skinny senior woman eating saladYou walk into your mother’s house, excited to see her for the first time in months. As you give her a hug, you notice that her shoulders feel thin. You step back and see that her clothes are baggy, her wedding ring loose. For the first time, your mother looks frail. Should you worry, or is senior weight loss a natural part of getting older?

At some point in their lives, most people are concerned about gaining too much weight. But older adults have to watch the scale for the opposite reason. Unintentional weight loss in the elderly is common and it can be dangerous.

Warning Signs

Unintentional weight loss in seniors can be due to a number of various factors. At times it can be related to mental states such as depression or stress, other unintentional weight loss could be due to physical factors like illness or nutrition.

Here are some common causes of unintentional weight loss:

Depression: Is there anything in your mom’s life that could be making her feel down? Depression and weight loss are often linked together. Things like the loss of mobility or the deaths of good friends commonly make older adults depressed. And at any age, depression is often associated with sudden weight loss.

Constipation: Is your mother on any medications that can cause constipation? Is she getting enough fiber and fluids in her diet? Constipation can cause unintentional weight loss.

Poor Diet: The loss of smell and taste is a normal part of the aging process, but sometimes, it can cause an unintended loss in weight. Tooth pain or poorly fitting dentures could also be contributing factors if your aging senior experiences discomfort when eating. If your mother has limited mobility this could cause her to lose interest in cooking, in turn resulting in weight loss. Consider looking into homemaking home care services that can aid your loved ones with cooking and meal planning.

Loss of appetite: A sudden, unexplained loss of appetite is a cause for concern. Disease or illness could be the cause of a dwindled appetite, so make sure that regular check-ups and doctor’s appointments are priorities.

When to Worry

Most experts define unintentional weight loss as when a person loses between 5 and 10 percent of their body weight over a year or less. (This corresponds to a 125 pound person losing 6 pounds or more.) If your mom is over this limit, or if you’re concerned about her weight loss, schedule a doctor’s appointment to rule out serious conditions and find out the best way for her to maintain a healthy weight.

In the meantime, it’s a good idea for your loved one to start tracking her weight and food intake. She should weigh herself twice a week and write down the number. She should also keep a “food diary” in which she jots down everything she eats. This information will help the physician determine the cause of the weight loss and find the best treatment to keep her happy and healthy for many years to come.

What sign made you start to worry? Share in the comments below!