As some people age, they may begin to lose weight and become less responsive. While it may be tempting to attribute these changes to the typical effects of aging, any decline in an elderly person’s condition warrants a medical consultation. In some cases, after a doctor has ruled out any serious medical illness, they may offer a diagnosis of adult failure to thrive. This is a challenging condition to understand and requires a multi-pronged approach to manage.
What Is Adult Failure To Thrive?
Many people associate failure to thrive with infants who are not growing according to the standard weight and height charts for their age. However, it is becoming increasingly common in senior citizens in the form of adult or geriatric failure to thrive. It is essentially a gradual decline in health that does not have an immediate explanation.
Adult failure to thrive may be caused by unknown medical problems, interactions with medications, low appetite, a poor diet, chronic diseases or physical decline. Some of the symptoms include inactivity, poor nutrition, a reduction in appetite and weight loss. People with this condition may also exhibit signs of dehydration, depression and impaired cognitive function.
What You Can Do For Your Loved One Diagnosed With Failure To Thrive?
When an elderly adult is diagnosed with failure to thrive, it can be very frustrating for their loved ones as there is no single approach that will help everyone. In addition, because there is no clear cause, it can lead to feelings of helplessness on the part of the patient as well as their loved ones. Thankfully, there are some steps that you can take to help your loved one deal with this condition.
Keep A Close Watch
Keeping a close watch can go a long way toward helping minimize the impact of this condition on your loved one’s quality of life. Any time you notice an unexplained bout of depression, a lack of interest in eating or drinking or any type of sudden decline in their health, you should report it to their doctor.
Check Their Medication
One of the first things you should do for an elderly loved one who is displaying signs of failure to thrive is check the medications they are taking. Make a list of the drugs they are taking, the dosages and the frequency, and consult with their doctor or pharmacist to find out whether a drug interaction could be causing their symptoms. Some elderly patients take multiple prescriptions from different doctors who are not aware of the other drugs they may be taking at the same time, so interactions are not uncommon.
In some cases, it may simply be the side effects of a particular medication that is behind the problem rather than an interaction. For example, benzodiazepines can lead to weight loss. It is also possible that your loved one may be taking their medication incorrectly and inadvertently taking too much or not enough, which can also cause these problems. Some medications may cause trouble swallowing, which can also impact your loved one’s food intake.
Document What Your Loved One Eats
In elderly patients, dehydration and poor nutrition can become dangerous rather quickly. It is important to keep track of what your loved one has been eating and drinking to ensure that they are getting the right nutrition and plenty of hydration.
If there are any doubts, consult with a nutritionist to find out where they may be falling short and which foods they can eat to give their diet a better balance. It is also important to check if dental problems could be affecting your loved one’s ability to eat, such as poorly fitting dentures.
Keep Your Loved One On The Go
One of the most important ways to ensure a healthy mind and body in elderly people is activity. Any type of exercise can help alleviate the symptoms seen in failure to thrive patients, especially food intake issues and depression, as the endorphins released by moving the body promote a sense of well-being.
If your loved one is still mobile, even taking short walks around your neighborhood or outings so the grocery store can be enough to make a difference. A professional can help develop a low-impact exercise regimen that can get your loved one moving without being too taxing.
For those who are bedbound, consider doing puzzles together, reading out loud to them or playing board games to keep them engaged and active. You might also consider adapting an activity they used to enjoy to meet their current capabilities.
On a similar note, social stimulation can also go a long way toward helping adults with failure to thrive. If possible, bring your loved one to see family members and friends or invite them to come and visit. You can encourage conversation by asking your loved one questions about their favorite hobbies or topics or pulling out old family photos.
It is also important to have some meaningful conversations. Try to get your loved one to open up to you or have someone they feel more comfortable opening up to reach out to them. Do not be surprised if your loved one wants to talk about any feelings of sadness or loss they are experiencing. These are normal emotions for senior citizens, and lending a sympathetic ear can make a big difference. If you suspect that your loved one may be severely depressed, a doctor can diagnose them using the Geriatric Depression Scale.
Get Help With In-Home Care
Failure to thrive can have a significant impact on your loved one’s quality of life, and it can also be overwhelming to family caregivers. In-home care can help elderly patients with all activities of daily living, including eating, dressing, mobility, grooming and toileting. These caregivers can also provide friendly companionship and social interaction via conversation, recreational hobbies and social outings. This can give family caregivers a much-needed break to focus on other responsibilities.
If your loved one is experiencing adult failure to thrive, get in touch with the friendly team at Comfort Home Care for a complimentary in-home evaluation and learn how their caregivers can have a positive impact on their quality of life.