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We all want the best for our elderly parents, including the best quality of life possible. However, as many people age, they may begin to eat less and sleep more. There are many reasons for this; they may do less daily activities therefore naturally require less calories. In some cases, a loss of appetite may be due to losing interest in food, boredom, depression or because of a health condition.
Food and rest are essential for normal bodily functions. Despite this, if your elderly parent is getting too much or too little of either one, they could experience negative side effects for both their physical and mental health. It’s important that your elderly parent achieves a steady balance between eating and sleeping to ensure their health and mental wellbeing are preserved.
We understand the worry it can cause if you notice a change in your elderly parent’s eating habits and sleeping patterns. To learn more about why your elderly parent is not eating and sleeping all the time and how you can help them, we have put together this helpful guide. Additionally, if you would like to learn more about how Elderly Home Care can support your elderly parent with eating regularly and sleeping more comfortably at night, request our free Home Care brochure now.
The amount of food your elderly parent should consume and how many hours of sleep they should have per night depends on different factors. Firstly, it depends on how much they move about during the day. If your elderly parent enjoys a daily stroll in the park or takes part in a hobby, it’s likely they will need more food and rest than someone who doesn’t. This is also the case if they have a medical condition as the body requires more nutrients and sleep to complete essential bodily functions.
Despite this, there may be reason to be concerned if you notice your elderly parent is not eating and sleeping all the time. Typically, seniors should get around seven to nine hours of sleep per night.1 They should also eat around 1,600 calories per day and most of this should come from protein, fruit and vegetables and carbohydrates.2 Always consult a medical professional for specific guidance on calorie and sleep requirements as the information here is just a general estimate.
Sleeping for an adequate number of hours per night and eating enough of the right food is essential for both physical and mental health. In fact, numerous studies have shown that sleeping too much or too little and not eating enough leads to a higher mortality rate among the elderly.3 Ultimately, finding a balance between the two can lead to a better quality of life.
If your elderly parent isn’t eating enough, it could ultimately result in malnutrition. This can be extremely dangerous for the elderly as it can result in a weakened immune system, decreased bone mass and muscle weakness. In turn, this could lead to a fall. Sleeping too much can also be dangerous as a lack of exercise could lead to health problems such as heart disease and type two diabetes. Moreover, it can also decrease cognitive function making it more difficult to live independently.
There are various possible reasons why your elderly parent is not eating and sleeping all the time. It’s important they eat regularly as this can have an impact on their sleep and vice versa. Here are some of the potential reasons:
One of the reasons why your elderly parent may begin to eat less is due to a lack of interest in food. As people get older, many experience their ability to smell and taste different foods diminishing. This, however, is often unavoidable as it’s part of the natural aging process.
Over time, the number of taste buds and olfactory receptors in your nose decrease, making it more difficult to taste and smell different foods.4 As a result, your elderly parent’s once much loved meals may become less appealing over time.
Additionally, your elderly parent may be experiencing a lack of interest in food if they are constantly eating the same type of meals. They may have a desire for novelty and variety in their diet. If your elderly parent is not eating because of this reason, perhaps you could consider exploring different recipes that are designed with seniors in mind.
This lack of interest could also be a result of emotional factors. If your elderly parent has recently experienced a change in their routine such as moving to a care home, regularly feels lonely or has lost a loved one, they may begin to lose interest in food also.
Your elderly parent may also be reluctant to eat if it causes them pain. As people age, their bodies become weaker which can make normal bodily processes, such as digesting food, painful. Different gastrointestinal issues can reduce your elderly parent’s desire to eat.
These issues may come naturally or as a side effect of different medical treatments. It’s not uncommon for many elderly people to experience acid reflux, constipation, bloating and indigestion due to eating. Without medication, this can cause them a great deal of pain. If your elderly parent is affected by gastrointestinal issues, they may avoid eating which could lead to them becoming malnourished over time.
In addition to this, your elderly parent may feel pain when eating due to dental problems, leading to them refusing to eat. There are various reasons for this including arthritis in the jaw, poor fitting dentures or other issues such as tooth decay. Moreover, if your elderly parent finds it difficult to chew, they may feel embarrassed to eat, leading to them feeling discouraged and could result in them avoiding eating altogether.
