"Eating disorder origins among the elderly are surprisingly similar to those identified for young women, but with a unique stage-of-life dimension," said Edward Cumella, Ph.D., executive director at Remuda Ranch (http://www.remudaranch.com/general/inpatient/index.php).
For elderly people living alone, limited food intake can be an esteem-preserving response to not having the money to buy groceries. Refusing food may also be a protest aimed at loved ones, expressing that the person is quite distressed about activity restrictions or limited family visits. Even more serious, refusing food may be a passive effort to commit suicide arising from hopelessness, despair and depression.
This is clearly disturbing, given much of our focus leans towards educating young people about the dangers of dieting and the potentially destructive path of an eating disorder. Perhaps an awareness program needs to be implemented in nursing homes to provide information about the dangers of restricting food intake and the consequences health-wise. It would also be beneficial to educate staff as well as families visiting their relatives, about the warning signs of early onset eating disorder, to further reduce the incidence of these devastating illnesses among the elderly.
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