Losing Their Appetite

April 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

A common problem for caregivers is getting their elderly parent to eat.  Losing weight and being under nourished is a regular issue among the elderly and it can lead to further health complications.  Some problems that may be caused by decreased appetite are weakness, frailty and even premature death.
For some caregivers an easy way to get calories into their loved one is to offer meal replacement drinks.  However, these beverages should be used sparingly and not be relied upon to completely take the place of regular meals.
“Just giving them a can of Ensure for dinner isn’t enough,” says Dr. Amy Ehrlich, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine and Interim Division Head of Montefiore Medical Center’s Geriatrics Division.  “It is always better to try to use regular food to maintain a person’s weight.”
Dr. Ehrlich encourages caregivers to seek the advice of a doctor in order to determine the reason their elder isn’t eating.  “There are a variety of treatable conditions that could be the culprit: ulcers, thyroid disease, dementia, depression, even ill-fitting dentures.  All are treatable, so rather than immediately turning to a supplement, work with your doctor to address the cause of the problem,” Dr. Ehrlich says.
She also encourages caregivers to endulge their elder with foods they enjoy.  Many of her patients incorrectly believe they should be sticking to a restrictive diet.  “I’ll see a 94-year-old person who is losing weight and he is restricting everything, eating a low-calorie, low-fat diet.  It would be better to eat a bowl of ice cream, for the caloric intake!”
If a doctor does decide supplementing with a nutrition drink is necessary, they will be able to suggest the correct kind of drink for the senior.  There are many different drinks on the market and some are formulated for people with conditions such as diabetes or lactose sensitivities, etc.  It is also important to consult with a doctor before starting someone on one of these drinks because some supplements may cause adverse drug interactions.
As we have mentioned before in this blog, it is a good idea for seniors to bring all medications (prescription or over-the-counter), supplements and herbal remedies to their doctor visits so they can be assured that these products aren’t causing further health issues for the patient.

The Law Office of Dawn M. Weekly, PC. is located in Sandwich, Illinois and focuses on elder law and Life Care Planning for clients.  Their office may be reached by calling 815-570-2334.

   Every day of every week, Weekly Law is there for you.

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