Many people lose their appetite as they age and there are many reasons for this. If your elderly parent is sleeping all the time, they may not feel hunger as frequently and therefore eat less. This is because the more your elderly parent sleeps, the lesser their Ghrelin level is. Ghrelin is a hormone which sends hunger signals to the brain to increase food intake. If your elderly parent is sleeping a lot, this can decrease significantly.5
Typically, elderly people may not be as active as they once were so they may not use a lot of energy throughout the day. Our metabolic rate also slows down as we age, meaning we can’t digest food as quickly. Due to this, appetite frequently decreases as we get older which could result in elderly people not eating a sustainable amount of food during the day.
A loss of appetite is also unfortunately common if your elderly parent is emotionally distressed or has a mental health condition. This can lead to a lack of motivation to take care of themselves and a reduced interest in eating. Feelings of sadness, depression and anxiety can dampen their appetite.
Different issues regarding your elderly parent’s health could also impact their ability or desire to eat. Firstly, different chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cancer or heart disease can reduce their appetite. This can be particularly damaging if they have a chronic illness as the nutrients from food are essential for different bodily functions. Their appetite can also be reduced as a side effect of medication as this may impact their ability to taste and digest food.
Experiencing a decline in cognitive function could also result in your elderly parent not wanting to eat. Different cognitive impairments such as dementia could mean they may no longer recognise hunger or may forget when and what to eat. It can also cause the brain to alter the taste and appearance of food which can make it less appealing.
If your elderly parent struggles with their mobility, they may become reluctant to eat food. This may be because they want to avoid moving around to get to the bathroom if it causes them pain or if they’re concerned they may fall.
The effort of preparing a meal, eating and then cleaning up afterwards can put the elderly off wanting to eat. Many elderly people find they don’t have a lot of energy to prepare three meals a day and can struggle with standing up for a long period of time, which may result in them being reluctant to prepare a meal. If your elderly parent experiences fatigue, they may find the process of making a meal overwhelming.
Your elderly parent may also be worried about injuring themselves in the kitchen, which could also put them off wanting to cook for themselves. Using knives or other sharp utensils or the use of boiling water could make your elderly parent feel worried. They may also find using some different types of kitchen equipment such as can openers and heavy pans a struggle.
Sleep disturbance among the elderly can stem from a variety of different factors. A lot of elderly people struggle to fall asleep and remain asleep at night. This could be due to mental health issues such as anxiety or depression, health related issues or as a side effect of medication. Experiencing poor quality sleep can result in frequent naps during the day.
Additionally, lifestyle factors can play a role in your elderly parent’s quality of sleep at night. Daytime napping or excessive time spent in bed can confuse the body’s internal clock meaning your elderly parent may find it difficult to sleep at night. Other factors such as a change in routine or experiencing a recent bereavement can also impact the quality of sleep throughout the night.
If your elderly parent has dementia, they may also find it difficult to sleep at night. Dementia can disrupt sleep patterns due to cognitive changes affecting sleep and wake cycles. They may experience restlessness and confusion which can disturb their sleep, meaning they’re likely to sleep more during the day.
A quarter of people live with a mental health condition, with the most common being depression.6 There are many reasons for this, including loneliness and feeling a lack of worth. Depression can cause a variety of impacts including sleep disturbance and low energy.
If your elderly parent struggles with depression, they may feel a lack of energy to complete daily tasks and have no motivation to fill their day with worthwhile activities. (If your loved one struggles with this, you may be interested in our ideas to keep elderly people busy at home.) Not only does it impact physical ability but can also result in your elderly parent feeling mentally exhausted. This can result in a prolonged period of sleep to allow the body to recover.
Medication can also impact your elderly parent’s sleep if they are taking them to manage depression. You or your loved ones may benefit from discussing side effects with a medical professional.
If you find your elderly parent is sleeping all the time, this could be due to boredom. As people age, many lose passion for activities they may have enjoyed before or they are no longer able to participate in. This could leave them feeling hopeless and bored and as a result, they may sleep more frequently.
Boredom may also arise if your elderly parent experiences a lack of social interaction. Without seeing loved ones, they may find it hard to fill their day with worthwhile activities leading to them sleeping throughout the day. If your elderly parent experiences boredom due to their physical, mental and emotional needs not being met, they may begin to sleep more frequently which can negatively impact their health.
