I would like to make you aware of a little known fact regarding one particularly dangerous risk associated with growing old: anorexia — or, more specifically, as it is known: “the anorexia of aging.” The fact that you are witnessing your aging mom or dad slimming down more than usual might simply be due to normal metabolic and behavioral changes that come with getting older. But sometimes, it’s something more.
Studies show that roughly two-thirds of long-term care residents over the age of 65 experience unintended weight loss. That’s a pretty significant number. And this puts residents at higher risk of morbidities such as slowed wound healing, diminished cognitive and physical function, as well as an increased risk of falling. Unintended weight loss has also been linked to increases in mortality, according to a study in the October 2011 issue of Annals of Long-Term Care. Researchers say the reasons for unintended lowered caloric intake and appetite include age-related physiologic changes, chronic medical conditions, medication use, depression, and certain ethnic, racial, and social factors.
Just because your parent is not officially within a long-term care facility is no reason to keep your guard down either. No matter where they reside, and whether you are the primary caregiver or not, your elderly loved one’s eating habits should always be observed daily during meal times and, if necessary, officially monitored to ensure that proper eating habits remain in effect. If clear abnormalities are suddenly noted, a family physician, dietician or nutritionist may need to be integrated into the care plan. The key term here is “unintended” weight loss. If mom or dad is just cutting back to look and feel a little trimmer, well that’s just fine. Vanity doesn’t end with aging; in fact, sometimes it grows. But if there’s no intention to lose weight, and the scale keeps showing otherwise, it may be time to take a closer look.
Source: McKnight’s Long-Term Care News; December 2011; V32;#12