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Sudden Weight Loss: Why it Happens and What it Means

Columbus home care professionals know better than most how important a healthy weight is for senior health, and stress that sudden weight loss is important to watch for in elderly adults as it may indicate an underlying medical problem. Unintentional weight loss can also be dangerous in and of itself, potentially reducing mobility, affecting a senior’s state of mind, and interfering with medications. Seniors who experience sudden weight loss are also at a higher risk for disease and mortality, as there is a strong relationship between quality of life and quick weight loss.

What Causes Sudden Weight Loss?
Depression is one of the most common reasons for sudden and unintentional weight loss in the elderly, and it can be difficult for caregivers to recognize. Sometimes depression is the result of medication or illness, but it may also be due to a fear of death or feelings of loneliness and uselessness. It’s also possible that a loss of appetite can be triggered by life changes, such as moving into a family member’s home.

There are a host of other potentially serious conditions that can result in quick weight loss, including dementia, hypothyroidism, gastrointestinal issues, malabsorption syndrome, and cancer. To get to the bottom of the cause, a physician will need to review the senior’s medical history and ask a family member or live-in caregiver important questions such as:

  • Does the senior have an appetite?
  • Does the senior meet or exceed caloric needs
  • Is the senior continuing to lose weight?

Sometimes the cause of weight loss is easy to treat, as it may be caused by medications, difficulty chewing, or a weakened sense of taste and smell.

Avoiding Weight Loss
It’s natural for many seniors to lose some weight, as metabolism slows with age and seniors do not need to eat as much as they did when they were younger. Decreased activity can also reduce the need for fuel. Caregivers can help by offering high-calorie supplements or supplementing a regular diet with high-calorie shakes to maintain weight. It’s also important to review medications with a senior’s physician to ensure weight loss isn’t a side effect.

It’s important to watch for quick-onset weight loss, as it’s usually a sign that something more serious is going on. In many cases, the underlying cause can be treated to improve the senior’s quality of life and general wellbeing.

If your loved one’s weight loss is the result of a more complex issue like cognitive impairment, Columbus Alzheimer’s home care could be the solution your loved one needs. An experienced and compassionate caregiver can grocery shop, cook healthy, high-calorie meals, and ensure your loved one is getting enough nutrients to maintain a healthy body weight. Learn more about how home care can help your loved one by calling (614) 481-8888.