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How can I keep my grandpa from gaining weight without making him feel deprived?

My grandpa keeps forgetting that he has already eaten. He is always hungry and has started gaining weight. What can I do to stop this before he gets health problems from overeating?
Status: Open    Sep 25, 2014 - 09:27 PM

Senior Health & Nutrition

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Expert Answers

Dec 08, 2015 - 08:28 AM

Though most people tend to focus on older persons who are losing weight, or have a decreased appetite, overeating can actually be a serious problem among older people with memory loss, dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other conditions. Here are a few things to think about:

Focus first on what mealtimes look like. Is he alone or in a group? Is there a clear signal – or ‘cues’ – that the meal has begun and ended? Does he eat alone? Conversation during a meal can slow it down and help him to feel full. (I certainly eat faster when I’m alone!)

Whether alone or in a group, make sure he is getting a single serving of food, rather than serving food family style. ‘Family style’ can encourage second and third helpings even when already full.

Next think about the food itself. Provide food that is low-calorie and filling, like apple slices, vegetables with yogurt or hummus or popcorn (but try to exclude things that might be choking hazards).

Then turn to activities and habits. Most important is to have some routine of physical activity or exercise. This improves overall health, helps with digestion, and will help combat some of the effects of overeating.

Make sure snacks are out of reach or less available in the home. (Another problem at any age!)

Lastly, we all know that boredom itself can lead to snacking. Hello, ice cream?!? Dementia makes boredom much more likely, because it’s hard to remember how to do the hobbies or chores or tasks that we once knew so well. That is why being engaged with caregivers, family, friends or a community is so important as memory begins to fade. If family cannot be there all the time, adult day care is an alternative, or scheduled visits and activities with friends or neighbors.

Finally, make sure your grandpa’s doctor is aware of this problem, and that he or she is monitoring his weight at every visit. Sometimes a medication side effect or another medical problem can also lead to weight gain, so they may want to do some testing.

APFM Staff Answers

Sep 03, 2015 - 11:00 AM

Hello - I am not a dietician but there are several articles on the A Place for Mom blog that talk about senior nutrition and weight gain. Senior nutritional needs and dietary habits are unique for many reasons and you may find the following articles useful:

10 Healthier Sugar Alternatives You Should Try

Stay Hydrated, Eat Protein: Nutrition Tips for Seniors

Senior Obesity and the Preventive Power of Exercise

10 Senior Nutrition Myths


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