Malnutrition In Our Elderly Family MembersPosted by in Home Health Care
Although not talked about often, malnutrition in our elderly population is a health issue. Poor diet and nutrition with our seniors can be caused and exacerbated by different things and can also be easily treated for positive outcomes. Boca Home Care Services shares some of the signs of malnutrition and steps to overcome it as wll as tips to avoid poor nutrition.
Visiting a potential new client, we discussed as part of an assessment to determine a care plan, her typical meals. Breakfast is juice and cereal with a banana, lunch is two ice cream sandwiches and dinner a piece of chicken and maybe a tomato. Yikes, this is not a healthy diet. The woman did not look malnourished, in fact she was a little plump. The presenting problem is beginning of memory impairment, though no official diagnosis, she was widowed a month or so ago, some depression but in overall good health for an 85 year old – no heart disease. She only takes a couple of medications.
Well, hearing her typical meals wasn’t even such a surprise. Many of the seniors I meet, don’t seem to eat three meals a day, don’t seem to eat fruits and vegetables with any regularity .
So, how do you get an octogenarian to eat their vegetables? Was she malnourished or just eating a very poor diet?
We know that good eating habits is essential for our well being and health. Some of the problems associated with a poor diet include: muscle weakness – leading to falls and fractures; slow healing wounds, a weakened immune system which can increase the odds of illness or infection.
Older adults who have a serious illness or dementia are at risk from the effects of poor nutrition.
The woman mentioned above, doesn’t have an illness which has dietary restrictions, has an appetite, can swallow easily, isn’t on medications which inhibit taste or eating. She is financially comfortable. On the face of it, she doesn’t seem to be at risk for malnutrition.
Her recent loss, depression, dementia and limited social contacts, (her son moved in but is away during the day)combine to make her a candidate for poor nutrition which can worsen her condition and lead to malnutrition.
What to Look For:
Spend time with your aging parent or loved one at meal times – not just on holidays. Look in their refrigerators, freezers and in cabinets. How often do they shop? Accompany them to the market. If they are in a communal setting, visit at mealtimes and observe.
Have an idea of their weight. Look for weight loss. Are clothes looser?
Be aware of their medications and which may have side affects which affect appetite.
Be aware that slow healing wounds, dental problems or easy bruising may be signs of malnutrition.
Things to Do:
If you suspect poor or malnutrition, speak to your parent’s primary physician. Address it directly, review their medications and any dietary restrictions. Ask about dietary supplements such as nutritious drinks/shakes.
Speak with a dietitian or nutrionist.
Have a dental exam. Perhaps there is pain in chewing or denture fit which makes eating uncomfortable.
Bring in healthier foods. Encourage your mom or dad to eat foods with higher nutritional values. Proteins are good (unless there is a medical restriction). Find out their favorite fruits and vegetables. Buy them precut.
Think about adding spices for flavor, lemon juice, seasonings or light sauces. This will especially make foods more appetizing if your loved one has diminished taste or smell.
Buy healthier snacks for between meals.
Make social events centered more around food or meals. Have them over to your house for a meal. Get them involved with social programs that include meals.
(Many Senior Centers have a hot lunch program – in Dleray Beach it is at the Kosher Konnection at Temple Anshei Shalom.
Encourage and Participate in light exercises or walking. This can help stimulate appetite and strengthen bones and Muscles.
Make a shopping list and go with them once or more. Show them foods to buy and maybe share a recipe or dish.
Consider having meals delivered or hire a companion/aide a few time a week to go shopping with them, prepare meals and eat with them or take them out for lunch or dinner. Living alone and eating alone can make cooking seem unnecessary. Having someone else there can have a hugely positive effect.
The woman may continue to have her ice cream sandwiches for lunch but maybe she can add some nuts or at least compensate with a healthier snack or dinner later.
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