Helping Your Picky Eater Seniors Maintain a Healthy Diet

By: | Tags: | Comments: 0 | September 6th, 2017

Keeping healthy as one ages can be a daily battle and with juggling doctor appointments and managing new and changing prescriptions, dietary issues are sometimes the last to be addressed. The National Institutes of Health recommend a diet of high quality, nutrient dense foods as the nutritional needs of the elderly change with increasing age. Health problems such diabetes, decreased kidney function and/or cardiovascular disease can mean dietary changes that limit the foods that a senior has been accustomed to eating his entire life. Also certain medications inhibit the absorption of essential dietary nutrients, placing the senior at risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Therefore, it is important as a caretaker to understand the obstacles that the senior population faces and simple interventions can aid in achieving proper and balanced nutrition.

Factors That Lead to Inadequate Nutritional Intake

A more sedentary lifestyle is inevitable with ageing. With a senior spending more time at home and decreased mobility, they expend less energy and as a result have less of an appetite.

They may also have difficulty with chewing or low energy. We may take for granted the energy required to chew on a steak or a salad and then compound this fact with badly fitting dentures or fewer teeth. Many seniors opt for softer foods and avoid those crunchy and fibrous foods, simply for the lack of energy it takes to eat them.

Decreased sensory acuity such as taste and smell may also affect your seniors dietary intake. With diminished senses, foods may lack the same appeal as they once did due to inability to properly taste them. With acute senses, the salivary glands go into overdrive by the smell of a roast in the oven, which in turn prepares the gastric juices for the next meal. On the contrary, for our seniors these cues may be easily ignored thereby they suffer a lack of appetite and GI upset when required to force down their next meal.

What can help?

Opt for healthy substitutes and not a complete diet overhaul. Work with your senior to choose quality and more nutritionally dense foods. They may not be ready to completely change their diet after eating the same foods for the previous 70 or 80 years. Help them to choose healthier versions of the foods they are already accustomed to eating. If they enjoy eating light sandwiches and soups, change from nutrient devoid white breads to a whole grain version. Look for sandwich filling options that will be protein rich and low in sodium and fats such as homemade chicken salad or tuna fish. You could also help them prepare a weeks worth of homemade soup and pre-portion these out into microwave safe containers that they can easily prepare themselves, taking away the temptation of sodium and preservative rich canned soups.

Ensure that your senior has properly fitting dentures and softer food options. With ageing and bone loss, changes in the jaw can affect the way dentures fit. Yearly dental checks will ensure that your senior’s dentures are not impeding their ability to assimilate foods. Regardless of whether they have dentures or fewer teeth than in their younger years, softer foods will be more palatable and require less energy consumption. While lean protein is healthy, dry cuts of meat such as chicken breast or pork tenderloin may be exhausting to work through. Meats that are chopped into small pieces with a sauce or gravy will pair nicely with softer foods like mashed potatoes, rice and pasta. Certainly, taking the time and effort to make homemade sauces and gravies will allow you to control the amount of sodium and fats that are included and are a worthwhile investment as the taste will no doubt be miles above that of store-bought versions.

Take your senior shopping. Yes, it will take more time. But getting them out of the house and to the store will not only increase their energy expenditure thereby stimulating appetite, but will also put the control back into their hands of choosing foods that they desire. You can guide them in making good choices and helping them to pick fresh fruits and vegetables that are visually stimulating as well as nutritious. Either choose stores that have motorized shopping carts or bring along a wheelchair for outdoor farmer’s market excursions to help them linger in the experience without wearing out prematurely. Go shopping at slow times of day when there are less people in the markets such as morning or early afternoon hours, as fewer distractions will make for a more peaceful experience.

With patient assistance, you can help your senior loved meet their nutritional requirements while maintaining their independence and control. At ActiveCare Home Care we want to help you in your goal of keeping you loved one at home. Contact us about care options in the home that can help you with this.

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