If your elderly parent isn’t eating enough and is not getting the right nutrients throughout the day, their energy levels will inevitably decline. Food is essential for energy and daily bodily functions. Without enough food, your elderly parent may struggle to stay awake during the day and engage in daily activities.
It’s important that the food they do eat is filled with essential nutrients to support their metabolism and energy levels. If your elderly parent becomes deficient in certain nutrients, their ability to complete daily tasks and stay awake could be affected. Again, a medical professional can provide guidance on the type and quantity of food your elderly parent should be eating. Our Care Workers can help with ensuring a meal routine and with preparing food.
Health related issues can significantly impact the quality of sleep. If your elderly parent has a medical condition, they may feel more tired than usual and sleep more frequently. Many conditions cause pain, which can make it hard to fall asleep or sleep for a long period of time. This can also cause your elderly parent to wake up throughout the night.
Different medications can also impact your elderly parent’s sleep. Some can lead to insomnia meaning they struggle to fall asleep. Others can result in drowsiness which could result in them sleeping a lot more during the day. Your elderly parent may also be sleeping more in the day if they require medication throughout the night.
Regular exercise can have a positive effect on your elderly parent’s appetite and sleeping patterns which contributes to their overall wellbeing. There are many different types of exercises for the elderly depending on their ability. If your elderly parents are able to move about easily, walking is a great, low impact exercise. If this is not possible, there is also a range of different seated exercises they can try.
If your elderly parent is not eating and sleeping all the time, then encouraging regular exercise can help them utilise more energy throughout the day. As a result, their appetite will increase to replenish the body with energy and nutrients. Exercise can also regulate sleep and promote better sleep at night. It can even help improve specific symptoms of illness, such as swollen feet and ankles in elderly people. Not only does exercise result in the body requiring more rest, but it aligns cardiac rhythms which enhances sleep quality for the elderly.
Eating the same types of meals can be boring and could lead to food aversion. If your elderly parent is beginning to resent food, it may be because they feel like they are eating the same meals all the time. Luckily, there are many different books and online guides filled with a variety of recipes that are designed with the elderly in mind. They often use basic ingredients and are easy to cook, often with only a few steps.
Additionally, if your elderly parent finds eating certain foods painful, exploring different recipes can help encourage them to eat more. If chewing tough foods causes pain, there are many recipes which use ingredients that are softer to help avoid this. Digesting heavy carbohydrates, dairy and processed foods can also lead to discomfort. Exploring new recipes that avoid a high amount of these types of food groups can also encourage your elderly parent to eat more. As a result, they’ll have more energy and therefore are less likely to sleep throughout the day.
The thought of preparing a meal, eating it and then cleaning up afterwards can be overwhelming, especially for the elderly. The physical exhaustion it can cause can also put them off, resulting in them not eating a substantial amount during the day. Fortunately, there is a range of services to help the elderly so they don’t have to make their own meals.
There are many meal delivery services for the elderly throughout the UK and are often referred to as ‘meals on wheels’. With this service, your elderly parent can choose what meals they would like delivered to them, at whatever time suits them. They can come hot, cold or frozen.
With this, your elderly parent won’t have to go to the effort of making a meal and cleaning up afterwards which could encourage them to eat more. A lot of the time, meals are prepared with the elderly in mind and contain the right nutrients your parent needs.
Filling your day with worthwhile activities and seeing loved ones can bring numerous benefits for both physical health and mental wellbeing. If you notice your elderly parent experiences low moods and is sleeping all the time, it may be because they are bored or lonely. This can then impact their mental health negatively.
Encouraging your elderly parent to reignite a passion for a hobby or learn something new can give them a sense of purpose. Because of this, they are less likely to sleep during the day, leading to better quality sleep at night. Socialising with loved ones can also result in this positive impact as your elderly parent is less likely to feel lonely.
If your elderly parent struggles to fall asleep and stay asleep at night, this may be because they’re uncomfortable. It’s important they sleep in a position that properly supports their body. Otherwise, they may frequently wake during the night, leading to increased naps throughout the day.
