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How to increase appetite in an elderly?

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Posted on Mon, 28 Jul 2014
Question: my 84 yr old mother has lost 30lbs over the past 2 years..the last 15 in the past 6 months. (she is 5'6" and weighs 100lbs..skin and bones) She has been under stress for about 5 years...very much so the past 6 months. All physical tests have been negative. (tho diagnosed with "severe depression" she has been in a good mood since moving in with me 2 weeks ago.)
What can we do to increase her appetite??? She eats very little and says it gags her sometimes to eat. Things don't taste good any more. She does drink protein shakes.
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Answered by Dr. Prakash H Muddegowda (1 hour later)
Brief Answer:
Small frequent meals

Detailed Answer:
Hi,
I am Dr. Prakash HM and I would like to answer your query.
Looking at the history, she appears to be severely malnourished.

I can advise the following:
1. Multiple and frequent small meals ( minimum 6-8), well balanced with nutrition with protien and high energy meals and snacks.
2. She can try rinsing her mouth with mouth wash, as it can change food taste.
3. Food offered should have variety and pleasing to her. Time limit should not be there. Forced feeding should be avoided, rather choices of foods to be provided. If she has problems with smell, add more flavors to make it smell better.
4. Adequate sleep and regular sleeping hour's. Minimum night eight hours sleep.
5. More fiber in diet. Look into her dental problems and decide the kind of diet. Constipation can discourage appetite.
6. Mix food with different colors, flavors and even solid crunchy liquid mix varieties.
7. Avoid any disturbances during her meals including phone, TV, noise etc. If possible have family members around.
8. Avoid any dietary limitations. She can have fat rich or protein rich, whichever she thinks is palatable
9. Physical exercise, even mild like walking or yoga can stimulate appetite. More XXXXXXX more the appetite
10. Digestive enzymes, probiotics, and vitamin supplements including iron can be taken to improve appetite and overall wellbeing.
11. Anti-depression medication can make her drowsy, give food before medication. If taking once, she can take in night
12. Family support is essential.

There are numerous complications in elderly with underweight and malnourishment. They include reduced immunity (prone for infection), osteoporosis (bone fracture), anemia etc.

Few investigations are necessary like blood hemogram and stool for ova and cysts. Try to get it done through your doctor.

She needs to be XXXXXXX but with adequate care to prevent falls.
Her medications needs to be watched carefully.

Avoid anybody with communicable disease around her as she can become sick quickly due to her compromised immune status.
Avoid digestive stimulants, as they can complicate the recovery program with side effects.

Any further queries, happy to help again.
Dr. Prakash HM
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Vaishalee Punj
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Answered by
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Dr. Prakash H Muddegowda

Geriatrics Specialist

Practicing since :2004

Answered : 2138 Questions

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How to increase appetite in an elderly?

Brief Answer: Small frequent meals Detailed Answer: Hi, I am Dr. Prakash HM and I would like to answer your query. Looking at the history, she appears to be severely malnourished. I can advise the following: 1. Multiple and frequent small meals ( minimum 6-8), well balanced with nutrition with protien and high energy meals and snacks. 2. She can try rinsing her mouth with mouth wash, as it can change food taste. 3. Food offered should have variety and pleasing to her. Time limit should not be there. Forced feeding should be avoided, rather choices of foods to be provided. If she has problems with smell, add more flavors to make it smell better. 4. Adequate sleep and regular sleeping hour's. Minimum night eight hours sleep. 5. More fiber in diet. Look into her dental problems and decide the kind of diet. Constipation can discourage appetite. 6. Mix food with different colors, flavors and even solid crunchy liquid mix varieties. 7. Avoid any disturbances during her meals including phone, TV, noise etc. If possible have family members around. 8. Avoid any dietary limitations. She can have fat rich or protein rich, whichever she thinks is palatable 9. Physical exercise, even mild like walking or yoga can stimulate appetite. More XXXXXXX more the appetite 10. Digestive enzymes, probiotics, and vitamin supplements including iron can be taken to improve appetite and overall wellbeing. 11. Anti-depression medication can make her drowsy, give food before medication. If taking once, she can take in night 12. Family support is essential. There are numerous complications in elderly with underweight and malnourishment. They include reduced immunity (prone for infection), osteoporosis (bone fracture), anemia etc. Few investigations are necessary like blood hemogram and stool for ova and cysts. Try to get it done through your doctor. She needs to be XXXXXXX but with adequate care to prevent falls. Her medications needs to be watched carefully. Avoid anybody with communicable disease around her as she can become sick quickly due to her compromised immune status. Avoid digestive stimulants, as they can complicate the recovery program with side effects. Any further queries, happy to help again. Dr. Prakash HM