“How to help older adults eat more and gain weight”

Occasionally local support group members ask how the help their family member with a neurological disorder put on some weight.  My usual go-to answer is ice cream, the full-fat kind.

Recently I found a 2014 post on The Geriatrician blog (thegeriatrician.blogspot.com) on this topic.  Most interesting to me was that there are lots of “normal reasons” for losing weight, related to aging.  The advice from the geriatrician, Joshua Uy, MD, also includes eating more ice cream.  His list includes bacon, sausage, cheese, bread, candy, etc.

The short blog post is below.




How to help older adults eat more and gain weight
The Geriatrician
Thursday, November 13, 2014

Older adults lose appetite and weight for a number of reasons.  And it drives families crazy and sometimes the patient themselves.  There’s a whole host of reasons and for every reason there’s a number of solutions and medications are always the option of last resort.

Without getting into it too much, there are “normal” and “abnormal” reasons to lose appetite.

Normal reasons have to do with the normal aging process:
Losing the sense of smell
Losing sensitivity of taste buds
Dentures (which cover taste buds)
Decrease digestion ability and speed which leads to early fullness

Abnormal reasons include
Medications (meds are always first for abnormal anything)
Dry mouth (and dentures that are not cleaned)
Dementia (leading to problems of coordination, attention, awareness)
Congestive heart failure
and on and on.

What I wanted to do with this post is write about what I recommend as general recommendations for weight gain regardless of cause.  Ideally you remove the barrier/obstacle.  (i.e if there is a medication causing a side effect, then stop the medication).

Anyway, here are my tips….

To stimulate your appetite try changing the variety in your food.  Specifically change the
1.  Taste-Salty, sweet, bitter, sour, spicy
2.  Temperature-Hot or cold
3.  Texture-Crunchy, soft, chewy, liquid
4.  Smell (for taste issues)

Make sure your mouth is clean to improve taste
Make sure your mouth is moist
Eat with others

To increase calories
1.  No restriction on diet:  No limits on salt, sugar, fat, or carb restriction.  Eat anything you want:  Bacon, sausage, bread, ice cream, candy, cookies, cheese etc.
2.  Increase the calories in your food by adding:  Heavy cream, cheese, sugar
3.  Buy Carnation Instant Breakfast instead of Boost or Ensure because it is cheaper.  Drink them between meals, not with meals.