​Weight loss, appetite loss, and weight gain can be serious problems. If a resident isn’t eating, it is important to determine why. It may be as simple as the resident doesn’t like the taste of the food. However, a more complex reason could relate to medications the person is taking.

Check the Meds

Robin Fine, RPH, a consultant with Forum Extended Care Services, recommends an in-depth medication review to help determine if a medication is causing changes in appetite, weight loss or weight gain, or other nutrition-based issues. If outcome results lead to changes based on medication, the pharmacist can work with the practitioner to eliminate, change, or even add medications that might be beneficial to the resident.

“Certain antibiotics, blood pressure medications, diabetic medications, chemotherapy medications, vitamins and supplements, and certain psychotropics can cause impaired taste, nausea and vomiting, or just weight loss,” Fine says. “Conversely, certain antipsychotics, antidepressants, and mood stabilizers can lead to weight gain.”

Caregivers, Family Members Critical Watchers

Caregivers should monitor and record food intake and can identify which residents are losing weight or not eating, Fine suggests. “Are they complaining about the taste of the food? Are they nauseous and/or vomiting? Are their clothes getting loose? The answers to these questions can help us determine if a medication may be responsible for or contributing to weight or appetite loss.”

Families play a role too, Fine says.

“We can tell family members to talk with nursing staff and other practitioners if they are concerned about their loved one’s weight or eating patterns,” she says. “If they want to bring in mom’s or dad’s favorite foods, that can be great; but we need to make sure the food being brought is not contradicted by nutrition goals and/or medications the resident is taking.”

A lot can change in a year, so Fine stresses it is important to pay attention to any changes in personality, cognition, behaviors, or habits.

These changes can lead to issues related to weight and appetite, she says. Routine medication reviews offer an opportunity to determine if medication changes can be beneficial for the resident in achieving desired outcomes.