What Causes Sudden Weight Loss in Seniors?

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It can be challenging for seniors to maintain a healthy weight for a number of reasons, including chronic illness and cognitive impairment that makes it difficult to eat regularly. Sudden or unplanned weight loss is common among seniors, and it’s associated with a number of adverse health consequences, including increased disability and premature death. Although there are some serious health conditions that cause sudden weight loss, it’s possible that a change in a person’s lifestyle or diet could also have a dramatic effect on his or her weight. While seniors sometimes ignore or downplay weight loss, it’s important to take notice and speak with a doctor sooner rather than later. Consider these common reasons as a starting point for identifying the cause of your senior loved one’s weight loss. 

Loss of Smell or Taste

The senses of smell and taste often diminish with age, and certain medications and health conditions can exacerbate these decreases in sensation. Check your parent’s prescription labels to see if this may be a side effect of the medications, and ask if your loved one has noticed a change in his or her senses. Sometimes adding some herbs and flavorings can boost a senior’s interest in eating again. 


Loss of appetite is a common symptom of depression, and it may cause some seniors to skip meals altogether. Feelings of isolation could also lead seniors to avoid mealtimes or eat less. For a senior living with depression, having the companionship of a caregiver during meals could help him or her regain weight.  If any of your loved one’s issues are related to depression, loneliness, or anxiety, he or she may benefit from professional home care for a few hours a day or a few days a week. When researching agencies that provide at-home care, families are usually looking for flexible care plans, compassionate and highly trained caregivers, and 24/7 availability. Whether you need respite care to take a break from your caregiving duties or your senior loved one needs around-the-clock assistance at home, you can rely on Home Care Assistance.

Oral Pain

Ill-fitting dentures, tooth decay, and other oral health conditions can interfere with the ability to eat properly. If your loved one has an abscessed or broken tooth, dentures, bridges, or partials that cause discomfort, or another oral issue, his or her eating habits may change to alleviate the pain. Observe your loved one at mealtimes to see if he or she has difficulty chewing or swallowing food. If you discover your parent has an oral problem, make sure he or she sees a dentist right away. Yearly dental exams are also important because they allow the dentist to detect and treat problems in their early stages before they lead to weight loss.


In some cases, dramatic weight loss could be linked to a serious disease such as cancer. Those undergoing cancer treatment, especially chemotherapy, may also experience nausea and a lack of appetite that can make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight.  Living with serious health conditions can make it challenging for seniors to age in place. However, they can maintain a higher quality of life with the help of professional live-in care. Des Moines seniors can benefit from assistance with meal prep, bathing, transportation to the doctor’s office, medication reminders, and much more.

Physical Changes or Cognitive Decline

A significant change in weight could be a sign your loved one is finding it difficult to live independently. For example, someone with Alzheimer’s may forget to eat meals, or a senior with severe arthritis may find it too painful to open jars, chop vegetables, and perform other cooking tasks. If this is the case, a caregiver could be the solution to getting your loved one the help he or she needs to prepare healthy meals.  No matter what’s causing the weight loss, it may be a good time to look into hiring a professional caregiver to help your loved one stay as healthy as possible while aging in place. In Des Moines, in-home care agencies can be a great boon to seniors. With the help of the caregivers at Home Care Assistance, your aging loved one can lead a happier and healthier life. We offer a revolutionary program called the Balanced Care Method, which encourages seniors to eat nutritious foods, exercise and socialize regularly, and focus on other lifestyle factors that increase life expectancy. Call one of our friendly Care Managers today at (515) 264-2438 to learn more about our customized care plans.  


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