It’s not unusual for elderly people to experience some type of malnutrition. Statistics estimate that up to 16 percent of seniors have protein deficiencies. When including possible mineral and vitamin deficits, dietary malnutrition cases occur in up to 35 percent of adults over the age of 65. Seniors have unique nutritional needs to ensure their ongoing health, vitality, and quality of life.
Malnutrition in older adults can lead to a variety of issues that include:
- Cognitive impairment
- General fatigue
- Muscle weakness, which could lead to falls
- Weakened immune systems, leading to poor wound healing or susceptibility to infections
- Weight loss
Nutritional deficiencies can impact a senior’s health, wellbeing, and overall quality of life. Maintaining a high quality of life can be challenging for some seniors, but professional caregivers can help them attain this goal. Families can trust in-home care experts to help their elderly loved ones focus on lifestyle choices that increase the chances of living longer and healthier lives.
Take a look at the importance of nutrition in senior home care.
The changes that occur within the human body with age may affect nutritional intake and overall health. Seniors with hearing loss may not be able to enjoy meaningful conversations with significant others or family members, making mealtimes unpleasant. After they lose their sense of smell or taste, foods are no longer appealing, which decreases appetite. Aging adults might also make poor food choices.
Seniors often lack the energy they enjoyed during their younger years, since metabolic rate and physical activity decrease with age. Dental issues may lead seniors to avoid eating in general or stay away from certain foods. Constipation, gastritis, and delayed stomach emptying may lead older adults to avoid eating fruits or vegetables that contain vital nutrients. Cognitive impairment diminishes the ability to prepare nutritious meals or choose healthy foods.
Other factors to consider include an inability to go grocery shopping due to safety concerns, a lack of transportation, or financial limitations. Eating alone may contribute to a loss of interest in meal preparation. Stress or grieving over the loss of a loved one may reduce appetite.
With age, older adults often require assistance preparing nutrient-dense meals. If your aging loved one needs occasional help with bathing, grooming, cooking, or other basic household tasks, or if you need time to attend to important personal matters, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of live-in and respite care. Anchorage seniors can maintain their independence while living at home with the help of our reliable respite caregivers.
The Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommend caregivers use either the USDA food pattern or the DASH diet to ensure their senior loved ones receive an adequate amount of nutrients every day. According to the USDA food plan, seniors should daily consume:
- 1½ to 2½ cups of fruits
- 2 to 3½ cups of vegetables
- 5 to 10 ounces of whole grains
- 5 to 7 ounces of protein
- 3 cups of low-fat or fat-free dairy products
- 5 to 8 teaspoons of healthy fats
Caregivers who suspect malnutrition in their senior loved ones should find out the underlying cause. For seniors who habitually make poor food choices, encourage better food options. Older adults who don’t consume enough calories should be encouraged to snack on healthy foods or eat several smaller meals throughout the day. Vitamin or mineral deficiencies can be corrected with over-the-counter supplements. Increased physical activity stimulates appetite and offers cardiovascular and musculoskeletal benefits. For some seniors, making meals social events with friends and family members encourages healthy eating.
Hiring a professional caregiver is one of the best ways to ensure your loved one eats healthy meals and enjoys a high quality of life. Not every senior has the same care needs, which means they don’t all need the same type of homecare. Anchorage families can rely on Home Care Assistance to provide individualized care plans to meet their elderly loved ones’ unique care needs. Our holistic Balanced Care Method was designed to help seniors focus on healthy lifestyle habits such as eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and maintaining strong social ties, and our Cognitive Therapeutics Method offers mentally stimulating activities that can stave off cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia. Trust your loved one’s care to the professionals at Home Care Assistance. Reach out to one of our compassionate Care Managers today at (907) 770-0907.