It’s a fact that Americans are living longer than in years past. Despite this, the risk of malnutrition in seniors is growing. There are various reasons for this: lack of appetite, lack of energy, financial issues, or the inability to get to the grocery store. Knowing why malnutrition occurs in seniors and how to help solve the problem is very important to be aware of as a caregiver. Here are 5 ways to help combat senior malnutrition.
1. Know why malnutrition occurs.
Older people find that their taste buds have dulled, and so hot, cold, sweet or sour foods may seem to have diminished flavors. Attempts to compensate for this by increasing the temperature of salt content of the foods can damage a senior’s throat, tongue, and stomach. Understand their taste preferences and be sure to encourage them to choose healthy foods that they actually enjoy eating.
2. Help a senior stay informed.
Due to medications or other health issues, seniors may not be aware that their food choices are in fact harming them. Caregivers and loved ones should educate themselves as to the best foods for a senior to eat and then educate the senior as well. It’s also important to realize that medications can cause anorexia, weight loss or gain, and even changes to the tastebuds. Talk to their doctor to understand any side effects that may occur as a result of a medication plan along with ways to combat them.
3. Help monitor a senior’s diet.
A simple visit to check the senior’s fridge and cupboards can be a great way to see if a senior is making healthy choices. If not, accompany them to the grocery store and help them select nutritional items. Additionally, be sure to observe your senior loved one. Are they able to eat the food they have in the house and are they taking care of themselves? Bad hygiene can be a sign of depression or a lack of energy which can impact their desire to buy and prepare food.
Help seniors maintain a healthy diet. If it isn’t possible to do grocery shopping for them, accompany them to the grocery store. Help them select nutritious foods that are appetizing and easy to prepare. Help prepare meals, and join them while they eat. Seniors who know they won’t have to eat alone may eat more.
After grocery shopping or helping to prepare meals, go a step further and organize food in such a way that it can be prepared without much effort. Encourage them to choose nutritious meals that tastes good, despite issues of appetite. A senior who has easy options around them are much more apt to eat, knowing it won’t take too much energy to do so.