Nutrition Concerns for the Elderly

3/3/2014

CarrotsNutrition means more than supplying a body with food for energy. In all stages of life, diet is essential for maintaining good mental and physical health. The elderly are particularly prone to poor nutrition when struggling with health issues or physical limitations. To ensure proper nutrition, caregivers need to be aware of physical and social changes that may lead to poor eating habits.

Sensitivity Changes

The senses of taste and smell diminishes with age. This leads many elderly people to compensate for loss of taste by increasing the amount of sugar or salt in their diet. Added sugars lead to unhealthy weight gain, while the increase in salt contributes to added water retention. The extra sodium also works against the elderly struggling with high blood pressure by making the heart work harder.

Digestion and Metabolism

Many elderly people experience loss of appetite, whether due to age or as a side effect of medication. It is important for seniors to eat proper caloric amounts in proportion with their slowing metabolism. Additionally, a slowing digestive system leads to loss in vitamin and mineral absorption. For caregivers, offering nutritionally-dense foods will help elderly people absorb more of the vitamins and minerals their bodies need.

Supplements and Toxicity

In some cases, supplements can be used to make up for shortfalls in an elderly person’s diet. It is extremely important to talk with medical professionals about adding vitamin or mineral supplements to a senior’s nutritional intake. It is possible for supplements to negatively interact with prescribed medications. Because elderly people have slower metabolisms, it is also possible for certain vitamins to build up to toxic levels. 

Eating Regularly

To maintain proper nutrition, it is not only important to eat well, but to eat meals regularly. This can mean scheduling meals times and menus. It is critical for elders not to miss meals. Financial difficulties may cause seniors to skip or cut back on the quality of food they eat. Eliminating meals or eating cheaper foods can slow metabolism and lead to malnutrition. Elders with dementia or memory problems are particularly prone to missing meals and need to be encouraged to eat and diversify food selections.

Maintaining a proper diet is important throughout our lives, and is especially crucial for the elderly, who are prone to poor nutrition. There are numerous ways to look out for older loved ones and to make sure they are eating well and getting the nutritional care they need.

For questions regarding nutrition concerns and care for the elderly, contact 2nd Family Home Health Services today.

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