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Caregiver's Guide to Senior Nutrition

Posted by Michael Watson on Nov 20, 2018 2:30:00 PM

Senior couple cooking in the kitchen LR

Older adults don't always get the nutrition they need. If you're concerned your loved one isn't getting adequate nutrition, there could be a number of contributing factors. As we age, our metabolism slows down, which means seniors simply may not feel as hungry as they once were. Seniors often find it a task to grocery shop and prepare meals. In some cases, even the mere thought of eating alone is unappealing and they'd rather snack or skip meals altogether. As a caregiver, it's important to recognize the signs of inadequate nutrition and step in to help.

Signs of a Poor Diet

  • Unexplained fatigue. When the body lacks iron, anemia kicks in and results in pale skin and fatigue. Other conditions can cause fatigue, so if your loved one is unusually tired, be sure to have a doctor check out your loved one to determine the cause. 

  • Brittle hair. Since hair is made up of protein, it often is a telltale sign that the body is lacks protein. If hair appears brittle and dry or if hair is falling out suddenly, this could indicate malnourishment.

  • Rigid nails. Just like hair, nails need protein and serve as an early marker for poor nutrition. If the nail curves upward like a spoon, your love one may be lacking vital nutrients. 

  • Cracking mouth. When the mouth becomes excessively dry, the corners can crack and become sore. This is a warning sign of a riboflavin (B2) deficiency or iron deficiency. 

Meal Planning and Shopping 

If you suspect an inadequate diet, sit down with your loved one to discuss meal planning. First, find out what they are currently eating. Then, discuss ways you can improve their diet and good foods they can incorporate into her meals.

Seniors need additional calcium to promote good bone health, so add milk to every meal. If your loved one can't prepare meals, you may want to look into some simple frozen ready-made meals that can be heated up in the microwave or slow-cooker. Add a piece of fruit or a small salad along with a Greek yogurt or glass of milk, and you have a complete, balanced meal. 

Since shopping is tiring and strenuous, you may need to assist with the shopping. Create a plan and list ahead of time to ensure you limit the amount of time spent in the store. There are also grocery stores that allow you to order groceries online and pick them up without having to even enter the store. 

Key Foods

Seniors need a balanced diet full of whole grains, lean meats, and colorful fruits and vegetables. If your loved one doesn't eat meat, use beans, nuts or tofu to prepare meals. If milk isn't tolerated well, use a lactose-free alternative or try plain yogurt. 

Clean Up

Knowing the kitchen and dishes have to be cleaned after preparing and eating a meal can discourage them from cooking. When daily activities are a struggle, cleaning is a burden. Assist with cleaning up or keep it simple by using paper plates and plastic utensils.  

For more information about the nutritional needs of seniors, please feel free to contact us.

Michael Watson Blog Author

Topics: Senior Health

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