When you think of an eating disorder, you probably think of a teenage girl. Many eating disorders at this age are caused by social influences, peer pressure, and depression. Elderly people are just as prone to eating disorders, but the spectrum of causes is typically more complex. According to research, 78 percent of anorexia nervosa deaths are elderly people-both male and female. Fortunately, the risks of this destructive disease can be reduced with the help of homecare.
Why Elderly People Are at Risk
As people age it can become difficult to care for themselves without outside help. They may be unable to cook or prepare meals, or their lack of mobility can decrease their appetite-all of which can be factors that lead to anorexia. Digestion issues and medications can also play a role in malnutrition in elderly people.
Psychological reasons are also to blame for elderly eating disorders. Seniors who have lost mobility and control of their own lives may withhold food from themselves as a way to stay in control-much like your average anorexic teen. When elderly people know they are losing their ability to maintain themselves, they know they at least still have control over how much and when they eat, which can ultimately lead them to stop eating altogether. For some, withholding food becomes a protest or a way to prove that they are still in control of themselves, even if they require around-the-clock care.
Research has shown a direct correlation between depression and lack of appetite. For some elderly individuals, the eating disorder has nothing to do with control or physical issues; instead, it can be linked to depression. This typically occurs in elderly people who live alone and don’t have access to social situations. If they lack a family support system, they’re much more likely to engage in an eating disorder behavior than if they have constant family contact and the support provided by homecare.
What You Can Do
If you suspect your elderly loved one has an eating disorder, discuss it with her and her physician. Make sure medications and physical ailments are not interfering with her ability to eat. If you have ruled out any physical or medical reasons, consider taking her to a psychologist where she can receive the emotional treatment she needs. Since it is impossible for you to be with your loved one around the clock, consider employing a homecare agency to help monitor her food intake and her emotional well-being.
Sometimes a homecare agency is all it takes to help reverse the effects of elderly depression. Having a trained caregiver in your loved one’s home who can communicate with her and act as a companion can help reduce the effects of elderly depression and also ensure she eats properly regardless of any physical setbacks. A homecare agency can also provide your loved one with meal planning and preparation, mobility assistance, help with daily tasks, and ensure she properly takes her medications.
Needless to say, elderly eating disorders and depression are very serious. If they aren’t addressed in a timely manner, severe health issues can arise-often resulting in death if left untreated. Contact your loved one’s physician immediately if you suspect depression or an eating disorder to get him or her the much-needed help by a homecare agency to stay healthy and happy.