5 Eating Disorders that Affect Seniors

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Eating disorders are often portrayed as a problem among teenage girls, but the reality is they can affect people of all ages, genders, and races. Seniors are often at risk for disordered eating patterns due to the emotional and physical changes they face as they age. Eating disorders are dangerous because they directly alter health, so family caregivers need to keep an eye out for signs of these five eating disorders. 

1. Anorexia Nervosa

This type of eating disorder occurs when seniors rigidly restrict their food intake. In seniors, it may be triggered by depression, loneliness, or the fear of aging instead of a compulsive desire to be thin. Treating anorexia can involve medical interventions to help seniors get back to a healthy weight, but it also requires therapy to address the triggers for the eating disorder and find healthy ways to manage stressors. 

Maintaining a high quality of life can be challenging for some seniors, but professional caregivers can help them obtain this goal. Families can trust in-home care experts to help their elderly loved ones focus on lifestyle choices that increase the chances of living a longer and healthier life.

2. Bulimia

Bulimia involves purging after meals by either vomiting or abusing laxatives, and it can be challenging to spot because it doesn’t normally result in drastic weight loss or changes in eating patterns. However, it’s still quite dangerous, especially in seniors, because the repeated purging can cause dehydration, gastritis, and heart problems. Treatment often involves medical attention along with therapy. As with other eating disorders, using antidepressants can reduce the severity of the disorder. 

3. Binge Eating

Binge eating disorders are characterized by periods when seniors quickly and uncontrollably eat overwhelmingly large amounts of food. Binge eating disorder often occurs alongside anorexia or bulimia, but seniors with this issue tend to gain an unhealthy amount of weight. Consultations with nutritionists or dieticians can teach healthier eating behaviors, but people with this disorder also need therapy to help them address the issues that may be triggering the binges. 

Helping a loved one with an eating disorder can be exhausting, so it’s important for caregivers to make time to attend to their own wellbeing. Families who find it difficult to care for their aging loved ones without assistance can benefit greatly from professional respite care. Tucson, AZ, family caregivers who need a break from their caregiving duties can turn to Home Care Assistance. Using our proprietary Balanced Care Method, our respite caregivers can encourage your loved one to eat well, exercise regularly, get plenty of mental and social stimulation, and focus on other lifestyle factors that promote longevity.

4. Orthorexia

Seniors with orthorexia have an overwhelming preoccupation with health and severely restrict their diet to foods they consider healthy. They may cut out almost all food groups gradually until they’re down to a small category of safe foods, such as raw vegetables with a low pH. Eventually, these disordered and obsessive eating patterns can lead to unhealthy weight loss or behavioral issues. Orthorexia is closely linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder, so it usually requires psychotherapy to combat. 

5. Pica

Pica is a rather unusual eating disorder because it causes people to crave nonnutritive substances but doesn’t affect their other eating patterns. Seniors with pica may eat things such as ice, hair, paper, chalk, or earth. This condition can be caused by mineral deficiencies. However, it can also be due to forms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, which requires behavioral therapy. 

A trained caregiver can provide additional support if your loved one has an eating disorder. Not every senior has the same care needs, which means they don’t all need the same type of home care service. Tucson families can rely on Home Care Assistance to provide individualized care plans to meet your elderly loved one’s unique care needs. Our holistic Balanced Care Method was designed to help seniors focus on healthy lifestyle habits such as eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and maintaining strong social ties, and our Cognitive Therapeutics Method offers mentally stimulating activities that can stave off cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia. Home Care Assistance will work with you to customize a care plan that’s just right for your loved one’s needs. Call us today at (520) 276-6555 to discuss how we can give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing your loved one is being cared for with professionalism and compassion.


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