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Signs of Poor Senior Nutrition

By August 4, 2016Aging in Place
Old woman eating a slice of bread at home

Studies show that two out of every five seniors who live alone suffer from poor nutritional health. The good news is that caregivers can actually see the symptoms of malnutrition and take action to address it before it results in hospitalization or severe illness.

Often the factors that accompany aging impact nutrition, such as taking three or more medications, poor eyesight and fatigue. And eating alone doesn’t make for a good appetite. Watch for these signs when you visit your aging loved one:

Overall loss of appetite: Seniors who were traditionally good eaters, looked forward to meals, and appreciated good food can lose their appetite. If the senior you care for has lost interest in food, ask them why. Check to see if they are suffering from an illness or if they are depressed. Losing interest in eating is one of the most reliable signs of depression.

Cognitive changes: Check in on the senior’s behavior. Do they say they forget to eat and yet they are home all day? Do they insist they eat all the time, and yet there is expired and moldy food in the refrigerator? These factors could indicate cognitive changes such as memory loss and dementia. Schedule an appointment with a neurologist as soon as possible. If they are suffering cognitive decline, intervention is critical.

Physical changes: Keep track of the senior’s appearance and make note of the following items:
• Weight gain or loss of more than 10 pounds in the last six months
• Skin tone that is dry, sallow
• Cracking or inflammation around the mouth
• Hair and nails are brittle
• Diarrhea
• Unexplained, sudden fatigue

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In addition to keeping track of the senior’s appearance and behavior, caregivers can proactively support good nutrition:

Look in the refrigerator: Throw out any expired or spoiled food. Wash the refrigerator. Place labels on food that will expire, and in large letters post the date that it should be thrown out.

Look in the cupboards: If the cupboards are bare, find out why. If the senior cannot physically get to the supermarket, LivHOME has support services to remedy the situation. If the senior cannot afford groceries, community services may be able to help.

Take the senior shopping: Today there are many nutritious foods that have a long shelf life. You can stock the senior’s cupboard with appealing, low salt foods that will improve nutrition. Make sure to purchase bottled water to remind the senior to drink more.

Studies show that 46 percent of seniors who live alone consume few fruits, vegetables or milk products. It is possible to get these healthy staples into the senior’s kitchen, without concern for expiration dates and moldy fruit. Most stores now stock milk in cartons that does not have to be refrigerated, dried fruits and nuts are good for snacking, and whole wheat crackers and breakfast bars provide whole grains.

LivHome knows there is no substitute for enjoying a meal with family. When that isn’t possible our caregivers will step in to support the senior’s nutrition, assist them with grocery shopping and cooking, and even eat with them to improve their health and well-being. We are just a phone call away.

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