Helping loved ones with no appetite to eatHelping loved ones with no appetite to eat is one of the most difficult, and often frustrating, things that we have to do when caring for loved ones is getting them to eat regularly.  It can be difficult because it’s sometimes challenging to make someone do something that they are unwilling to do, and frustrating because it may seem like the most simple and basic thing to do.

Whatever the situation with your loved one, it’s essential that they take in sustenance in the most comfortable and acceptable way possible.  Here are few tips to make mealtimes with a reluctant eater more palatable, but before we start it’s important to rule out any serious health issues.  Check with their GP that any conditions they may have don’t affect appetite and also consider any side effects that their medication might have.

Firstly it’s useful to have a regular schedule of eating.  This helps your loved one’s body gets used to taking on food at certain times of the day.  You probably won’t be able to rely on them feeling hunger or telling you that they are hungry so this will help their body adjust and accept regular food.

Think too about serving smaller portions at mealtimes.  A large plate of food can look overwhelming to someone with no appetite especially if you’re trying to load them up with all the nutrients and vitamins they need with all the right food.  Try instead to serve up higher nutrient-rich food in smaller portions or instead of three meals a day, provide five micro meals.

It’s also worth noting that the social aspect of eating is very important and eating alone is another factor in why people don’t want to eat, at Bright Dawn Home Care, the care assistant will accompany the Client whilst having a meal and have something to eat with them this makes eating a social event not just a meal.

You also have to put yourself in their position rather than thinking about what makes you want to eat meals.  Your loved one may be in a position where something simple to you, like using a knife and fork, is now actually a more difficult operation.  If serving finger food or meals that can be eaten with hands makes the process easier then use that approach.  Anything from sandwiches to fish fingers to chicken nuggets and vegetable sticks can certainly help to remove a major frustration to someone who is unable to hold a utensil like they used to.

Try to have snacks on hand for those times when your loved one might want to eat.  There’s nothing worse than them finally saying that they are hungry and you have nothing prepared.  It might be a small window of opportunity so you’ll want to take advantage if it comes.  With this in mind, a selection of snacks is vital.  Whether it’s yoghurt or jelly pots, fruit or even some chocolate – if they’re ready and willing to eat then give them what they want!

Consider that a reduction in all senses can also contribute to a poor appetite.

Sense of taste – food isn’t as appealing as it used to be, try adding herbs or new flavours.
Eyesight food needs to look appealing, colourful- consider the colour of the plate, white plate, white potatoes, cauliflower etc. then the food may be less visible on the plate. Try lots of small helpings and colourful food, pieces of cheese, tomatoes etc on a plate to make it more appealing.
Sense of smell – if we have a reduced/loss of smell this often makes food less appealing, we all love the smell of a cake baking, or bacon cooking, it starts to help us look forward to the food being prepared

elderly poor appetite suggestionsFinally, after all of this, it can be useful to keep a food diary.  You can understand what food is better received than others, what time of day is best and any other useful information that can help you in the future.  It only needs to be a simple record but if it makes things easier and helps you to understand your loved one’s appetite, timings, likes and dislikes then it could literally become your bible!

The simple truth is that getting someone to eat who just doesn’t want to is hard but following these tips can help.  It’s very much about working together and finding what works for them.  There is no one size fits all approach to a situation like this and taking a trial and error with these techniques can make all the difference.

Please remember that you don’t have to be alone in supporting a family member or friend.  Our staff are vastly experienced carers offering different levels of support from daily care to live in care and we can provide the support and advice you need, you can call us on 01564 784 598