With all the busyness in our lives, how many times do we grab a cup of coffee and a donut on our harried way to work, stopping for takeout on the way home to avoid the extra task of having to cook? Younger adults with a high metabolism, optimum muscle strength, and fewer chronic health problems can get away more easily with temporarily poor eating habits; however, this is not so for the elderly.
While our bodies go through changes in aging, the need for proper nutrition becomes much more critical. Seniors who are malnourished are at a greater risk for falls, anemia, illnesses, hospitalizations, and more. It’s estimated that nationally, we spend over $150 billion yearly in medical expenses stemming from elderly dietary deficiency.
There are a number of hurdles for the elderly to overcome in order to obtain adequate nutrition, such as:
- Medicine side effects, such as impacting taste and smell
- Difficulty eating because of arthritis or dental problems
- Problems with the tasks involved with grocery shopping or preparing meals
- Lonesomeness and depression, making mealtime less pleasurable
- Lack of enthusiasm to prepare nutritious meals when cooking for just one
- Monetary constraints
To make matters even more difficult, medical appointments and check-ups often overlook nutritional guidance. Per Simin Nikbin Meydani, director of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Research Center on Aging at Tufts, “If you go to your physician, they will weigh you and check your heart, but they are not measuring your nutritional status.”
So how can we make sure our senior family members are maintaining proper nutrition? MyPlate for Older Adults from Tufts University is a good starting point, outlining simple dietary modifications that are less inhibitive than trying a complete dietary makeover. For example, “Tea and toast can turn into a bowl of oatmeal with a banana. It’s just as easy to make,” according to Shirley Chao, of the MA Executive Office of Elder Affairs.
Another option is to engage the services of a professional in-home caregiver, such as those at All Care In-Home Care Solutions in Oregon, who can help with planning healthy, delicious meals, running errands such as picking up groceries, and spending time with seniors during mealtimes to stave off loneliness.
For more tips for helping improve nourishment for an older adult, contact All Care. We can plan and prepare healthy meals for seniors – and we’ll even clean up the kitchen afterwards!