The Caring Corner - Blog

When Seniors Won't Eat

By Emma Dickison

National Nutrition Month is a good time to take a look at other factors that might be interfering with your efforts to make sure your loved one is eating healthy.

There’s no question that selecting fresh, healthy ingredients is fundamental to senior nutrition. As Caregivers, we’re often called on to plan meals, prepare food, shop for groceries and sometimes serve meals to our senior loved ones. Besides making sure food and snacks are on hand and properly stored, we also may need to ensure items that become spoiled, stale or otherwise past their prime are promptly discarded.

But what if you’ve done everything the experts recommend and Mom or Dad just will not eat?

If you’ve already ruled out medical conditions or side effects from a prescribed medication, you might consider adjusting other parts of the food routine to see if it changes your results.

Start with timing. We all know that people are supposed to eat three meals each day at standardized times during the day. But an older person in your care – and particularly his or her metabolism – may not have received that message. It can be useful to serve the meals they want when your loved one is actually hungry for them. Even if vegetables aren’t your particular idea of a well-balanced breakfast, if that’s when your senior wants them, who are we to judge?

Adapt serving styles to their preferences. As we get older, our abilities for different tasks change in ways that are unique to each individual. If you suspect your elder may be uncomfortable with certain utensils, find a work-around. Serving soup in a coffee cup, for example, or cutting roast chicken into finger-friendly strips may be a solution.

Don’t be afraid to spice things up. Nobody likes to eat food that tastes like nothing. As we age, our sense of taste can change or diminish. Some families we serve have found success with adding extra herbs and spices to an older adult’s food, even if they previously didn’t care for stronger flavors. Just be conscious of salt intake and any other dietary restrictions.

It’s shameful how many senior citizens suffer from poor nutrition. Even more disturbing is that so many of our parents and grandparents are invisible to hunger statistics because they have access to appropriate amounts of food, but for one reason or another, aren’t consuming it. As Caregivers, we all take proper nutrition seriously and are always looking for ways to make healthy eating more enjoyable for those in our care.

What ideas have you tried to improve senior nutrition? Let us know in the comments in our Facebook community.