As people grow older, their eating habits change significantly. And this can lead to a variety of problems, most prominently malnutrition. Because of this, providers of home health care in California pay special attention to the matter when creating care programs. But how can you help your elderly loved ones stay nourished? Let’s take a look.
The Causes Of Malnutrition In Seniors
Malnutrition in seniors is typically due to a variety of factors. Note that not all of these factors might be present in your loved one’s case. But by understanding which ones are, you can better plan out an intervention program for them.
The aging process itself brings in various changes that affect the eating habits of a person. One of these changes is a weakening sense of taste, which is the most prevalent sensory impairment older people have. Sense of smell also becomes weaker at this point.
Because of those weakened senses, seniors cannot fully enjoy their meals. This leads them to have less appetite than before, causing a change in eating habits. Here, you might see them eating less. On the other hand, they might start eating food with too much salt or sugar to taste something.
Another aging-related change that can impact nutrition is the decreased level of activity. As people become older, they become less active than before. That also leads them to consume less food. However, while this is normal, they get fewer nutrients than they might need.
Impairment And Illnesses
Various conditions can also impact the way seniors eat. Poor dental health often makes it harder for them to chew their food. Swallowing difficulties can also make the act of eating less comfortable for them.
Additionally, physical disabilities and conditions like Parkinson’s disease affect their ability to handle tableware and eat independently. This makes them less interested in the activity. Meanwhile, mental conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s can make them forget about meals altogether.
Other external factors can affect your elderly loved ones’ eating habits, which could lead to malnutrition. For instance, the medications and medical procedures that they take or have gone through can have some side effects on their appetite.
There are also socioeconomic factors. For instance, senior relatives who live alone might not fully enjoy their food without company. They might also have limited income to get the right kind of food for their nutritional needs. All of these can compound the above causes.
The Impact Of Malnutrition On Seniors
Now that you have an idea of what might cause malnutrition in seniors, let’s look at how it can impact them. Malnutrition has wide-ranging effects on every aspect of their health. This makes it very damaging if left untreated.
Getting less nourishment will affect a person’s mobility and ability to do physical activities. Weaker bones and muscles will make it harder for them to maintain a good posture and move around. This can also potentially lead to accidental falls as they have a hard time maintaining their balance.
Malnutrition itself can also contribute to the weakening of the senses already present in old age. For instance, the lack of nutrients like vitamin A will lead to poor eyesight. It can also lead to your organs becoming weaker and more prone to dysfunction and failure.
Ultimately, malnutrition can lead to a wide variety of illnesses. It can also aggravate whatever condition they might already have, such as diabetes or cardiovascular ailments. This can become a vicious cycle, as such illnesses can change their appetite more.
Because of this, providers of home health care in California have made proper nutrition the cornerstone of their care programs. They emphasize the ability of the body to heal itself when given the right food.
Dealing With Malnutrition In Seniors
Detecting signs of malnutrition as early as possible is a must to mount an effective mitigation plan. Some of these signs include:
- Unintended weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling tired or week
- Swelling in some parts of the body
Note that these symptoms might differ in their expression depending on the overall health of the patient. As such, you should monitor them closely before making an assessment. You also need to observe your elderly loved one for changes in their eating habits. Ask them directly why they might be eating less or differently.
Improving Nutrition Through A Healthy Diet
A common misconception when dealing with malnutrition is that you just need to make them eat more to deal with it. However, without a properly balanced diet, this can cause more problems. Note that your loved one’s nutritional needs can vary depending on their condition. Thus, you should be aware of that before planning their meals.
Nevertheless, there are several ways you can encourage healthy eating in your elderly loved ones.
- Pre-plan healthy meals: There are a ton of nutritious recipes specially designed for the elderly palette. Refer to these to make planning a lot easier.
- User herbs and spices: aside from adding more flavor to your older relative’s food, they are a healthier option than the usual seasonings.
- Stock up on healthy snacks: Have some fruits, veggie sticks, and whole-grain biscuits that your elderly loved ones can eat in between meals.
- Make it more presentable: You can experiment serving things like mashed sweet potatoes to add more color to the senior’s meal and catch their attention.
- Create daily reminders: You can have these reminders posted in your senior relatives’ room so that they can read them easily.
Providers of home health care in California like Amavi often have a dietician in their teams. These professionals can help you in developing a meal plan that suits your loved one’s needs best.
Taking In Nutritional Supplements
Depending on the severity of the malnutrition, just food might not be enough. In this situation, you might want to introduce supplements as well. Note that you don’t have to limit yourself to medicine-type supplements (capsules, tablets, etc.). Seniors can be a bit wary if they see it as something added to their host of medications.
Instead, you can opt for something more palatable to them. For instance, protein shakes are something they are more likely to take casually. You can also add things like whey powder to their meals to increase nutritional intake.
Consulting Your Doctor
It is also a good idea to have a regular visit with your older loved ones’ doctor. They will be able to monitor and assess their nutritional intake better. They can then make recommendations on diet and other nutritional requirements your loved ones might need. Additionally, they screen for potential conditions that can affect their diet.
At Amavi, we make these doctor visits easy as well. Our care staff can handle the scheduling of these visits. That will ensure your loved one can go regularly. And we are ready to help you deal with other malnutrition concerns. Contact us today and give your elderly loved ones the best home health care in California.