March is National Nutrition Month and while it may be a good time for some of us to second guess the junk food we’re putting in our bodies, it’s the perfect time to address senior nutrition–a major health concern for aging individuals. Seniors have an exceptionally hard time getting the nutrients they need from the food they eat. In fact, malnutrition in seniors runs rampant in The United States. One 2014 study published in The Annals of Emergency Medicine found that more than half of seniors in America are malnourished and many more are on the brink.
Think about the seniors you know. Do they rely on “old stand-bys” instead of cooking well-rounded meals? Do they leave food on their plate or skip meals altogether? Is their diet primarily processed foods?
It may surprise you but seniors need about the same amount of calories per day as a middle aged American. Anything less and they could be putting themselves at risk.
The Health Risks of Poor Senior Nutrition
Poor nutrition in seniors contributes to a number of significant health issues including:
Increased Risk of Infection
Weakened Ability to Heal
Why Are Our Seniors Malnourished?
Unfortunately, there’s no one-sized-fits-all solution for malnutrition in the aging population. There are far too many underlying reasons for an individual’s poor diet. These may include:
Disinterest in food
Loss of taste and smell
Dental /oral health
Gastrointestinal changes (intolerance to certain foods)
Dementia or memory issues
Treating these underlying conditions is one of the easiest ways to prevent or reverse poor senior nutrition but it’s important to treat every senior individually.
What You Can Do To Help Seniors Improve Their Nutrition
Dr. Kevin O’Neil, clinical professor of aging studies at the University of South Florida says that “There’s a level of parental authority when managing children’s diets that’s not there when dealing with seniors . . .” This can often stem from family caregivers being uncomfortable giving their loved ones “orders” even if their intentions are honorable.
There are ways you can skirt that uncomfortable situation but still accomplish your goal. Try cooking for your loved one, adding more flavorful, colorful, and nutritious options. You can even prepare meals ahead of time and put them in the freezer for easy preparation later. Likewise, you can schedule meals with them, making mealtime a fun social event rather than a boring everyday chore. Help them find healthy recipes that are easier to prepare and clean up (one pot meals, for instance). Suggest dietary supplements like Ensure as an easy way to get nutrients quickly and easily.
With a little help you too can keep the ones you love healthier longer. Don’t be afraid to talk about senior nutrition—it could save a life.
Second Family Home Care provides non-medical in-home care in Frisco, Texas for families who need a little assistance and those who need a lot. To learn more about how we can help your loved one live at home longer, contact us today or call (972)347-0700 to schedule a consultation today.