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Why Unintentional Weight Loss in Seniors Is So Important to Monitor


My 89-year-old mother-in-law who lives with us suffers from dementia. Her doctor keeps mentioning how I need to "monitor her weight and eating." Her problem is much greater than food; I think he needs to review her meds. Yet the doctor has asked me to take careful records of Mom’s daily weight. Is this really necessary?


While I understand your concern, weight loss is actually a good indicator of your mother-in-law’s health. When there is unintentional weight loss, there may be an underlying medical condition causing it. She may be weaker, leaving her more vulnerable to falls and injuries.

One way to watch out for weight loss is to record how much your mother-in-law eats. Observe whether she eats at least half of her food at each meal. If she’s not eating over 50% of her food, she may be at higher risk of losing weight.

High quality senior living communities keep a handle on resident weights by keeping high-calorie snacks and foods available that residents enjoy. At home, you can take this same approach by having milkshakes, peanut butter crackers, or supplements as an option. Having choices of a person’s favorite foods that are high calorie and nutrient dense is the best way to help prevent weight loss.

The goal is to find out if offering your mother-in-law her favorite food, providing the right assistance, and providing alternatives will help with the weight loss. If she is still not eating after those three areas and continues to lose weight, it is a good time to follow up with her doctor to find out what else may be a cause for the weight loss.

At the end of the day, it may be her medications that need to be reviewed, but looking at the immediate areas that cause weight loss are a good place to start.

Hope this helps!


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