Mention anorexia and the mind automatically turns to teen girls. Surprisingly, anorexia is an eating disorder that is far more prevalent in the elderly. It’s also more deadly; 78 percent of all anorexia-related deaths are among the elderly. The average age among women who succumb to anorexia is 69. For men, it’s age 80.
More than a decade ago, psychologists at the University of British Columbia explored the phenomenon of anorexia among the elderly and discovered the condition is easy to hide, particularly if the individual is unsociable, lonely or depressed. They found common excuses made to caregivers offering food included, “I’m full.” “I’m not hungry.” “I don’t feel well.” These excuses still ring true to healthcare providers today.
Weight loss in the elderly is serious as it leads to muscle wasting, depression, a compromised immune system, increased susceptibility to disease, and correlates directly with morbidity and mortality.
In an article in Today’s Dietitian, Stanley J. Dudrick, MD, FACS, reports the most prevalent factors in elderly anorexia include alterations in taste and smell, medications that affect appetite, incompletely treated psychological problems persisting from younger years, cognitive and memory impairment such as dementia, attention seeking, loss of a loved one, especially the person who prepared and shared meals. The elderly may also refuse to eat as a form of control or a conscious or subconscious attempt at suicide to escape depression, their environment, and/or feelings of despair.
Unfortunately, eating disorders in the elderly frequently are overlooked or missed by family members and health care professionals. Which is why it is important to watch for fluctuations in weight, closely monitor what they consume or don’t consume, be aware of their cognitive and social engagement, including mood, attitude or temperament.
Institutions such as hospitals, nursing and long-term care facilities should pay close attention to what remains on patients’ meal trays to see what is or is not consumed and act accordingly. Many healthcare institutions add liquid supplements to patients’ diets with some success. However, some patients perceive these supplements as “medicine” or having a “metallic taste” and won’t consumer them.
A growing number of healthcare institutions are discovering the nutritional and psychosocial benefits of Thrive Ice Cream as a meal supplement, replacement or snack. Thrive Ice Cream contains 24 vitamins and minerals, active probiotics for digestive and immune health, high quality protein, and natural fiber and flavor. Thrive Ice Cream is available in No Sugar Added varieties. See complete nutritional information here.
Thrive Ice Cream is appropriate for many conditions like anorexia in the elderly. Indeed, many healthcare institutions report that patients and residents will eat Thrive Ice Cream before all else and with no coaxing. Happy memories associated with ice cream and Thrive Ice Cream’s delicious flavor are the reasons.