One of the (many) challenges of being a caregiver for an elderly person is helping them maintain a healthy weight. There are many reasons a senior may lose weight in old age. Weight loss may be a side effect of their medications. Their sense of taste and smell may weaken, causing foods that used to be their favorites to no longer appeal to them. They may have difficulty chewing or swallowing. Whatever the reason, if you are wondering how to help an elderly person gain weight, this article can help.
How to Gain Weight in Old Age
Essentially, you should try to determine why your elderly loved one is losing weight. For example, if they are having difficulty swallowing, try cutting the food into smaller pieces, or using an easy-to-swallow meal replacement shake for at least one meal.
Some additional tips to help the elderly gain weight include:
Find foods that are easy to eat and digest
Choose foods that are nutritious and high in calories
Eat small meals and snacks throughout the day rather than just three large meals per day
Keep several healthy snacks within easy reach around the house
Prepare meals in advance so mealtime is quick and easy
Foods to Help Elderly Gain Weight
One relatively easy way to gain weight for senior citizens is to eat a high-calorie diet. It takes approximately 3,500 calories for a senior to gain a single pound, so load those diets with high calorie, but not high fat, foods.
Some high calorie foods for the elderly that also promote healthy weight include:
Nut butters - Nuts tend to be difficult for seniors to chew and swallow, so try nut butters instead. They can be spread on apples, celery or bread, or mixed into a protein shake or oatmeal to eat more easily. If you get tired of peanut butter, try almond or cashew.
Avocados - avocados are high in healthy fat. They can be used as a spread, a topping on a salad or sandwich, or blended into a shake (your loved one won’t even taste it!).
Full-fat dairy products - no more skim milk! The fat in dairy products provides a ton of calories. And you don’t just need to add milk to a diet to promote weight gain for seniors. Try yogurt with fruit for breakfast - the probiotics in the yogurt are an added bonus!
Potatoes and whole grain starches - try to add one of these to every meal. Grab a two-for-one by adding cheese to your baked potato.
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For more ideas, check out this Weight Gain Food List from the Geriatric Dietician.
A final, fun way to help an elderly person gain weight is to involve them in the kitchen. They may be more interested in eating food they help prepare, or seasoning something themselves if they are having trouble enjoying tastes and smells. Making eating a positive experience rather than a chore or something that leaves everyone feeling frustrated can be very helpful.