What Eating Disorders Commonly Affect Aging Adults?

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Many people associate eating disorders with teenage girls. However, disordered eating isn’t confined to the younger generations. Seniors can also experience eating-related problems. Ahead, learn about eating disorders affecting the elderly population.

Anorexia

Anorexia is characterized by extreme food restriction and a distorted body image. When teenagers develop anorexia, it’s often caused by a combination of body image issues, mental health problems, and unexpected life changes. Refusing to eat becomes a means of control. When seniors develop eating disorders in their 60s or 70s, they’re often influenced by similar psychological issues. Some older women develop anorexia as a response to society’s increasingly unrealistic body expectations. For other seniors, an unwillingness to eat can be a response to a major life upheaval, such as retirement, moving out of their home, or the death of a loved one. It can also be a symptom of an untreated mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Regardless of a person’s age, anorexia is often a response to feeling out of control. Visible signs of anorexia include excessive weight loss and brittle hair and nails. 

Professional caregivers with training in nutrition and healthy habits can be a wonderful source of information and encouragement for seniors with eating disorders. Maintaining a high quality of life can be challenging for some seniors, but professional caregivers can help them obtain this goal. Families can trust Pembroke Pines 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.

Bulimia

While seniors with anorexia restrict their food intake to unhealthy levels, those with bulimia are more likely to binge and purge. This unhealthy eating pattern consists of eating large quantities of food in a short time and then purging the food via laxatives, forced vomiting, or diuretics. As with anorexia, bulimia is closely linked to issues of control. The bingeing phase represents a loss of control, and the purging phase represents an attempt to reassert control. If seniors are bingeing and purging, noticeable symptoms include tooth decay, sore throat, digestive issues, and acid reflux.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is characterized by rapid excessive consumption of food. After a binge session, seniors may feel uncomfortably full and ashamed of their behavior, but they rarely attempt to purge their food or engage in restrictive behaviors. Seniors with this condition are usually overweight. They often binge eat in secret and try to hide their food intake due to feelings of shame. Binge eating disorder puts seniors at greater risk for conditions such as diabetes and strokes. 

Helping senior 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. Pembroke Pines, FL, 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.

Additional Disorders

Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder are the most common eating disorders affecting seniors. Other possible conditions include avoidant or restrictive food intake disorder, wherein individuals refuse to eat specific foods due to texture, smell, taste, and other factors. Seniors who have difficulty sleeping may be at higher risk for night eating syndrome. People with this disorder binge eat when they wake up in the middle of the night.

Treating Eating Disorders in the Elderly

Eating disorders pose serious risks for seniors. Restrictive disorders, such as anorexia, can lead to weakened bones, irregular heart rhythms, and compromised immune systems. Bulimia can cause acute gastrointestinal distress, and binge eating can lead to loss of mobility and heart disease. When restrictive eating is a mental problem, as opposed to a physiological one, seniors may need treatment by a therapist or psychiatrist. They may also require nutritional and medical care, ideally provided by a doctor or health professional who understands the aging process.

An experienced 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 elderly home care. Pembroke Pines 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 can be your trusted partner in caregiving for your aging loved one. Contact one of our experienced Care Managers today at (954) 374-8273 to learn more about our reliable in-home care services.