Caring the Elderly: The Importance of Healthy Diet
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Caring the Elderly: The Importance of Healthy Diet

Caring the Elderly: The Importance of Healthy Diet

 

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When you have an elderly person who is recovering from an illness or injury, or suffering from any chronic disease, along with the different care parameters, caring for proper nutrition is also equally important.

It must be noted that with growing age, the nutritional needs and appetite also undergo drastic changes. Usually, older people tend to eat less and their requirement of daily calories also drops down. Moreover, when caring for the elderly, it is also important to understand that the levels of vitamins and minerals in their food also needs to be controlled as more than required levels of vitamins and minerals can also prove harmful.

The focus should be majorly on helping them eat the right kind of food and supplements if needed.

Nutrition Requirement in Elderly: An Overview

The major reason why the elderly people face a decrease in the energy requirement is a reduction in the basal metabolic rate and decrease in physical activity. Apart from these changes, they also experience the inadequate synthesis of vitamin D.

While recovering from a major illness or an injury, it becomes crucial that they are given the required dose of nutrition. Though the energy requirement goes down, there should be no decline in the nutrition level. Eating the right food type, at the right time intervals will allow them to recover quickly and restore the quality of life.

Professional caregivers very well understand the importance of right nutrition for the elders and are trained in helping the elderly people get all the required nutrition from the food they eat.

The nutrition need is not the same for all elderly people. Elders who are suffering from any disease related to the kidney are not recommended multi-vitamins as it can subject them to an increased risk of kidney stones. There is a basic level of vitamin D which needs to be maintained in the elderly.

Depending on their health condition and overall nutrition requirement of the body, the meal plan is designed; and it is mostly done under the supervision of an expert nutritionist and the care providing a doctor.

How Healthy Diet Helps the Elderly?

When the elderly people don’t get the required level of nutrition their health deteriorates and they can even experience malnutrition.

A properly planned meal and nutritional guideline will help the elderly to:

  • Recover healthily and quickly post any surgery, illness or injury
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Reduce the risk of certain diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, certain cancers, and osteoporosis.
  • Reduce high blood pressure
  • Lower high cholesterol
  • Improve overall well-being

To ensure that the elderly people get all the required nutrients, it is important that their meal is planned and organized properly; and it should consist of five major groups of foods as indicated below:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Grains (including oats, breads, cereals, pasta, rice)
  • Poultry, fish, meats, eggs, nuts, tofu, seeds and legumes/beans
  • Dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese

Along with these, it should also be taken care that elderly person drinks plenty of water as it will help in maintaining the digestive health.

Taking Care of Their Meal

As the diet and meal plan is managed for the elderly, paying attention on the consistency as well as the meal routine is also important.

If the elderly person is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, then following a consistent pattern and fixed routine for meals will help create cohesion. Whatever meals or snacks are given to them must be given at the same time on a daily basis.

Gradually, this routine will help and regulate the hunger patterns and even create an appetite.

Eating with the family can be more comforting for the elderly; however in the absence of quality family time, the elderly can find a company in their caregiver while eating.

When cooking meals for the elderly, it must be made sure that the aroma, flavour and look of the meal happen to be pleasing as this will help in triggering hunger.

Apart from the above, you can also follow some of the handy tips that will aid in improving their nutritional intake.

When cooking the meal, focus on increasing the nutrient density, not the serving size. If the meal portion size is large, they might get overwhelmed looking at different foods presented on the platter

As stated above as well, setting a fixed and regular schedule for eating goes a long way in improving the appetite in the elderly. Human body adjusts to the daily routine and when the routine goes haywire, it’s the appetite that gets affected first

It would be a great idea to arrange for family meals where the elderly can have some quality time with the family. This de-stresses them and encourages them to improve their food intake

When cooking the meal, focus on increasing the nutrient density, not the serving size. If the meal portion size is large, they might get overwhelmed looking at different foods presented on the platter

  • As stated above as well, setting a fixed and regular schedule for eating goes a long way in improving the appetite in the elderly. Human body adjusts to the daily routine and when the routine goes haywire, it’s the appetite that gets affected first
  • It would be a great idea to arrange for family meals where the elderly can have some quality time with the family. This de-stresses them and encourages them to improve their food intake
  • When cooking a meal for them, focus on enhancing the smell and flavour by adding herbs, and sauces
  • Limit their intake of liquid just before or during the meals as it can make them full and reduce the appetite
  • Avoid excessive liquids before or during meals. Beverages can fill us up and reduce appetite.

Helping the elderly to get adequate amount of nutrients from their everyday meal can prove helpful in managing their health and maintaining the quality of life.

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