Let’s explore some of the signs that your parent or older family member may not be eating well enough along with some of the root causes that may be to blame and what steps you can take to help!
1. SIGNS OF RAPID WEIGHT LOSS Has your loved one lost a noticeable amount of weight? Are their clothes fitting more loosely? Do they seem to be weak or sluggish, perhaps due to poor nutrition? All of these are signs that it may be time to get involved.
2. CLAIMS TO NEVER BE HUNGRY Does your older loved one consistently turn down the chance to eat or drink? Do they always say that they’re not hungry, no matter how hard you try to convince them to eat? The cause could be related to depression, loss of taste, altered appetite due to medication, or any number of serious factors.
3. DOESN’T SEEM TO USE THE KITCHEN Changes to your loved one’s housekeeping habits in general may trigger warning bells. In particular, take notice of the kitchen. Is there spoiled food in the fridge? Are cans and boxes in the pantry completely unopened? Are plates and silverware gathering dust? Your parent may not be using the kitchen due to mobility issues, cognitive issues, or simply because they don’t want to prepare a meal for one. In any case, a failure or inability to use the kitchen regularly could be a sign that your parent is also failing to eat properly.
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?
1. HELP WITH MEAL PREP Getting more involved with your family member’s meal prep may help them get the nutritious food they need – and help protect your peace of mind. There are lots of little things you can do to help. For instance, you may wish to take the step of planning a menu of nutritionally dense, well-portioned meals for your family member, to help take that burden off of them. You may also help by preparing portion-sized snacks that don’t require any additional cutting or work, such as bite-sized pieces of cheese or lunch meat, or ready-to-microwave bags of veggies.
2. STAY ENGAGED One important thing to do? Keep your eyes and ears open for any further signs of trouble. Listen to your loved one’s preferences, and try to take their wants and needs into consideration. It’s far more likely that they’ll eat if you help them to prepare foods that they enjoy in the first place. Pay attention to how your loved one is eating, look for signs of cognitive decline or behavioral changes, and make sure that they stay current with doctor’s visits. The sooner you can recognize a problem and explain it to a medical professional, the sooner that healthcare provider might be able to help take the appropriate steps, whether that means switching medications, or changing up your loved one’s oral health routine.
3. MAKE MEAL TIME SOCIAL Finally, remember that preparing and eating meals is a great chance to spend time together and catch up – and this little bit of companionship could make all the difference when it comes to getting your parent to eat better. Research suggests that seniors tend to eat more and make better food choices in social settings. If possible, try to eat meals together a few times per week. You might also want to find time to take your loved one shopping for groceries they’re more likely to use. This is a great bonding activity, and an effective way to help your parent be more mindful of their diet.