Practising good nutrition can be difficult at any age, especially if appetite is compromised. Appetite is our body’s gateway to healthy living and nourishment, but it has a complex relationship with our bodies—it can be stimulated by our central nervous system to regulate our energy levels, and even by exterior factors such as our surroundings or meal schedules.
Our sense of appetite can change as we grow older, but maintaining proper nutrition is always important to help guard our personal well-being. For personal support workers (PSWs), good nutrition is a key component of making sure clients are healthy and happy, but a low or nonexistent appetite can sometimes make this goal seem like an uphill battle.
If you’re interested in becoming a PSW, read on to find out what you should know about stimulating your clients’ appetites.
PSWs Know that Loss of Appetite Is Common with Senior Clients
Our appetites are influenced by a complicated combination of factors inside—and out—of our bodies. As we age, our taste buds can dull, and food can begin to seem bland and unappetizing. Our appetites, like with our sense of taste, are similarly linked to our ability to smell and see; an impairment of these senses means our bodies can no longer access the same visual or olfactory cues to stimulate our appetite.
Medication also plays an important role in appetite. One of the most common side effects when taking medication—as well as a common issue for many seniors in general—is dehydration. Dehydration can lead to a decrease in appetite, sometimes simply because a client’s body is less sensitive to feelings of thirst. Medication can also lead to dry mouth and reduced saliva production, which can make chewing or swallowing difficult, so it’s always a good idea to make sure clients are properly hydrated.
These Simple Solutions Can Help PSWs Boost Their Clients’ Appetites
PSW classes introduce you to important concepts like nutrition, which help keep your clients healthy. Serving balanced, nutritional meals on a regular schedule establishes a consistent routine, which can help adjust your client’s body and mind to a set period of eating or drinking. You can also encourage healthy snacking throughout the day to keep their metabolic systems active between meals.
Retirement, reduced mobility, and health complications can mean a client may feel isolated or depressed, and view mealtimes as a chore rather than something to enjoy. If possible, try to suggest that your clients eat meals with others, which can make it a more social activity and give clients something to look forward to every day.
Think Outside the (Lunch) Box When You Become a Personal Support Worker
Sometimes when you feel like you’ve exhausted all your options, it’s best to get creative.
If your client has trouble swallowing or chewing, try to include blended drinks or smoothies in their menu. If they feel that mealtimes aren’t special, break out the nice tablecloths or make a meal you know they enjoy. It may be frustrating to work with a client who doesn’t have a strong appetite, but sometimes going the extra mile when you become a personal support worker can show them that someone cares, which encourages them to make an effort.
Some seniors may feel that they don’t have much control over what or when they eat. If possible, try to involve them or a loved one in their menu-planning, or ask them to help out if you need a hand in the kitchen—even something as simple as setting the table can make them feel more empowered and personally involved in the process, and thus more invested in their meals.
Are you interested in learning more about starting your career as a PSW?
Contact KLC College for more information about our personal support worker college program.