There’s an epidemic that’s creating a huge problem for elderly people in the United States—malnutrition. Malnutrition is when the body doesn’t get enough nutrients from food to work properly. According to the National Council on Aging, up to 10% of older Americans are malnourished. About 60% of older adults in hospitals and 35-85% of older residents in long-term care facilities are malnourished.
While good nutrition is vital at every stage of life, it’s especially important for older individuals. Malnutrition can worsen chronic conditions or dementia and make it difficult for elderly adults to remain independent.
There are many factors that can make it difficult to regulate your loved one’s nutrition. Health problems, medicines, and mental disorders, such as depression, can impact appetite and the way certain foods taste or smell. For individuals living independently, disabilities and low income can limit the ability of your loved one to buy groceries and cook for themselves.
Despite the challenges, it’s essential to make sure your loved one does not become malnourished. Here are some handy tips to help you regulate their diet:
Prioritize Good Foods
The foods you cook for your loved one should be based on the essential nutrients they need, such as vitamin B12, folic acid, magnesium, and fiber, just to name a few. Ensure their diet is full of nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats. Limit your loved one’s intake of solid fats, sugars, alcoholic beverages, and salt.
This is a great way to get nutrients and calories in between meals. It’s especially a great thing if your loved one gets full quickly at mealtimes. We suggest Greek yogurt, cheese and crackers, nuts, veggies and dip, or fresh fruit.
If your loved one has a hard time getting enough of a specific or multiple nutrients, consider a nutritional supplement. These supplements come in many different forms such as pills, powders you can put in food or drink, or shakes.
Getting enough water is essential to your loved one’s health and keeps them hydrated. Fiber, one of the key minerals we need, absorbs water. Ensure they are drinking fluids consistently throughout the day; at least 8 glasses, or 64 fluid ounces.
Exercise is an excellent way to combat malnutrition. Even a little bit of exercise such as walking or stretching can help improve your loved one’s appetite and keep his or her bones and muscles strong.
Ensuring your loved one is eating enough can be overwhelming. There’s a lot of information to sift through and pressure that may cause you to become stressed. That’s where we come in. We offer nutrition services including assistance with meal planning, preparation, and cleanup. Contact us today to get started.
Considering becoming the primary caregiver for an elderly loved one?
Cooking for your loved one is just a small part of the responsibility that comes with being a primary caregiver. If you’re considering moving your elderly family member into your home, download our guide for factors you should consider before making the transition.