Maintaining a healthy weight is important at every age. It helps prevent heart disease, builds core strength, maintains joint health, and more. While many people associate weight management with losing weight, for some seniors it can actually mean putting on a few pounds.
Medications can cause a loss of appetite, as can treatments like chemotherapy. An adult with dementia may simply lose interest in food. It might not seem like a big problem, but it really can be.
According to an article published in the November 1994 issue of the Journal of Geriatric Internal Medicine, nursing home patients who lost just 10 percent of their body weight had a significantly higher mortality rate in the six months following their weight loss. This was true for all patients, regardless of their diagnosis or cause of death.
If an older adult in your life has lost interest in eating, here are a few tactics to consider, including aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy and Appetite Stimulation
Think about the smells you associate with mealtimes. It might be a roast in the oven or a loaf of bread. The thought might even make your mouth water.
If an older adult in your family is experiencing a loss of appetite, try to recreate a few of their favorite meals from childhood or young adulthood. Some families have found the smell of home-cooked meals has aromatherapy benefits that may entice a senior loved one to eat.
Memory care communities and cancer treatment centers often turn to aromatherapy to help manage appetite. You can easily adopt this practice at home using an inexpensive essential oil diffuser set.
A few scents to try are:
- Tangerine: This essential oil is known for boosting mood and stimulating hunger. The sweet, citrusy scent also calms stress and anxiety.
- Spearmint: Another popular scent, spearmint works similarly to tangerine. In fact, some aromatherapists suggest combining the two oils to keep appetite stimulated longer. It also aids in digestion.
- Peppermint: If an older adult in your life is avoiding food because they feel nauseous, try peppermint. Some find it helps calm an upset stomach.
If you or your older loved one is reluctant to try aromatherapy, there are other steps you can take to stimulate appetite.
Other Options for Stimulating a Senior’s Appetite
- Eat a healthy breakfast: Skipping breakfast or eating a breakfast filled with empty calories can set you up for an unhealthy day. One of the best ways to manage your weight is by eating a healthy breakfast every day.
- Eat small meals throughout the day: When your appetite has vanished, eating three large meals each day might feel daunting. Instead, opt for five or six smaller meals. That can give you or your senior loved one the calories you need while also stimulating appetite.
- Use a bigger plate: Weight loss experts often suggest using a smaller plate to trick the mind into thinking you are eating more. The opposite holds true when you are trying to stimulate appetite. Putting food on a larger plate can make it feel as if you aren’t eating much. For someone with a diminished appetite, it can help.
- Make mealtime more social: If a senior loved one has lost interest in food, try to make mealtime a more social event. Sit down together and converse while you eat. Keeping the older adult at the table longer may encourage them to eat more.
- Schedule a dental exam: Sometimes dentures or dental problems make eating painful. An older adult with dementia might not be able to express that. A dental checkup can identify potential issues.
Dining at Sunrise Senior Living
At Sunrise communities, we know how important a well-balanced diet is to healthy aging. Nutritious, delicious meals featuring locally sourced foods are prepared by our culinary teams every day. And, our Fortified Foods program uses real, homemade food items with increased levels of protein and calories to help some residents maintain a healthy weight.
We invite you and your senior loved one to join us for a meal at your convenience. Call the Sunrise community nearest you to schedule a tour today!