As people age, a loss of appetite can be concerning to family caregivers. When you notice their strength diminishing, and worry about the nutrients they’re getting, it can be difficult, almost argumentative trying to convince them to take one more bite.
The best way to get your loved one to eat might not be the way you think. Pressure isn’t the answer. Try one of these tactics instead.
Support your loved one and stop pushing
A loss of appetite might be a symptom of many things your loved one could be facing. They might be facing gastrointestinal problems. Or have problems chewing and swallowing. Noticing the problem may give them even more issue with the process. Instead of focusing on consumption, create the opportunity to socialize instead. Even if eating is difficult, invite your loved one to be a part of the mealtime process. Give them a place at the dinner table. Invite friends and family in to share a meal. The heightened sense of normality might give them a reason to take a bite or two.
Serve favorite foods
Depending on the severity of loss of appetite, focus more on getting food into your loved one than the calories or quality of the food. If they want a bowl of ice cream at every meal, let them eat it. People are more likely to eat things that bring back warm memories, or things they’ve enjoyed since they were kids. You can also look for foods that are easy to consume – mashed potatoes and rice pudding are great choices. You can even look for easy ways to add different ingredients together – why not mix fruit in with oatmeal? Remember happy face pancakes when you were a kid? Give it a try with your loved one now.
Think smaller and more frequent
Who says eating three times a day is the best way to eat? When your loved one has trouble eating, serving smaller portions every two or three hours can make the process easier. People struggling with appetite loss often dread upcoming meal times, knowing they will be focused on once again. Snacking can take the pressure off that process. Try combining it with other activities, when appropriate. How about a snack while you watch a movie or listen to an audiobook?
Provide nutritional supplements
While liquid dietary supplements are growing in the marketplace, they still aren’t designed to take the place of well-balanced meals. That said, they can be added to a diet when your loved one has trouble eating. Be sure to read your labels – many of them contain loads of sugar that can amplify certain health problems. Check with your doctor before adding to your loved one’s diet. Also, visit your local health food store and ask for suggestions. With thousands of products available to you, you’re sure to find a few new items to bring home and try.
Try natural remedies
Instead of focusing on prescriptions or other ways to force eating, try natural remedies first. Throughout history, people have been using natural herbs and teas to stimulate appetite. Try adding these to your foods or teas:
Just remember that some naturopathic remedies can sometimes interact with prescription medications, so talk with your doctor first before giving these a try.