As we grow older, the right nutrition plays a critical role in supporting our physical and cognitive health. But eating a healthy diet can also become more of a challenge.

If you’ve noticed your parents or another family member is losing weight, or losing interest in enjoying their favorite foods, you’ll want to consider why they may no longer be eating as healthily.  

There are several factors that can affect an older adult’s dining habits. It may be harder for them to shop and prepare meals. Or depending on their health and energy, it may be easier for them to skip a meal or replace it with snacks or processed foods.

If you think there may be an issue, consider taking these steps:

  1. Be observant of their eating habits.
    1. Are there specific foods they avoid?
    2. Do they still seem interested in mealtime or certain foods?
  2. Talk to your parents about the changes you’re noticing.
  3. Ask them if they are having any problems that are interfering with their diet.

Losing the sense of taste and smell

One factor that can have a negative effect on appetite is the loss of taste and smell. It can begin after the age of 60 as part of the natural aging process. But there are also several issues that can contribute, according to the Mayo Clinic, such as:

  • Nasal and sinus problems, including allergies
  • Certain medications
  • Dental problems
  • Smoking
  • Head or facial injury
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease  

The impact of losing your sense of taste and smell

Your sense of taste and smell work closely together. If you struggle to smell the flavors in a food, you likely won’t experience the taste. And even though your taste bud cells are replaced every couple of weeks, after the age of 50 those cells begin to lose their ability to regenerate.

People who have lost at least a partial sense of taste, thirst or smell can experience a significant impact to their appetite and nutrition. It can also lead to adding unhealthy amounts of salt or sugar in an attempt to create taste. Ultimately, quality of life can be affected.

Losing your feeling of thirst

Your feeling of thirst signals that it’s time to get something to drink. But as you get older, you can lose this prompt or at least its strength. If you aren’t paying attention, you may become dehydrated which can lead to serious side effects such as kidney stones, urinary tract infections, kidney failure or a drop in blood pressure.

You can address your feeling of thirst by being diligent. Check with your doctor if you are required to monitor your fluid intake but otherwise strive to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of liquid daily.

You may also want to familiarize yourself with the signs of dehydration and call your doctor if you experience any of these:

  • Little or no urination
  • Dark colored urine
  • Irritability, dizziness or confusion
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid breathing and heart rate
  • Weak pulse
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Dry mouth
  • Difficulty walking  

Steps to take when losing sense of taste, smell, and thirst

If your parent or loved one is losing a sense of taste and thirst, there are ways you can help.

  1. Encourage them to speak to their doctor

You can’t reverse the natural loss of taste and smell but if there is another cause, you might be able to treat the condition – such as adjusting medications, fixing any dental problems or treating nasal and sinus conditions.

  1. Experiment with spices and flavors

Look for ways to make meals taste more exciting. Talk to a dietician for ideas on how to add special seasonings to enhance flavors or which foods might naturally be easier to taste.

  1. Make dining as enjoyable as possible

Even if they’re unable to regain the level of taste they once had, try to make the experience itself as pleasant as you can. Dining with others or creating a pleasant environment can help. Set a beautiful table complete with flowers and add their favorite music.

  1. Provide helpful reminders to drink

Remind your parents not to rely on their sense of thirst before drinking and to pay attention to how much they have during the day. Use a water bottle with measurements in the beginning or count the number of glasses they’ve had and convert to ounces.

How an assisted living community can help

If your parents are in need of a helping hand – such as with bathing, dressing or grooming, or are ready to enjoy a maintenance-free lifestyle, they may want to consider all the benefits that assisted living can offer.

And if your family is looking for ways to help them meet the challenges from a loss of taste, thirst or smell, you’ll be happy to discover how much easier it can be with a well-trained staff.

Not only does the community prepare delicious and healthy meals, they are practiced in using seasonings and spices to add flavor. They also understand how to present food to make it most appealing so their residents enjoy all the benefits of a healthy diet.

Life at Tapestry Assisted Living communities

If your parents are losing their sense of taste, smell, and feeling of thirst, we hope you find these tips helpful. And if they could use a little help with the tasks of daily living and eating a healthy diet, an assisted living community may be exactly what you’re looking for.

Our communities are designed to help our residents live a full and engaged life. We think your parents will enjoy all that we have to offer:  

  • Private residences and support for an independent lifestyle
  • The joy of maintenance-free living
  • Amenities and social events to help meet and make new friends
  • Staying in shape with our chef-inspired meals and fitness center
  • Wide choice of activities on-site to challenge the body and mind – or just to have fun

We understand that choosing the right community is an important decision and are here to answer any questions that you may have. We also invite you to download our complimentary guide if you’re considering an assisted living community – Just the Facts: Your Guide to Assisted Living

If you have any questions or would like to schedule a personal tour, please contact one of our advisors at a community near you.