Senior citizens often have more difficulty while eating than younger people. Problems can be caused by various factors, and most are readily treatable. Here are some of the most common issues that can interfere with seniors’ meal-time along with possible solutions.
As they age, many people begin to lose their teeth. When this happens, they find it difficult to chew food, and some might lose interest in eating as a result. Most people look for treatment to enable them to replace missing teeth. For some, this might take the form of being fitted with full dentures or an upper or lower plate.
Others decide to get dental implants that secure artificial replacement teeth in the jawbone for more stability and permanence. Being able to comfortably chew food allows seniors to enjoy many of their favorite foods longer.
Older people sometimes have a stroke, which can in some cases disrupt the ability to swallow, which may be temporary or permanent. Trying to swallow liquids or solids could choke the person or possibly cause the food to lodge in the bronchial tubes or lungs and cause pneumonia.
Alternately, nutrition can be provided through a GI tube or a surgically-implanted stomach feeding tube until the ability to swallow food and water returns. Another swallowing-related problem is a yeast infection, which sometimes develops in the mouths and throats of people whose immune systems are compromised. A fungal infection can be treated medically and should clear up in a reasonably short time.
Certain medicines can cause individuals to lose their appetite, which may disrupt their eating schedule. Other medications cause drowsiness or a lack of hunger as side effects so that sometimes older people will doze through their meals and not get enough sustenance. A few medical treatments may cause a sore mouth, which makes it difficult to eat. Each of these problems can be addressed by the doctor in adjusting the medication or dosage to avoid impacting a person’s appetite or ability to eat.
There are various types of dementia, which is often variable as to the extent and length of time it manifests. Some forms occur during illness or after surgery. Other forms come and go based on a person’s general health and mental status. Alzheimer’s patients sometimes become increasingly disconnected from a daily routine and forget to eat or lose their appetites.
Temporary dementia can often be treated through lifestyle adjustments or a change of medication. With Alzheimer’s, a person’s caregivers will understand what is happening and possibly make extra efforts to interest the individual in eating, such as offering foods that are known to be favorites or those that are easy to eat.
Senior nutrition is important, so disruptions like these should be addressed. Fortunately, there are ways to deal with many of the conditions that may disrupt senior meals.