Is Your Elder Eating Well?

Feeding an elder can pose a challenge to the caregiver.

Perhaps you have observed the gradual change in the elder’s eating habits. Whereas initially she eats with gusto and finishes her meal in her usual pace… over the years she becomes slower and slower and consumes less and less until she refuses to eat.

The challenge to the caregiver is how to feed the elder even if she refuses to eat.

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My mom’s usual diet consists of rice, fish, vegetables and fruits. Most of the time she gets 2 servngs. She’s got good appetite! Among the fruits her favorite is sweet ripe mangoes. She could eat 2 pieces of these every meal.

A noticeable change came about in her early 90’s. She was eating slow and was slower as she aged. Then later she consumed less and less. She was losing weight and was weak. One morning she already refused to eat.

What could be the problem? She wasn’t ill.

The first thing that I could think of was her dentition. Without dentition, chewing could be difficult. Actually she was without dentures already since she was in her mid-80’s. The dentist couldn’t make her a new set of dentures because of flat gums or ridge. Despite being without dentures she was eating well before she reached 90’s.

Normal aging can affect the gastrointestinal system. Taste buds decline in number and the gastric and pancreatic enzymes are decreased. Salivary flow is also decreased. All of these affect the appetite and the digestive system. The elder may have a feeling of fullness even with little food intake.

I shifted her diet to soft diet. I thought she may already have difficulty of chewing.
Her new diet consisted of peanut butter sandwich, soft boiled egg, a cup of milk and fruits. Every meal she had this set of food. For her morning and afternoon snacks, she was given muffin or custard.

Her sandwich is cut into bite-size pieces and dipped into her milk to make it even softer.

Voila! She was eating again!

Varying her sandwich spread made it even more exciting for her. Sometimes she gets mango jam or any other spreadable fruit jam instead of peanut butter. At times I prepare mango smoothie or papaya shake.

Slowly she was gaining weight.

After 2 years of having this diet, she got tired of the sandwich and later refused to eat again.

I shifted her bread to bread pudding. Then I alternated her milk with soya milk. These are homemade. I prefer making these rather than the store-bought ones because I can control the sweetness and can have different flavors.

Up until now, she”s still eating and finishes her food.

There are various ways to get your elders eat nutritious foods to their liking. Nutrition is basic. Lack of it is detrimental.

A diet must be patterned according to the individual’s medical condition.

By the way, my mom doesn’t have diabetes nor hypertension nor heart disease. She’s turning 98 next month.

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