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Remuda Ranch Reports Eating Disorders on the Rise Among Elderly

PHOENIX, April 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Remuda Ranch Programs for Eating and Anxiety Disorders ( reports elderly men and women may have eating disorders more often than most health professionals realize. Recent research reports eating disorders in elderly women have increased and the majority of deaths from anorexia nervosa occur in people over age 65.

"Because few health professionals think of screening for eating disorders in the elderly, many elderly eating disorder patients have frequently been missed, with tragic consequences," said Edward Cumella, Ph.D., executive director at Remuda Ranch ( "Anorexia nervosa is a very serious illness in seniors because many already have compromised health to begin with."

Many elderly people living independently have a limited number of meaningful relationships and are limited in their contact with others. This makes eating disorder behaviors hard to identify. For those living in nursing care centers or assisted living facilities, it's common to refuse food and become dangerously thin. Typical excuses - "I'm full", "I feel sick", "I have no appetite" - are often accepted at face value. These excuses should be challenged to determine whether there's a deeper issue.

"Eating disorder origins among the elderly are surprisingly similar to those identified for young women, but with a unique stage-of-life dimension," adds Cumella. "Refusing food is often an attempt to control the one thing the person still feels able to control - food intake."

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.

"It's important to evaluate why elderly people are restricting their food intake," said Cumella. "As we age, taste buds grow less sensitive and appetite decreases. Certain medications blunt taste and sense of smell and a variety of illnesses also reduce appetite. So food restriction may be due to psychological issues, medical issues, or a combination of both."

Eating disorders in the elderly are treated with therapy, medications, nutrition education and support. Because of the medical issues experienced by the elderly, programs that provide healthy meals, physical rehabilitation, disability-related environmental modifications and appetite-stimulating medications may be useful as well.

About Remuda Ranch Programs for Eating and Anxiety Disorders

Remuda Ranch offers Christian inpatient and residential programs for individuals of all faiths suffering from eating or anxiety disorders. Each patient is treated by a multi-disciplinary team including a Psychiatric and a Primary Care Provider, Registered Dietitian, Masters Level therapist, Psychologist and Registered Nurse. The professional staff equips each patient with the right tools to live a healthy, productive life. For more information, call 1-800-445-1900 or visit

SOURCE Remuda Ranch Programs for Eating and Anxiety Disorders
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