When Elderly Stop Eating: Understanding the Warning Signs

As people age, their appetite tends to decrease due to changes in metabolism, medications, and other factors. This can result in a decrease in overall health and an increased risk of health problems. If you have an elderly loved one, it’s important to know the warning signs of when they may stop eating and what you can do to help.

Signs That an Elderly Person May Stop Eating

If an elderly person stops eating, it can be a warning sign of underlying health problems. Here are some signs to watch for:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of interest in food
  • Skipping meals
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Mood swings, depression, or anxiety
  • Lack of energy or weakness

Why Do Elderly People Stop Eating?

There are several reasons why an elderly person may stop eating:

  • Taste and smell changes: As people age, their sense of taste and smell may decrease. This can make food less appealing and cause them to eat less.
  • Dental problems: Dental problems such as tooth decay, loose or missing teeth, and gum disease can make it difficult to chew food, leading to a decrease in appetite.
  • Medications: Some medications can cause loss of appetite or make food taste different.
  • Illness: Chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and kidney disease can cause loss of appetite and weight loss.
  • Mental health issues: Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues can cause a lack of interest in food and decrease in appetite.
  • Reduced physical activity: As people age, they may become less active, which can decrease their appetite.

What Happens When an Elderly Person Stops Eating?

When an elderly person stops eating, it can lead to a decline in their overall health and wellbeing. Here are some of the consequences of not eating:

  • Physical weakness and fatigue
  • Malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Muscle loss
  • Increased risk of infection
  • Organ damage
  • Poor wound healing

What Can You Do to Help an Elderly Person Who Isn’t Eating?

If you have an elderly loved one who isn’t eating, there are several things you can do to help:

  • Encourage regular meals and snacks: Try to establish a routine for meals and snacks, and encourage your loved one to eat even if they’re not hungry.
  • Keep the food interesting: Try to offer a variety of foods that are flavorful and visually appealing.
  • Address any dental problems: If your loved one is having trouble chewing, make sure they get proper dental care and consider softer foods or supplements.
  • Make mealtimes social: Eating with others can help make mealtimes more enjoyable and encourage your loved one to eat.
  • Address any underlying health issues: If your loved one has a chronic illness, talk to their doctor about how to manage their symptoms and maintain their appetite.
  • Consider supplements: If your loved one is not able to eat enough, supplements can help provide the necessary nutrients.


Not eating is a common problem among the elderly, and it can have serious consequences for their health and wellbeing. If you have an elderly loved one, it’s important to be aware of the warning signs of decreased appetite and take appropriate action to help them maintain their health and wellbeing.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes an elderly person to lose their appetite? There can be several factors that cause an elderly person to lose their appetite, including taste and smell changes, dental problems, medications, chronic illnesses, mental health issues, and reduced physical activity.
  • What are the consequences of not eating for an elderly person? Not eating can result in physical weakness and fatigue, malnutrition, dehydration, muscle loss, increased risk of infection, organ damage, and poor wound healing.
  • What can I do to help my elderly loved one who isn’t eating? Encourage regular meals and snacks, keep the food interesting, address any dental problems, make mealtimes social, address any underlying health issues, and consider supplements.


  • https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/how-handle-loss-appetite-life-limiting-illness
  • https://www.caregiver.org/tips-nutrition-and-hydration-dementia
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3484636/

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