The final week of February is dedicated to raising awareness for people with eating disorders. In a previous post, we told you that anorexia and other eating disorders are not solely found in young people. In fact, eating disorders have been steadily increasing in older adults.
However, some people believe that these new diagnoses in older adults aren’t necessarily new, but have always been a part of this person’s life. If you notice your caree is losing weight rapidly or has less energy than normal, ask them about their eating habits.
There are various triggers that cause eating disorder to occur. Several are similar in older adults as they are in the younger generation, however one potential reason is medication. An older adult’s medication can numb or dull their taste buds which makes food less enjoyable. They can even eliminate appetite, and if an older adult doesn’t have anyone to cook for them, they might just skip eating all together. If this is the case, you must explain to them the importance of being well nourished. A lack of appetite does not necessitate a lack of nutrition. Spend some time with them at dinner, you can even organize a cooking night where the two of you learn new recipes together. That way the new flavors can excite their taste buds!
Another contributing factor to older adults eating less is that a stigma may be attached to food. The reason being? A deceased loved one might have been the one who prepared all of their meals. If this is the case, then every time food is prepared, the caree gets hit with a blast of nostalgia about all the great meals he or she shared with their loved one. It can be painful, bringing up memories of past loved ones, which is why they might do everything in the power to avoid such feelings.
This is a tricky scenario to get around, but your best bet is to replace these remorseful feelings with new, positive ones. Again, have a cooking date night. Learn new recipes together and explore new foods. Meals bring people together. It allows multiple people to come together and share in an experience.
The one main factor found in all eating disorders is stress. This stress can come from many different circumstances, but it’s up to you, the caregiver, to determine where it’s coming from. By eliminating these stress factors and providing positive feelings back in sharing meals, you can help eradicate eating disorders in the elderly.
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