common?
Seniors can be vulnerable to eating disorders for a myriad of reasons. Dementia can lead a senior to forget to eat. Financial problems can lead a senior to skip meals to save money. Even health problems, such as bad teeth and stomach pain, can cause a senior citizen to avoid eating. The side effects of medication can also attribute to a senior citizen skipping a meal.
Psychologically, a senior citizen may develop an eating disorder as a form of control. As they get older, they may begin to feel more out of control and dependent on others. Taking charge of their eating habits and their bodies may be the only way they can think of to regain some of that control.
Depression can also lead to eating disorders. If a senior citizen becomes depressed, they may have difficulty eating properly – and they may hide their problem. Secrecy is quite common among sufferers of eating disorders, regardless of age.
It can be difficult to detect an eating disorder in a senior citizen, especially if you are busy and don’t spend every meal with your loved one. With other health problems due to age, the last thing you may be looking for is an eating disorder.
It is essential that your loved one have a strong support system in place. Try to monitor their meals – make an effort to eat with them, if necessary. If you believe that a loved one is developing an eating disorder, speak with a doctor or other medical professional. No matter what their age, there is help available.