Did you know that in the U.S. 78% of deaths due to anorexia happen among the elderly? Eating disorders are commonly associated with the younger generation, especially with women. However, many adults above 60 suffer from it too, and not because they are body-conscious. Stress, sickness, depression or a sudden change in life could prompt a senior to lose their desire to eat.
Considering the heavy strain such a condition puts even on a young, healthy body, a disturbed eating pattern could go on to destroy the immune system of a senior. Luckily there are services that can help them recover, or at least aid family members in monitoring the patient.
Spotting the Condition Early On
The most common forms of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa (the fear of gaining weight therefore preventing its intake), bulimia nervosa (overconsuming food just to get rid of in an unhealthy way) and binge-eating disorder (a compulsion to eat large amounts of food). Poor nutrition is a major cause of chronic illnesses such as osteoporosis, which can further increase the risk of falling and could have catastrophic consequences.
Family members and even caregivers often fail to recognize in time that a senior is suffering from an eating disorder. The early signs include excessive hair loss, dental issues and gastrointestinal problems. Their general behavior can also change significantly, for instance visiting the bathroom after every meal or perhaps showing a strong desire to eat alone.
What Causes Eating Disorders for Elderly?
There could be both physical and mental reasons why a senior’s appetite is flipped upside down. It might be the side effect of a particular medicine or poor dental fittings. An inactive lifestyle or a prolonged sickness could also lead to eating disorder, since they burn fewer calories that they perhaps should. It’s also possible that the elderly person is simply unable to look after themselves anymore, skipping meals because they are unable to cook.
Mental issues, on the other hand, are just as common. Aging adults are prone to falling into depression after losing their spouse or a close friend. It’s also noted that seniors show signs of eating disorders after moving to a new place, particular if it is an assisted living environment.
Monitoring Their Activity
The topic of anorexia is very rarely brought up while talking to your relatives. And even if you do inquire about their lack of appetite, they often understate the issue, claiming it is nothing more than a ‘passing problem’. If you suspect that a senior friend or relative is ditching their meals, then it’s recommended that you spend some time trying to monitor their daily routine in one way or another. This is especially important for those who have already have fallen victim of such an illness, since they can easily relapse.
The best way to keep an eye on an aging adult’s daily routine is to install a monitoring camera in the kitchen. Make sure that the device has night-vision and is motion-activated, because you’ll need constant feedback on how many times the resident visits the refrigerator. The problem with this solution, however, is that the elderly person might oppose the idea of being constantly supervised, and this could even lead to them avoiding the kitchen even more.
Medical Alert Monitoring
Medical alert companies such as GreatCall and Medical Guardian offer less intrusive methods for monitoring. GreatCall developed a special fitness application that is available with their Lively Wearable help button and Jitterbug Smart phone. The app tracks the wearer’s weekly movements and sends the family members a report if the fitness level is too low. Since an inactive lifestyle is a major cause of eating disorders, motivating seniors to be more active could solve the problem.
Medical Guardian, on the other hand, offers advanced monitoring that is invisible. The Family Guardian package includes several activity sensors that can be placed on the refrigerator or cupboard doors. The system keeps track of every occasion the object is used, and sends a detailed report to family members. If the numbers indicate that the refrigerator is visited less frequently than it should be, then it’s a clear sign that the senior is experiencing eating difficulties – at which point you should take care to get them back on track.
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