Involuntary Weight Loss Many elderly loose weight as they age, however, sudden and unintentional drops in weight may be a cause for concern. This type of change may be signaling bad health or other issues that need to be addressed. Noticing a difference in your loved one’s appearance and becoming proactive is the first step in helping care for their health and well-being.

The Importance of Early Detection

Early detection can be crucial in diagnosing and managing one or more possible underlying issues. Elderly patients with unintentional weight loss are at higher risk for infection, depression and death. If you are wondering how much weight is cause for concern, most practitioners define unintentional weight loss as a 5% to 10% decrease in body weight over a period of 1 to 12 months. If your loved one’s weight has not been tracked, look for clues such as loose fitting clothing that previously fit well. When in doubt, always express your concerns to a physician.

5 Things Caregivers can do to Help

1. Be observant. In addition to observing eating habits, look for changes in their physical, mental, emotional or behavioral state. Studies show that approximately 75 percent of cases show one or more of the changes listed above in conjunction with significant involuntary weight loss.

2.Make notes of changes. Has your loved one began eating less since a change in medication? Does he or she show signs of depression? Providing their doctor with insight into their daily life can be helpful in determining if there is an underlying issue for the weight loss.

3.Monitor weight. Consistently monitoring weight (typically once a month) can provide useful information for future reference.

4. Adjust diet. In some instances, factors contributing to malnutrition can be addressed directly through adjusting their diet. For example, certain beverages such as Ensure are packed with nutrients and are high in calories. Consult with a doctor or dietician for a list of nutritious weight gain supplements that may be useful to your loved one.

5. Show interest. Depression is one of the leading causes of involuntary weight loss among those 70 and older. If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from depression, contact a physician right away. In addition to professional help, showing interest in their life and well-being can have positive effects. Asking questions and being a good listener are ways you can show your loved one they are cared for and important.

Reasons for involuntary weight loss among the elderly population is broad. If you are concerned about a recent decrease in weight, don’t wait to contact a professional. For information on in-home caregiving options, contact our friendly and knowledgable staff at


  1. Rob Wheelock

    What a great reminder.
    Even though I have been involved in providing senior care services for more than 30 years and own a Licensed home care agency, Valley Home Care, I missed these signs of malnutrition in my own mother. She had stage IV multiple myeloma and significant weight loss. She told our family that she was just ” getting older” and her appetite was decreasing. She is in remission now. However, we cou ld have sought medical treatment sooner.

    Thank you for a great post.

    Rob Wheelock

    • Kristin Angulo

      Thank you for reading and responding Rob! I am happy to hear that your mother is in remission now. I think it’s all too common for parents to minimize health concerns for various reasons including not wanting to worry the family. I am glad that you feel this article is useful to those in these types of situations. Wishing you and your family the best 🙂

  2. Doris Kasold

    Remarkable advice truly. I think the most difficult scenario for any caregiver is to recognize depression in seniors. Many family caregivers fail to understand the repercussions of depression in seniors. Thanks for speaking on the topic and sharing your useful advice.

    • Kristin Angulo

      Hi Doris, Thank you for reading and for your kind response. I am happy to hear that you found this article to be useful!

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