For various reasons, the diets of many older Americans lack the essential nutrients their bodies so desperately need. A study found that over half of all seniors treated at emergency departments every year are either malnourished or at risk for malnutrition. Contributing factors for malnutrition may include depression, impaired dentition, and not enough healthy foods in the home. For seniors who are still aging in place, proper nutrition is essential for maintaining their quality of life and independence.
Health Problems in Seniors Linked to Malnutrition
For people of all ages, malnutrition can be caused by either eating too many foods that lack essential nutrients (overnutrition) or by not eating enough food (undernutrition). In the elderly, malnutrition typically occurs for a combination of socio-economic, physical, and psychological reasons.
Malnourished seniors typically experience one or more of these health problems as a result:
- Being overweight or underweight
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Slow wound healing
- Getting sick more often
- Heart trouble
- Vision loss
- Muscle weakness
- Memory loss
- More likely to be hospitalized or even die
To make matters even worse nutritional deficiencies are often times hard to diagnose because they can mimic other health problems commonly seen in the elderly.
Dietary Tips for Avoiding Malnutrition in Seniors
Thankfully, as an informal caregiver, there are several reliable ways to keep your aging in place loved one well-nourished, including these:
Monitor their weight
Look for physical signs that your loved one has lost weight, like a frail, gaunt appearance or when their clothes are starting to fit too loosely. Gaining too much weight is also a red flag, notably when your senior’s diet contains a lot of highly processed, sugary, or fast foods.
Encourage an active lifestyle
Since a poor appetite and malnourishment typically go hand in hand, encourage your senior to exercise regularly and stay socially active. Daily exercise promotes a healthy appetite, as does participating in social activities where fellow seniors gather to share meals and meaningful conversation.
Book them a dental appointment
If chewing difficulties and impaired dentition are keeping your loved one from eating as they should, take them to the dentist for a checkup. Sometimes a new filling or set of dentures is all it takes to get your senior’s appetite back on track.
Prepare healthy meals
It’s not uncommon for seniors who live alone to not want to prepare meals because it seems like a waste of time or reminds them of a deceased spouse. Loss of taste is also common in older adults. Tantalize your loved one’s taste buds by preparing them some tasty meals with herbs and spices to enhance the flavor.
If they have trouble swallowing cut their food into smaller bites, puree it in a blender, or try some healthy smoothies containing Greek yogurt, fresh veggies, and fruits. If you don’t have time to prepare and drop off meals look into a meal delivery service with senior-friendly selections.
Consult with their doctor
Certain diseases, illnesses, and medications can affect appetite and nutrient absorption. Dementia causes behaviors like forgetting to eat or buy groceries, while having a stroke can result in swallowing difficulties and taste disturbances – all of which can cause malnutrition.
When you suspect that your loved one is malnourished for any of these reasons talk to their doctor or a registered dietician about creative ways to get them the nourishment they need.
Reliable In-Home Dietary Support for Seniors in South Florida
Making sure an aging loved one eats like they should isn’t always easy when you’re busy or live far away. At Dependable Senior Care, we provide reliable food shopping, meal preparation, and cleanup support that restores the peace of mind of the clients and families we serve. While serving as an extended family in the home, our highly trained professionals support senior daily living activities through in-home services like personal care, household duties, companionship care, dementia care, and even live-in and 24-hour care.
DSC is locally owned and operated by healthcare professionals with 80+ years of combined experience. Our goal is to provide in-home daily living assistance services that support seniors and their families in South Florida. Those amenities include personal care, respite care, companionship care, nursing assistance, and Alzheimer’s and dementia care. To contact a Dependable Senior Care office in Palm Beach, Miami Dade, or Broward County today or to schedule a consultation for a senior now, please visit us at www.dependableseniorcare.com!