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Need to Know

Tips to Encourage Nutrition for the Elderly

Maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet can be hard for anyone.

But when it comes to nutrition for the elderly or avoiding dehydration in the elderly, we are often faced with unique challenges. Here are some things to keep in mind when ensuring healthy eating:

Elderly Nutrition Tip #1:
Choose foods with stronger flavors, but avoid excessive salt

We all need to eat to survive, but we enjoy eating because of the way that food tastes. As we age, we are apt to lose up to two-thirds of our taste buds, leading to a decline in taste and smell. For this reason, many seniors lose their appetites, putting them at risk of malnutrition. There is no scientific process for recreating taste buds, but studies show that adding flavored powders (varying from butter to Worcestershire to blue cheese), marinades, or choosing foods with strong flavors (such as curry or garlic, or onion) helps to make food enjoyable once more. This can be a great way to ensure nutrition for the elderly and is significantly more preferable than adding detrimental amounts of salt to a diet! Including varying textures may also help make meals more appetizing.

Elderly Nutrition Tip #2:
Provide easy access to water

Dehydration in the elderly is extremely common and often results in hospitalization. Many people say, “I used to drink so much water, and now I just don’t anymore.” As we age, we lose our sense of thirst. This sense is what we use to help prevent dehydration – when that sense is gone it is easy to simply forget to drink. Providing easy access to bottles or pitchers of water and leaving them in highly visible places gives a visual reminder when the physical reminder is gone.

Elderly Nutrition Tip #3:
Choose nutrient-rich foods to counter the loss of appetite from medication

A very common side effect of many of today’s medications is loss of appetite. It is important to ensure that your loved one still consumes sufficient calories and nutrients. But trying to encourage them to eat larger quantities of food can sometimes result in outright refusal as an expression of self-control. An effective strategy for ensuring nutrition for the elderly is to offer more frequent and smaller meals of healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, and high-protein foods.

Elderly Nutrition Tip #4:
Make eating sociable to counter the loss of appetite from loneliness or depression

As a culture, we see eating as a social event. Seniors (and others) suffering from depression can lose interest in the act of eating. As a result, they will choose not to cook at all or resort to eating unhealthy meals or snacks that are low in nutritional value but quick and easy to make. To counter these unhealthy habits and encourage greater nutrition, it may benefit your loved one to make plans to eat with others, making the act sociable and enjoyable once more.

Elderly Nutrition Tip #5:
Provide reminders and assist with meal preparation

Maintaining nutrition for the elderly that are experiencing confusion or forgetfulness is a surprisingly common problem. Eating the same meals repeatedly or forgetting to eat a meal altogether can be detrimental. Providing your loved one with pleasant reminders of meal times and simple, easy-to-eat meals are excellent tactics to ensure that they are able to maintain some independence with meals but are not solely responsible for remembering when and what to eat. Assisting with grocery shopping helps provide fulfilling, nutritious meals, while establishing set schedules of meal times helps it become routine.

Alvita Care is a premier provider of in-home care services designed to enhance our clients’ well-being, independence, and dignity. Our excellent home caregivers pay close attention to the diet of the seniors in their care and help ensure that they receive appropriate nutrition.

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