Eating Disorders and Associated Digestive Problems.
Eating disorders in the elderly are often caused as a side-effect of other conditions, some which are simple to rectify whilst others may need more specialist intervention. Often the person has simply grown used to adapting their lifestyle and don’t recognise an issue, but in many cases there is a reason why their nutritional status has deteriorated often with a simple solution.
Problems With SwallowingProblems with chewing or swallowing are often the biggest problems for the elderly. Poor dental health, ill-fitting dentures or even the after effects of a stroke can leave a person with a significantly decreased ability to take food and swallow it. Many older people do not realise that their teeth may be the reasons they are not fulfilling their nutrition demands and a simple visit to the dentist may be able to rectify this.
Those who have had a stroke (or similar episode) may want to ask their GP or Practice Nurse for advice on products that are available to previous stroke patients. There are a variety of utensils and thickening products that can help alter the state of food making it easier to pick-up or swallow and they are often inexpensive or even free to some.
Problems With Bowel MovementsAs we age our bodies slow down and our digestive system is no different. The muscles we use to process the food through our body do not work at the same rate they did when we were younger. This can have the effect of leaving us fuller for longer even after a regular sized meal. The solution to this is to try and eat smaller portions more frequently, or change our diet so that highly fibrous foods and things that are slower to digest are taken towards the end of the day instead of for breakfast which may leave us feeling as though we don’t want to eat again that day.
The chances of suffering from haemorrhoids, polyps or other minor problems (along with an increased risk of bowel cancer) may also contribute to a person’s nutritional intake. Difficulty in going to the toilet is something that most of us experience at one time or another, but the elderly may have these problems long term. It is important to see your GP and discuss your options regarding these conditions and whether there is anything you can take or change in your diet to make the passage of waste easier on the body, allowing us the peace of mind of being able to eat freely without fear.
Effects Of MedicationsElderly people are more likely to be taking several medications each day; this can significantly interfere with their diet. Many medications cause side-effects such as dry mouth, taste changes, nausea or lack of appetite which all contribute to decreased nutrition.
If your family member or friend finds that they are less hungry than normal or they appear to be losing weight this may be the reason why.Try discussing it with them as they may not be fully aware of how much their appetite has changed whilst they have been taking their medication. A simple solution may be to go and see your doctor and find out if there are any alternative medications that perform the same task but work in different ways so that appetite isn’t affected, if the dosage can be lowered so side-effects are less or even if they can be taken before bedtime so that normal appetite can be resumed at breakfast after the medication has been digested.
These are just a few of the possible causes that may interfere with a person’s ability to take nutrition. Most of the time there is a solution to the problem and it is simply a matter of raising peoples awareness of the tools and provisions available and teaching them how to use them effectively.