Is Your Aging Parent Getting Proper Nutrition?
Elderly seniors who choose to remain living on their own in their homes, even with minimal help, often receive a lack of nutrition. Here are a few reasons why:
- Lost interest. Often, seniors no longer cook because they lose interest in cooking just for themselves or their spouse. So, they eat processed foods like TV dinners, pre-cooked meals, sandwiches, or cereal. These choices are not always the most nutritious.
- Lack of energy. Due to increased weakness or reduced energy levels, seniors may not put effort into making sure they eat healthy meals.
- Food forgetfulness. Seniors may not remember to eat regularly.
- Loss of appetite. Anorexia of aging affects up to 30 percent of seniors. Contributing factors include a reduced sense of taste and smell, which may result in less enjoyment in eating, and a loss of appetite, which can put a person at risk for nutritional deficiencies.
- As the ability to drive becomes an issue with many seniors, some may have to rely on others to get to a grocery store and do not have the means to get out as frequently as needed to shop for fresh produce.
- Food safety. A visit to your parent’s home may uncover shocking discoveries of expired foods in the refrigerator, freezer, or pantry.
- Lack of knowledge. Seniors may gravitate toward “comfort foods,” and caregivers may not have the knowledge of what constitutes a proper nutritious meal. Too few calories and too little protein can exacerbate muscle mass loss in aging.
- Medication factors. Several prescription medications and even some nutritional supplements are designed to be taken with food – to have the full effectiveness from a chemical reaction in the body or to protect the GI tract, so people don’t experience stomach upset.
These factors are food for thought when you are trying to determine if it is safe or the best environment for your loved one to continue living at home.
The Benefits of Supervised Nutrition
- Nutritious meals. Assisted Livings provide healthy meals and snacks daily, along with adequate hydration, to ensure residents are eating delicious, nutritious meals, which typically is one thing most people still enjoy.
- Catering to specific dietary needs. With professional cooks following FDA nutritional guidelines and any special dietary requirements like dairy-free, gluten-free, or heart-healthy meals, there is no guessing game about residents getting good nutrition at an Assisted Living.
- Monitoring and reminding. Family members have the assurance that staff will remind their loved ones of mealtimes if they don’t remember to come to the dining room and that someone is there to assist them or encourage them to eat.
- Convenient plans. Many Assisted Living plans include meals.
Considering the health issues that can arise from malnutrition and dehydration (see our previous article about the importance of hydration), an Assisted Living can be a great environment to ensure your loved one gets the nutrients they need. Eating meals can also be an engaging social time, another benefit of living in an Assisted Living community.