By Jane Sandwood
Modern society places a major emphasis on the constant need to lose weight through all sorts of bizarre methods. As we age, however, this becomes less of a positive thing in our lives. For those age 65 and over, extreme weight loss could lead to conditions such as sarcopenia, which can quickly lead to further issues. So, for those who have suffered with an eating disorder at certain points throughout their lives, they could be especially at risk as they age.
Why is it such a problem?
Eating disorders are something that we as a society generally associate with young females, though in reality it can affect anyone at any age for so many different reasons. The shocking statistics we are often given focus on “young girls”, with even the words they use excluding people of a certain age. Although the statistics among this demographic may be higher in terms of the number of people who get them, when the elderly develop an eating disorder it is much more deadly, accounting for 78% of all deaths from eating disorders. Going through this at a time in life when nutrition is more important than ever is especially isolating, as family and friends may assume that age-related weight loss is to be expected as a natural occurrence or in line with certain medications.
How can you tell if someone is suffering?
It can be difficult to recognise some of the warning signs of an eating disorder amongst elderly patients as many of the symptoms, such as feeling constantly cold, are also related to age. Some more noticeable signs may include:
Preoccupation with eating, food, and body shape
Avoiding family meals or events involving food
Exercising above what is healthy
Obsessive rituals forming around their food.
Most importantly, it is important that you trust your instincts. Health care professionals may not be accustomed to people of a certain age having an eating disorder, so it may be a case of persistence once you see someone about it.
How to help
The most important thing to remember is that no one is beyond help. With gentle encouragement and companionship, even professional help where appropriate, we can ensure almost everyone can make a full recovery. When the patient is elderly, it may be especially important to encourage them to take supplements like MEND once they start eating a healthier diet to speed up their recovery.