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What to do if your elderly parent isn’t eating and sleeping all the time

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.

How often should your elderly parent eat and sleep?

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.

Why your elderly parent is not eating and sleeping all the time

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:

Why your elderly parent is not eating

Why your elderly parent is sleeping all the time

How to encourage your elderly parent to eat more and sleep less

1. Encourage exercise

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.

2. Explore new recipes

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.

3. Use a meal delivery service

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.

4. Encourage hobbies & socialising

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.

5. Sleeping assistance

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.

elderly parent isn't eating and sleeping all the time and person taking care of them

How Home Care can help

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:

Companionship

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.

Continuing hobbies

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.

Whether that be watching a classic film, going for a stroll in the local park or playing a game of Scrabble, we’re ready to help. In doing so, your elderly parent may be less likely to sleep throughout the day. Using up energy to take part in different hobbies can also increase their appetite.

Meal preparation

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.

Mobility assistance

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.

Overnight Care

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.

References

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