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 Caregivers.com.