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Older People and Eating Distress

Eating disorder is a common teenage problem. But, research reveals the incidence in middle age and senescence. The body image attitude of women in the late 60s is the same as that of teenage girls. Some of them develop these disorders in their old age. The primary reasons or causative factors include sorrow, financial insecurity, depression and poor appetite due to dentures.
Elders deny their appetite and put a ceiling on their eating pattern. The self portrayal of body image is negative, meaning ‘thin’.  They deny suffering from depression and having suicidal tendencies. Cardiac arrest and emaciation are common, leading to death. Though, bingeing and purging is not a characteristic phenomenon in elderly, laxative abuse, might contribute to weight loss.

Disorders of appetite, malfunctioned taste and reduced olfactory sensitivity or the sense of smell results in decreased eating behavior. Physical and psychological distress results in eating disorders. Dysguesia or reduced pleasure of eating is caused by zinc deficiency. Trauma in the form of death of the spouse or loved person, fatal disease or personal issues, such as divorce stimulates eating disorders. Lack of financial independence and insecurity from children also trigger the situation. Ageing results in shape distortion, due to menopause in women. Self confidence and self esteem decreases, due to absence of job and idle sitting.

Ageing also results in bowel problems. The muscles of the rectum fail to function in a normal manner and the improper eating pattern also results in problems in bowel movement. Psychological problems such as loneliness void feeling, increased stress, reduced intimacy with the spouse, body dissatisfaction calls for immediate help. ‘Empty nest’ syndrome is common in senescence, wherein the responsibility of the parents towards children are completed, leaving them to themselves. This in turn, might result in drug addiction, excessive exercise, anxiety and depression in the older people.

Intervention depends on the removal of the underlying problem. Treatment should commence as soon as the problem and the causative factor are identified. Physiological treatments, such as plastic surgery and others call for medical guidance, as the power to resist the pain and healing process is at a lower pace, as you age. Psychological moral support from existing family members in the form of siblings or children proves beneficial. Analysis of medications taken is essential, as certain medicines, result in weight loss. Proper dentures are required for proper mastication and enjoyment. Underlying illnesses, if any, should be treated initially. Alcoholism, poverty, memory loss, antidepressants usage and lack of enthusiasm are related factors, calling for attention.
Submitted on January 16, 2014