Although our ability to taste may change as we age, tasting is still one of the most pleasurable senses we have. That enjoyment should continue into our senior years. The ability to taste helps us enjoy eating and drinking, and aids in determining whether a food is good or bad for us.
Sometimes when aging seniors have a serious problem with their ability to taste, they find they have a loss of appetite. Their lack of appetite can lead to weight loss that could compromise their health, impairing their immune system and thus causing them to be more susceptible to disease.
When the ability to taste is impaired, food may seem unimportant.
Older individuals may eat too much trying to get some satisfaction from non-nutritional food choices or simply from overeating causing them to gain too much weight. Or, the opposite may occur and the person may forget to eat and lose so much weight that it becomes detrimental to their health.
Taste sensitivity may be caused from certain medications or the result of certain illnesses and infections. Dental problems such as gum disease can also cause loss of taste as can a serious head injury. Other causes that caregivers should be aware of are smoking, Sjogren’s syndrome, Bell’s palsy and particular vitamin deficiencies.
Certain treatments may affect taste
If they have had radiation therapy for cancer located near the head or neck, taste sensitivity may also occur. And, diseases that affect the central nervous system such as multiple sclerosis can affect their sensitivity to taste.
Chronic disorders such as dysgeusia sometimes happen in senior citizens and can also affect taste. Dysgeusia causes them to have a bad taste in their mouth that can affect the way they taste food. It can be caused from medications such as antidepressants, drugs used to reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure pills.
Taste and smell are related
Since taste and smell are so closely related, a loss of smell might cause taste sensitivity. In fact, someone may think they have a problem with taste, when it’s actually a problem associated with the ability to smell. Loss of smell is much more common in seniors than loss of taste, so if someone you are caring for thinks they are losing their ability to taste certain foods, consider that it might really be loss of the ability to smell.
Talk to a health care provider
If they are not able to stick to a diet because of taste sensitivity issues, talk to their health care provider about what might be the cause and how they can get back to a satisfying experience with the foods they eat. They may be able to change medications that are having an impact on their tasting abilities or be treated for gum disease or any other factor causing the problem.
They will want to prepare for the visit to their doctor by writing down their symptoms, and answers to questions the doctor might ask such as when did they first become aware of taste sensitivity issues, how has the change affected their eating habits and whether or not they have also experienced changes in smell.
Taking note of changes in their ability to taste and smell and a visit to their health care provider may be all that is needed to regain the ability to enjoy eating and drinking once again.