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Is Lack of Appetite a Potential Sign of Dementia?

By , 9:00 am on

Appetite loss is always concerning in seniors who are at greater risk for becoming malnourished. You may have heard appetite loss is connected to dementia, and there’s a possibility this is why your aging loved one’s eating patterns have changed. However, appetite loss can also occur for a variety of reasons. You can use this guide to understand more about how dementia alters a person’s appetite along with what to do if your loved one suddenly refuses to eat.

How Seniors Express a Lack of Appetite

Your loved one may express a lack of appetite in different ways. For instance, he or she may start to refuse meals, or you may notice that he or she is suddenly losing weight without any other obvious cause. If your loved one faces speech difficulties, he or she may use nonverbal cues such as pushing the plate away or getting angry at mealtimes. Seniors with dementia-related appetite loss may also prefer only certain types of foods, such as those that are extremely sweet or salty. All other types of food may be left on the plate.

Some seniors require assistance in preparing their favorite meals every day, while others simply need someone to spend time with at mealtimes. Not every senior has the same care needs, which means they don’t all need the same homecare services. Huntsville families can rely on Home Care Assistance to provide individualized care plans to meet your elderly loved one’s unique care needs. Our holistic Balanced Care Method was designed to help seniors focus on healthy lifestyle habits such as eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and maintaining strong social ties, and our Cognitive Therapeutics Method offers mentally stimulating activities that can stave off cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia.

Reasons Dementia Affects the Desire to Eat

Dementia involves changes in the brain that also affect how a senior’s body recognizes hunger. In some cases, there may be a lack of communication between the nerves lining the stomach and neural connections in the brain that let the senior know when he or she is no longer full. Your loved one may also experience changes in thought patterns due to memory loss. For example, your loved one may believe he or she doesn’t like to eat certain foods despite always loving them before. Seniors with dementia also face emotional changes that affect their appetite. Depression can cause seniors to stop eating, and many seniors with dementia also have this emotional health condition. Your loved one may also have anxiety about choking on food if dementia is beginning to affect the ability to cut up the food or chew it properly.

Older adults need individualized care if they’re experiencing issues related to eating or depression. There are a variety of age-related health conditions that can make it more challenging for seniors to live independently. However, many of the challenges they face can be easier to manage if their families opt for professional senior home care. Huntsville families can rely on expertly trained caregivers to keep their loved ones safe and comfortable while aging in place.

How to Address Appetite Changes in Seniors

Fortunately, you have many options to help your loved one find out if dementia is causing the poor appetite, and there are strategies that can enhance appetite no matter what is causing the problem. Start by taking your loved one to the doctor to check for underlying causes, and make sure to mention any unusual symptoms that occur around the same time. For instance, changes in mood or communication patterns combined with a poor appetite are potential clues that it could be dementia-related. Once your loved one receives a diagnosis, make sure to follow the treatment plan. People with dementia and a poor appetite often benefit from medications and simple lifestyle changes. For instance, you can entice your loved one to eat by serving colorful foods or adding extra flavoring with herbs and spices.

Caring for a senior with dementia or another serious health issue can present a few significant challenges for family caregivers. Some seniors need occasional assistance at home, and oftentimes the family members who take care of them need time away to run errands, take a nap, go to work, or take a vacation. Huntsville respite care experts from Home Care Assistance are available on an as-needed basis, giving your family peace of mind that your loved one will remain safe and comfortable while you relax or focus on other important responsibilities. To hire a reliable caregiver for your loved one, call us today at (256) 716-9940.