Dad lost weight!

holiday visit sometimes reveals surprising changes, such as little food in the
cupboard, a loved one’s loss of appetite, or his or her unexpected weight loss.

with the doctor first.
A weight loss of 5% over 6–12 months is considered worthy of
medical attention. (For a 130-pound woman, that would be seven pounds. For a
200-pound man, that would be 10 pounds.) About 75% of the time there is a
medical reason, so have the doctor check it out.

then there’s the 25% of the time when it’s not a medical problem.

is a multifaceted activity. It certainly satisfies feelings of hunger. But it
is also a taste sensation, a cultural activity, a reminder of our tie to times
past, and sometimes a social activity. It also requires the ability to shop and
to cook.

out these possible reasons for unexplained weight loss, and their remedies.

Access to food

  • Money. Many elders
    needlessly limit purchases. A review of the budget, or shopping together, may
    help. If finances are limited,
    consider senior dining programs and food banks.
  • Shopping. Your parent
    may have difficulty getting to a grocery store. Arrange for rides to get there.
    Or consider a taxi or ride-sharing service. If he or she is homebound, consider
    meal delivery services, such as Meals on Wheels.
  • Cooking. Cooking is
    physically demanding. Standing. Lifting. Carrying. Help prepare meals in
    advance. Or identify shortcuts, such as precut vegetables.

Appetite and

  • Flavor. We lose the
    sense of taste and smell as we age. And salt-restricted diets are often bland.
    Suggest cooking with more herbs and spices. 
  • Pain. Pain decreases
    appetite. Also check with the dentist for problems with dentures or teeth.
  • Depression. Feelings of
    sadness, hopelessness, or loneliness commonly reduce appetite. So can eating alone
    from the loss of a partner through death or divorce. Have your loved one
    evaluated for depression. Look for ways to reduce isolation, particularly at
  • Medication. Some
    medications cause nausea or constipation. Others bring on a depressed mood.
    Still others reduce the ability to taste and smell. Ask the pharmacist about
    side effects and possible alternative drugs.

Memory loss can result in
forgetting how to cook, not recognizing hunger pains, or not cooking out of
fear of leaving the stove on. Consider having microwavable meals prepared and

Overuse of

leads to loss of appetite and malnutrition. But a bit of alcohol with a meal
can stimulate appetite. Strive for balance.

Have you noticed a sudden loss of weight?
As the Metro DC experts in family caregiving, we at Debra Levy Eldercare Associates understand how scary this can seem. But we can also help with solutions for those nonmedical causes. Give us a call at 301-593-5285. Let’s start the conversation.