The Elderly and Eating Disorders

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On February 9, 2013, Posted by , In Caregivers, By ,,, , With Comments Off on The Elderly and Eating Disorders

When people think of eating disorders, the most common image that comes to mind is that of a teenage girl plagued by body image issues, leading down a dangerous path to look thin. While this may be the most common situation, it belies an important fact—that the elderly, too, are common victims of eating disorders.

There are numerous reasons why a senior citizen may not maintain a healthy diet, and indeed, a loss of appetite is normal as we age. Malnutrition, however, is often related to another problem. The individual may find eating to be difficult due to problems with their teeth, digestion or as a side effect of medication. They may simply forget to eat due to memory loss or dementia. Perhaps they skip meals for other reasons, such as a lack of money or the difficulty involved in cooking.

In many cases, the problem is psychological. Eating disorders in the elderly may hold the same symptoms as those in younger victims, but the causes seem to be different in several ways. Like younger sufferers, many seniors develop eating disorders in an attempt to feel in control. The elderly often feel the effects of their bodies failing, and loss of autonomy to loved ones or health care providers can be humiliating even when it is well meaning. Sufferers often turn to their diet as one of the few things that they can control, only to be controlled by the diet instead. It can also begin as a form of subtle protest against others.

Because the elderly often have other health factors that can cause weight loss and discourage eating, identifying a legitimate eating disorder can be difficult and because of these other health factors, they can be more serious. A senior sufferer does not necessarily have to look emaciated or pale for there to be a health risk, since their malnourishment may contribute to other problems. Signs include easy bruising, dental problems and difficulty healing. Of course, refusal to eat or frequent vomiting are also signs of a disorder.

One should try to monitor how their older loved ones are eating, asking them and any others who may have a chance of knowing. If they do not seem to be eating enough, try to encourage them. Make things easy by helping them buy and prepare food and offering to eat with them. If you suspect the situation may be serious, talk to a doctor or any other authorities (nursing home staff, etc.) who may be able to help.




Contact Pure Home Care Services at (586) 293-2457 today!  If you live in Macomb County or the surrounding area, we can help you care for your loved ones.

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