Loss of Appetite among elderly, how to improve?
Worldwide, people are living longer. People in this era, are expected to live into their sixties and beyond, with the advancement of medical technology. By 2050, there will be as many as 2 billion number of people from this age group, living in China alone is about 120 million and 434 million people in the rest of the world. Today, 125 million people are aged 80 years old and older. In 2050, 80% of all older people will live in low- and middle-income countries.
Whilst in Malaysia, the number of Malaysians aged 60 years and above is estimated to be 1.4 million and is projected to increase to 3.3 million in the year 2020. The percentage of the population that is 60 years and over has also increased over the years – 5.2% in 1970, 5.7% in 1990 and 6.3% in the year 2000. In the year 2020, this percentage is expected to be 9.8% of the population. Between 1990 and 2020, the population of Malaysia is expected to increase from 18.4 million to 33.3 million – an increase of 80%. The aged population however is expected to increase from 1.05 million in 1990 to 3.26 million over the same period, an increase of 210% (2).
The pace of ageing population is much faster than in the past. All countries in the world face major challenges, in order to ensure that peoples’ health and social system are ready for this demographic shift. Healthcare system and technology need to be at par with people’s health and needs (1,2).
Many more literatures need to be discussed pertaining to the issue of geriatric (elderly) health. According to research, elderly face problem such as frailty, and this is often compounded by problems such as urinary incontinence, instability, falls and acute confusion states. Also, many elderly face accumulations of chronic diseases as they grow older (2).
All these problems lead to malnutrition among elderly, apart from this, poor dentition, changes in dietary habits and types of food that are available also play major role in this situation. Thus, if you have elderly with poor appetite make sure to rule out all these physical problem before try to improve elderly’s appetite. Furthermore, due to fasting season where most people lose weight and have poor appetite also because, people’s have been staying home for quarantine for long time (2,3).
Ways to stimulating appetite in elderly as a caregiver or ways for elderly to try themselves (3,4):
- Enjoy a meal together or encourage your loved one to join others for a weekly lunch or dinner. Studies show that seniors who eat with others tend to eat more and make healthier food choices.
- Remember that your loved one’s tastes may be changing. Try making nutritious meals that are bright, colorful and packed with vitamins and minerals. However, do not overwhelm your loved ones with large portions, as a plate heaped with food may overwhelm them and deter them from eating altogether.
- Set schedule for eating meals makes it a routine part of your loved one’s day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks should be served at the same time throughout the day, every day of the week.
- Serve smaller portions of high nutrient foods. Some seniors feel overwhelmed if they see a large amount of food in front of them. Instead of a big plate, serve smaller portions. You could even switch to a daily routine where your older adult eats 5 small meals instead of 3 larger ones. To save time, you can still cook food in larger batches. Just store it in smaller individual containers so it is easy to reheat.
- Stop using utensils. The frustration of not being able to use a spoon, fork, or knife could make some older adults not want to eat at all. To help them eat more easily, serve foods that can be eaten without any utensils.
- Have plenty of easy-to-eat snacks on hand. Some seniors prefer to graze throughout the day rather than eat full meals. That is ok too. Keep plenty of healthy, delicious, and easy-to-eat snacks available.
- Make milkshakes or smoothies. If chewing is difficult or tiring, even with small pieces of food, consider serving more liquid-y foods. You can try to prepare this liquid diet with various kind of fruits and vegetables as well. Unless your older adult has specific health issues, do not worry too much about fat or cholesterol. After all, the challenge is to get enough calories into them.
- Keep track of what works. Take notes so you can keep track of what foods your senior enjoys, what they do not like, and what might be upsetting their stomach. You can also track what times of day they are more willing to eat or when they have a better appetite. Keeping track lets you experiment more with things that are working and avoid the things that are not.
- World Health Organization (WHO). Key Facts. Ageing and Health. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/ageing-and-health
- Mafauzy M. (2000). The Problems and Challenges of the Ageing Population in Malaysia. The Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3406209/
- American Senior Communities. Is Loss of Appetite in Elderly is the Sign of Something Else? https://www.asccare.com/loss-appetite-elderly-sign-something-else/
- Daily Caring. 6 Ways For Seniors with No Appetite to Eat. https://dailycaring.com/6-ways-to-get-seniors-with-no-appetite-to-eat/