Nutrition for Seniors – Information & Tips for Caregivers
Healthy eating plays a vital role in our well-being and longevity at any age. However, it becomes especially important later in life since seniors are particularly more susceptible to malnutrition.
According to Statistics Canada, 34% of seniors living at home are at risk of not getting the adequate nutrition they need. Therefore, it’s imperative that caregivers of seniors make a concentrated effort to help their loved ones maintain healthy eating habits.
What Factors Make Seniors More Susceptible to Malnutrition?
- Medication side-effects
- Changing taste buds
- Trouble swallowing
- Lack of mobility
- Lack of appetite
Signs of Senior Malnutrition
- Low energy
- Bruised or dry skin
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle weakness
- Getting sick often
What is a Good Diet for Seniors?
According to Canada’s Food Guide, it is recommended that older adults try to at least eat the minimum number of servings from the following food groups each day:
- 6-7 servings of grain products
- 7 servings of vegetables and fruit
- 3 servings of milk and alternatives
- 2-3 servings meat and alternatives (2-3 servings)
Another great way to ensure your loved one is getting the proper nutrition they need for each meal is to apply the plate method. The idea of the plate method is to aim for a balanced plate of food. Canada’s food guide recommends that half of the plate be filled with vegetables, while the other half should be split between whole grains and lean protein. This means that foods high in fat and high in sugar should be limited or avoided in a senior’s diet.
Tips for Caregivers on Preventing Senior Malnutrition
As a caregiver, and depending on the circumstances of your loved one’s state of health, there are several ways that you can ensure your loved one is getting proper nutrition.
For Seniors with Dull Taste Buds & Loss of Appetite
Since our sense of taste gets weaker as we age, and certain medications can exasperate taste deterioration, this can impact a senior’s desire to eat. To combat this, try to make meals more appealing by adding more herbs and spices to kick up the flavour. Also, you can try to set out healthy snacks throughout the day, such as cut up fruit or mixed nuts to further encourage your loved one to eat.
For Seniors Who Have a Difficult Time Chewing and Swallowing
Some seniors can develop dysphagia, a condition that makes it hard to swallow food or liquids. If your loved one suffers from this condition, cut food into smaller pieces and serve softer foods like mashed potatoes. If you suspect your loved one has this condition but are unsure, consult a doctor for proper diagnosis.
Serve Nutrient-Rich Foods Where Possible
Aging adults require more nutrients than they did when they were younger. As such, caregivers should ensure that each meal provides a high dose of protein, calcium, B vitamins and other nutrients.
Ensure Your Loved One Stays Hydrated Throughout the Day
Dehydration is another common issue among aging adults, as it becomes harder to determine our own level of thirstiness. Certain medications, decreased kidney function and illnesses can also affect hydration levels. To safeguard against dehydration, it’s important to keep track of fluid intake and to make sure that water is easily accessible for them.
Consult a Doctor
If you notice your loved one exhibiting signs of malnutrition, always consult their doctor to identify and address the signs and symptoms.