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A Healthy Appetite at Any Age

By Jennifer Bradley, Staff Writer

(Page 2 of 4)

While the above explains noticeable physical side effects to medication, another issue is the mental alteration of taste and smell that drugs cause. Many medications and certain medical conditions themselves contribute to appetite loss in seniors, simply by lessening the senses which cause food cravings.  Some medications make foods seem bland and unattractive, while others may prolong the “full” feeling, decreasing a loved one’s temptation to eat. This is especially unhealthy when it affects daily meals, essential for life and health. 

Many people are programmed to naturally take medications with a glass of water. For seniors whose natural appetite lessens as they age, this is a way of “filling up” right before a meal. Karen Chapman-Novakofski, R.D., Ph.D., professor of nutrition with the College of Agriculture and College of Medicine at the University of Illinois in Urbana offers this trick. “I usually tell people to talk to their pharmacists or doctors to see if those medicines could be taken after a meal so that they’re not full by the time they start eating. That way, you’re still taking your medication with food, as the prescription requires, but you’re not spoiling your appetite.”

Some physical problems are ones a caregiver may not notice on the outside appearance. A good example of this is when an aging loved one has chewing and swallowing difficulties.  This can be a result of bad-fitting dentures, or other issues with their teeth, natural or false, that prevent easy chewing/swallowing. A loved one may be embarrassed to say anything about it, or more common, not even realize that is the issue.

A caregiver should ask questions, without making their loved one feel embarrassed or unable to care for themself.  A simple fix could be all that’s needed to make eating much easier and more enjoyable.


Many seniors are without a spouse and thus left to eat meals solo. They also are prone to eat unhealthy meals, lacking the energy or care to prepare food. The simple social aspect a family takes for granted, your loved one may not. As a caregiver, it’s a good habit to recognize this, and also that even with a busy lifestyle, it’s essential to take the time to include a loved one in family mealtime. It may seem unusual to invite them for a Wednesday pizza night, but Sunday afternoons are not the only time they eat! Offer a loved one an invitation to be a part of the family whenever they are able to.


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