6 Ways to Get Seniors with No Appetite to Eat

seniors with no appetite

Caregivers struggle to feed reluctant seniors

There are many reasons why some older adults lose their appetite or refuse to eat. But that doesn’t change the fact that you’re worried about them and are doing your best to give them the nutrition they need.

 

First, rule out serious health problems

The most important thing is to rule out serious health conditions, medication side effects, and dental problems as the cause of their loss of appetite.

After that, your best bet is to experiment with different ways to get your older adult to eat. Sometimes small changes can make a big difference. We found 6 ideas that will help.

 

6 ways to get seniors with no appetite to eat

1. Have a regular meal and snack schedule
Having a regular daily routine and serving food at roughly the same times every day helps their body be ready to eat at those times. Don’t rely on your older adult’s ability to feel their hunger (it declines with age) before giving them food.

2. 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.

Boost the healthy calories in those smaller servings by adding:

  • Avocado
  • Finely chopped meat, cheese, egg
  • Olive oil
  • Peanut or other nut butters
  • Soft cheeses like ricotta or mascarpone

To save time, you can still cook food in larger batches. Just store it in smaller individual containers so it’s easy to reheat.

3. 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.

Some suggestions:

  • Chicken strips or nuggets
  • Fish sticks
  • Steamed or raw veggies like carrots, broccoli, bell pepper strips, or cucumber pieces
  • Meatballs

4. Have plenty of easy-to-eat snacks on hand
Some seniors prefer to graze throughout the day rather than eat full meals. That’s ok too. Keep plenty of healthy, delicious, and easy-to-eat snacks available.

Unless your older adult has specific health issues, don’t worry too much about fat or cholesterol. After all, the challenge is to get enough calories into them.

Some suggestions:

  • Cheese sticks or string cheese
  • Full-fat yogurt
  • Diced fruit, fresh or packaged
  • Peanut butter and crackers
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Full-fat cottage cheese
  • Whole chocolate milk

5. Make milkshakes or smoothies
If chewing is difficult or tiring, even with small pieces of food, consider serving more liquid-y foods.

Some suggestions:

  • Nutritious soups – enhanced with cream, olive oil, or pureed meats and veggies
  • Healthy smoothies – add bananas, fruit, full-fat yogurt, or veggies like carrots and spinach
  • Hot cocoa
  • Full-fat milk
  • Milkshakes – good quality ice cream is better than eating nothing!

Warning: This is not a solution for those with dysphagia (swallowing problems).

6. Keep track of what works
Take notes so you can keep track of what foods your senior enjoys, what they don’t like, and what might be upsetting their stomach. You can also track what times of day they’re 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 aren’t.

 

Bottom line

Getting seniors who have no appetite to eat is a big challenge. Be patient, be creative, keep experimenting, and don’t get discouraged. Most of all, don’t take their refusal to eat personally. Remember, they’re not rejecting you as a person.

 

Next Step  9 more ideas to get seniors with no appetite to eat

 

You might also like:
Why Do Seniors Lose Their Appetites?
6 Ideas to Get Seniors to Drink More Water
Top 20 Worst Foods & Drinks for Incontinence

 

By DailyCaring Editorial Staff
Image: Here to Help Home Care

2 Comments

  • Reply August 15, 2016

    Susan Emmanule

    What a wonderful website!

    I am one of the founders of the Alzheimer’s Association, and my mother died of Alzheimer’s in 1987. I can tell, by the questions and answers to everyday issues that you have set up here, that you have really thought through very carefully questions and answers that will really help caregivers understand the “why” and know what to do for the various issues that arise when caring for someone with dementia. I had to do everything by the seat of my pants!

    Bless you!

    • Reply August 16, 2016

      Connie Chow

      Thank you so much for your kind words and support! I’m sorry for your loss and am thankful for your hard work at such a wonderful organization. Alzheimer’s and dementia are such devastating diseases and they cause behaviors that are so counter intuitive. We feel passionately about helping families solve these everyday challenges and care for their aging loved ones while maintaining quality of life for everyone involved.

Leave a Reply