Caring for Parents: Watch out for Weight Loss


Helping your parent maintain a consistent, healthy weight is a key role when caring for parents.  Caring for Parents: Watch out for Weight Loss, parent care, senior care, senior health care

Many of us think that losing weight as we age is to be expected.  An average 90 year old eats 25% less food than a 20 year old. While elders do eat less, it's important to treat unintentional weight loss as a warning sign of a bigger parent care issue.

A weight loss of 5-10% of total body weight in a year or less is a serious elder care health issue.  This amount of weight loss is associated with increased risk of death according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. When caring for parents, unintended loss of weight can signal serious health changes.

Elder health care issue that cause significant weight loss:

  • depression
  • digestive disorders
  • undiagnosed cancer
  • dental problems
  • problems swallowing
  • drugs that suppress appetite
  • difficulty shopping or cooking that requires parent care support
  • living in a senior care community

At the first sign of significant weight loss, take these parent care steps:

  • A complete physical that screens for the elder health care issues related to significant weight loss
  • A dental check up to look for problems with teeth or dentures.
  • Investigate to see if your parent needs senior care services for shopping and cooking.
  • Encourage your parent to eat with others when possible.
  • Encourage regular exercise to stimulate your parent's appetite.
  • Serve smaller portions. Large portions can be overwhelming and discourage eating.
  • Offer nutritious snacks and offer dietary supplement drinks like Ensure or Boost between meals.

Weight Loss and Senior Care Communities

If your parent lives in a senior care community, visit during meal times.

Ask yourself these questions.  Is the food tasty and appealing? Does she have plenty of time to eat?  Do the caregivers encourage residents to eat when necessary?  Is assistance with eating offered in a respectful way?  Does the senior care community staff offer alternative menu choices if your parent doesn't like what's on the menu?

It can be hard for seniors to regain lost weight. Prevent an elder health care crisis by minimizing or reversing unintended weight loss.

What have you done to help your parent enjoy eating and maintain a healthy weight?  Share your suggestions and tips with us.

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--Janice Wallace