Caregiver Tips for When a Senior Refuses to Eat

senior refuses to eat
Learn what to do when a senior refuses to eat at mealtime.

After the never-ending feast that the holiday season brings, many people slow down on their calorie intake. But when a senior loved one does not want to eat altogether, or is making unbalanced or unhealthy dietary choices, it is important to determine the reason behind this behavior, and to understand how to encourage them to get on track with healthier eating.

Why do Seniors’ Eating Habits Change?

There are several key reasons why a senior refuses to eat or starts making poor dietary choices – and ways you can help overcome them:

  • Loneliness. This is a common problem among older adults, and can make mealtime less enjoyable. Share meals whenever possible with a lonely senior loved one, invite neighbors and friends to join them, or contact JFS Care for a caregiving companion to help.
  • Difficulties with oral health. Speak with the dentist to see if dentures should be refitted or if there are any other dental concerns that need to be addressed. You may want to provide foods which are softer and/or cut them into smaller pieces. Lentils, ground meat, and beans, for instance, are easier to chew than a pork chop or steak.
  • Low vision. If the person struggles to see clearly, they could perceive foods differently and lose interest in eating. Vision problems can also make it more difficult and even dangerous to prepare meals as well as pick up groceries. Offer to help with shopping and meal prep (or let us help!) and serve foods that are vibrant colored and contrasted to the colors of serving dishes, place mats, the tablecloth, etc. so they’re more easily seen.
  • Loss of smell or taste. Aging as a whole often results in a dulling of these senses, which could impact the pleasure of eating. Try experimenting with more aromatic and flavorful herbs and spices when preparing meals, such as garlic, thyme, and ginger.
  • Side effects from medications. Schedule an appointment with the physician for a full review of all meds being taken, and find out if one or more might be causing a loss of appetite or bothersome gastrointestinal effects. See if the medication can be changed to a more tolerable alternative or if perhaps the dosage can be adjusted.

JFS Care is here if a senior refuses to eat, for whatever reason. We can partner with you to ensure all the bases are covered in providing seniors with every chance to once again enjoy meals and establish improved eating habits. Contact us online or at 213-383-2273 to discover exactly how we can help with our services for geriatric care management in Los Angeles and the nearby areas.