Taking care of your elderly parents can be tricky, but watching them starve themselves because they have no appetite can make things much worse. It can be hard to know what to do in these circumstances, leaving you worried about the health of your parents.
How can you properly care for your parents and make sure that they are eating?
For people in this situation, don’t worry; there are ways that you can help coax them into eating. Here are some tips on how to get your elderly parents to eat, even when they don’t feel like eating.
Consider Why They Aren’t Eating
There are a few questions that you should ask yourself before trying to force your parents to eat. These questions could help to explain why they have no appetite or desire to eat in the first place.
1. Do you feel hungry?
As we age, our metabolism begins to slow down, but we also tend to become less mobile, which means we need fewer calories to keep ourselves going. This causes our appetites to diminish. Even if you haven’t eaten an appropriate amount of calories that day, you still might not feel hungry and end up malnourished.
2. Does it hurt to chew or swallow?
Issues with your teeth, jaw, or throat may begin to occur with age, which can make eating a painful experience. If your parent tells you that something hurts when they eat, then you may need to reconsider what they are eating. For example, if their jaw hurts when they eat, you may want to switch to softer foods that are easier to chew.
3. Has your ability to taste changed?
Our taste buds tend to get weaker over time which can make eating less enjoyable. When everything tastes the same, eating becomes something you have to do rather than something you WANT to do.
How to Get Your Elderly Parents to Eat
Once you have an idea of why your parent isn’t eating as much as they should be, you can start working out how to get them back to healthy eating. Use these tips to encourage your parents to continue eating right.
Create a Meal and Snack Schedule
Giving your parents a set schedule for meal and snack time will help them realize that even if they aren’t hungry, they should still be eating something. You can set up physical reminders around their home, as well as digital reminders for the tech-savvy parents out there.
Use Small Portions with Healthy Foods
Rather than trying to force your parents to eat more food, you should try encouraging them to eat foods with higher nutritional value. Get meats with high protein content, fruits and vegetables that are filled with vitamins and nutrients, and other foods high in nutrients for meals and snacks.
Invest in Easy to Eat Snacks and Meals
If you’re concerned that your parents won’t want to put time and effort into preparing meals for themselves, then you’ll want to make sure they get plenty of food that is easy to cook and eat. This can include healthy microwave dinners, pre-made meals from the grocery store, or healthy snack packs. Many grocery stores have pre-prepared snacks that are high in proteins and vitamins while still being easy to eat, so consider buying some for snack time at home.
As your parents get older, you may want to ditch the forks and knives in favor of finger foods. Things like chicken nuggets, egg rolls, and sandwiches will be beneficial for you. This is because your elderly parents may struggle to use utensils properly due to weak joints or trembling hands, so avoiding the need for utensils will help them have an easier time eating.
Liquid Foods Are Your Friend
If your parents are having a hard time chewing or experience pain or discomfort when they eat, then you may want to switch over to liquid food alternatives. Shakes, juices, and even some soups will be perfect for your parents; all they’ll need is a straw, and they can still get all of the nutrients they need to stay healthy.
You should be careful with this method, of course. If your parent has a hard time swallowing, then you will need to try another alternative. If you’re in doubt, speak with your parent or your parent’s primary care provider for additional information.
Be Social at Mealtime
Sometimes your parent may not want to eat because they feel alone when they do. Eating is often considered a social activity, and if your parent has lost a spouse or someone they love, they may not want to eat by themselves.
You should try to encourage “meal dates” so that they can be social while they eat again. This will not only improve their mood and get them back out in the world, but it will get them eating healthily again.
Make Mealtime Enjoyable
Have your parents lost their ability to taste properly? If so, then it’s no wonder they don’t have an appetite. Eating things that taste like cardboard every day wouldn’t be a pleasant experience.
To combat this, make sure you add plenty of seasonings, spices, and herbs to the meals to give them a better experience! You may have to “overseason” the foods in order for them to taste anything, but it will help in the long run. Be sure to include their favorite foods if you can, and ask your parents what they like to eat.
Eat More, Worry Less
Now that you know how to get your elderly parents to eat, you can stop worrying so much about the health of your parents and get back to enjoying your time with them. Remember to pay attention to their wants and needs, and listen to their health providers if you’re ever in doubt.
Are you concerned about the health of your aging parents and aren’t sure what to do?
We’re here to help. Contact us with any questions you might have, and continue reading our blog for more helpful tips.