With all the hustle and bustle of life, how often do we grab a cup of coffee and a donut on our rush to work, stopping for take out on the way home to avoid the need to cook? Younger adults with a high metabolism, optimum muscle strength, and less chronic health issues can get away more easily with short-term poor eating behaviors; but senior dietary needs are different for the elderly, and if not properly met, can result in serious health concerns.
While our bodies go through changes in aging, the need to meet senior dietary needs becomes much more critical. Seniors who are malnourished are at an elevated risk for falls, anemia, illnesses, hospitalizations, and much more. It’s estimated that as a nation, we spend over $150 billion annually in medical expenses stemming from elderly malnourishment.
There are quite a few obstacles for the elderly to overcome in order to obtain ideal nutrition, such as:
- Medicine side effects, such as impacting taste and smell
- Problems with eating because of arthritis or dental problems
- Trouble with the tasks involved with shopping or preparing meals
- Lonesomeness and depression, making meals less pleasurable
- Lack of motivation to prepare nutritious meals when cooking for one
- Monetary constraints
To compound the issue further, healthcare appointments and checkups often neglect nutritional counseling. According to Simin Nikbin Meydani, director of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Research Center on Aging at Tufts, “If you go to your physician, they will weigh you and check your heart, but they are not measuring your nutritional status.”
So how can we make sure our senior family members are maintaining proper nutrition? The MyPlate for Older Adults from Tufts University is a good starting point, outlining simple dietary modifications that are less inhibitive than trying a complete dietary makeover. For example, “Tea and toast can turn into a bowl of oatmeal with a banana. It’s just as easy to make,” according to Shirley Chao, of the MA Executive Office of Elder Affairs.
Another option is to engage the services of an expert in-home caregiver, such as those at CareWorks Health Services in Orange County, California, who can help with planning healthy, delicious meals, running errands such as picking up groceries, and spending time with seniors during mealtimes to stave off loneliness and ensure senior dietary needs are being met.
For more strategies for helping improve nourishment for an older adult, contact CareWorks Health Services. We can plan and prepare healthy meals for seniors – and we’ll even clean up the kitchen afterwards!