There are many different ways to support your elderly parent if they’re experiencing discomfort at night. An electric bed can be beneficial to help limit back pain, improve posture and can adjust the position your elderly parent sleeps in to improve their breathing. A memory foam mattress and pillows can also increase comfort. If your elderly parent is sensitive to light, a blackout blind can ensure they’re in a dark environment to help them sleep once the sun rises. All of these items could be a great gift for an elderly people.
It can bring a great deal of worry if your elderly parent is not eating and sleeping all the time as this can result in serious consequences regarding their health and quality of life. If it has gotten to a point where you’re concerned but your elderly parent wishes to maintain their independence and remain at home, Home Care can help. This is where Care Workers visits your elderly parent at home and helps them with whatever they require to encourage them to eat more and sleep better throughout the night.
At Alina Homecare, we offer a range of services to help your elderly parent live safely at home so you can enjoy peace of mind, knowing they are in safe hands. We also offer Respite Care if you are caring for an elderly parent yourself. All our care plans are bespoke to each client and can be adjusted whenever things change. Our Home Care services can include:
Feelings of loneliness can negatively impact mood, which can affect sleep patterns and appetite which can be dangerous for the elderly. Sometimes, having someone to chat with or take part in an activity with is all that’s needed for a positive uplift. If your elderly parent is not eating and sleeping all the time because they are lonely, our Companionship Care can help.
With this, a fully trained Companion Carer visits your elderly parent to provide regular companionship. Mealtimes can be one of the loneliest times for the elderly so having someone there to provide support can encourage better eating habits. Moreover, having someone to discuss any concerns or negative feelings with can bring relief for your elderly parent which in turn, can help them eat more and sleep better at night.
Filling days with worthwhile activities and continuing hobbies positively impacts mood, resulting in better sleep at night. However, sometimes hobbies can be difficult or less enjoyable to do alone. As part of our Companion Care service, our Care Workers can help your elderly parent continue their favourite hobbies and can even take part.
If your elderly parent is not eating due to not being able to make balanced meals easily, we can help. Among many other things, we can also prepare meals just how your elderly parent would like. Our Care Workers take into consideration any preferences and dietary requirements.
They ensure your elderly parent is eating enough of the right food to maintain their health. In addition to this, they can prepare multiple meals if required and store them in the fridge or freezer for later. This takes away the need for your elderly parent to cook their own meals which could encourage them to eat more.
If your elderly parent struggles with their mobility, they may be eating less and sleeping more as a result. If they struggle to move around the kitchen to make meals or find it difficult to get to the bathroom in time, they could be putting off eating and drinking which is just as important. This decrease in physical activity and lack of nutrients and energy from food could result in them sleeping more throughout the day.
At Alina Homecare, our dedicated Care Workers can help with whatever your elderly parent needs. They can prepare nutritious meals so your parent doesn’t have to, assist with mobility around the home and provide Personal Care if needed. Whatever you need, we can help.
Night time can be distressing for the elderly and could result in feelings of anxiety and worry. If your elderly parent experiences these feelings, Overnight Care can help. Knowing there is someone there, no matter the time of day or night, can provide peace of mind and mitigate these feelings. With this service, a care worker will stay with your parent overnight.
At Alina Homecare, we offer two types of Overnight Care; Waking Night and Sleeping Night. With Waking Night Care, our Care Worker stays awake throughout the night and can provide specialist care, including helping administer medication, whenever it’s needed. With Sleeping Night Care, a Care Worker will sleep in your parent’s home but is close at hand whenever support is required.
To learn more about the services we offer and how we can help, contact your local Alina Homecare Team today.
1. National Institute on Aging, “A Good Night’s Sleep“, Reviewed 7 September 2023
2. Jackson Siegelbum Gastroenterology, “Nutrition for Older Adults“, Reviewed 7 September 2023
3. PRB, “New Evidence in Sleep’s Role in Aging and Chronic Disease“, Reviewed 7 September 2023
4. Mayo Clinic, “Loss of taste and smell normal with aging?“, Reviewed 7 September 2023
5. Elderly Guides, “Elderly Not Eating and Sleeping All The Time [What It Means]“, September 7 2023
6. Age UK, “Mental Health“, Reviewed 7 September 2023