Preventing Malnutrition in the Elderly

preventing malnutrition in the elderly

Many experts feel that at least 56% or more of the senior population in the United States suffers from inadequate nutrition, and this includes seniors who live in hospitals, rehab centers, assisted living communities and nursing homes. While there is a range of reasons for this collective malnourishment, malnutrition exacerbates any latent physical or mental conditions – including Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related diseases. This is why preventing malnutrition is so importanat.

Thus, it’s important that seniors, their loved ones, and caregivers take proper precautions to ensure elder individuals are properly nourished and hydrated.

Simple Steps for Preventing Malnutrition in Senior Loved Ones

Inadequate nutrition shows us via a range of symptoms, including:

  • Loss of energy
  • Inexplicable weight loss
  • Depression
  • More frequent illness
  • Memory and cognition deficits
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Mobility and balance issues
  • Increased falling incidences
  • Irritability and moodiness
  • Worsening of current health conditions

The bottom line is that seniors need a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet in order to remain as healthy, positive and independent as possible.

The following are simple, affordable and actionable steps you can take to ensure your senior loved one is eating well and getting the nutrients s/he needs regularly:

Seek meal assistance

There are several ways seniors can receive well-balanced meals on a daily or weekly basis. One of these is via volunteer, senior-services type options, like Meals-on-Wheels. Organizations like these bring meals right to seniors’ doors on a sliding scale basis – with some seniors qualifying for free meals.

Is the senior a member of a charge or a spiritual congregation? Contact the pastor or spiritual leader and see if their community provides meal services or support of any kind.

Companion and home care services also offer meal services to their clients. These services cost a reasonable amount but are far less expensive than costs associated with assisted living or nursing home care and can also include other caregiving services as needed, including driving, errand running, light housekeeping, organization, medication reminders, grooming, and hygiene, etc.

Preventing malnutrition with easy snacks

Preparing and cooking food is a labor-intensive endeavor, and the labor intensifies when paired with memory- or mobility issues. Instead of seniors having to prepare large meals for themselves, stock their fridge each week with easy-to-assemble and/or ready-to-eat foods.

Ideas include pre-cut veggies with ranch or another tasty dip, pre-made deli sandwiches, fresh fruit cut up into bite-sized pieces, cheese sticks, hard-boiled eggs, etc. Meal replacement drinks, like Ensure, are fine once in a while but should not be used as meal supplements on a regular basis.

Company’s like Schwann’s or Blue Apron are also a great idea for seniors who are able to cook their own meals but want to simplify the shopping and preparation steps required to eat a good meal.

Stay in touch with healthcare providers

Sometimes a lack of appetite turns out to be an unaddressed health issue, the beginning stages of dementia, an undiagnosed infection or an adverse reaction to a medication. Contacting the senior’s healthcare providers is an important step in ruling out and/or identifying the causes of appetite loss so they are immediately addressed.

Read, Communicating with Your Elderly Parent’s Doctor, for tips on how to facilitate a collaborative relationship without overstepping any bounds.

Make food compelling

Have you reviewed the individuals’ list of dietary restrictions? It could be that the only foods s/he is allowed to eat are bland and unappealing. If this is the case, it’s time to spice – or flavor things up – introducing new vegetables, using lemon juice, salt substitutes, herbs, and spices, etc.

Read, Helpful Tips on Cooking For Seniors, for more along those lines.

Focus on an anti-inflammatory diet

We also recommend reviewing the tenets of an anti-inflammatory diet. Our post, Senior Care Tips: Focus on an Anti-Inflammatory Diet, goes into this in greater detail. However, this “diet” includes plenty of delicious and healthy food options but eliminates the processed food, simple carbs and excessive sugars that lead to inflammation and exacerbate the large majority of senior-centric health ailments.

If you follow an anti-inflammatory or similar dietary guidelines, you’ll be hard-pressed to not get the nourishment your body needs!

Get plenty of exercise

Yes, moving burns calories – but that’s what’s so great about it. Sedentary lifestyles are no good for anyone. Regular, daily exercise – tailored to the senior’s physical ability and needs – will ramp up a lagging appetite. When you provide the right foods, snacks and meals, any increase in exercise results in an improved appetite and a greater amount of nutritious calories consumed; it’s a win-win for all.

Let Us Help

Would you like to provide healthy meals for a senior you care about? Contact us here at Homeaide Home Care. We’ve provided high-quality, licensed, compassionate care for seniors in both homes and assisted living communities – helping them by preventing malnutrition and to thrive. We look forward to doing the same for your loved one.

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