As people age, their nutritional needs change as a natural consequence of the aging process, and their bodies require more of certain foods and less of others as a result. It’s important for home caregivers in Menlo Park to recognize this fact, and to gradually alter a loved one’s diet to provide a more balanced approach to nutritional input. Understanding why seniors have different requirements and what those altered needs are can help caregivers do better at keeping their charges healthier and happier for a longer period of time, so life can be enjoyed to a greater extent.
Why seniors have different nutritional needs
When a person ages, they typically undergo a diminution of their senses of smell, taste, and hearing, all of which can affect eating habits. Since foods cannot be smelled or tasted as keenly as during younger days, a senior may lose interest in many of the foods he/she once loved, and just begin to eat anything which is prepared for them. Less acute hearing can have an impact on eating habits because seniors are often less interested in social meals since they can’t follow conversations as well.
There is also a decrease in the amount of energy a senior has, corresponding to lower metabolism and less physical activity. Kidneys generally are less efficient, as is the whole digestive system, and very often dentition plays a role in food choices because teeth may have been lost and not replaced. Taken altogether, these changes can have a huge impact on the kinds of foods that seniors choose to eat, or are even able to consume and digest. The foods which are probably the healthiest for seniors to eat are often the foods which are shunned, e.g. fruits, vegetables, etc., simply because they are harder to chew and harder to digest.
Why some seniors don’t eat healthy foods
In addition to an aversion to eating firm-fleshed fruits and vegetables, seniors sometimes avoid the most nutritional foods for other reasons. They may have financial difficulties for instance, or they may fear trips to the grocery store if they lack a companion to accompany them. Seniors often have less interest in eating, just because they’re alone, and there’s no one to share with, or they may have experienced the loss of a loved one, and have subsequently lost interest in many aspects of life altogether. Some elderly persons are institutionalized or confined to assisted living facilities, and don’t get adequate nutrition in their diets from the menus planned at those facilities.
Signs of malnutrition in seniors
There are a number of signs to watch for which may be indicators of malnutrition, or harbingers of developing malnutrition. Disinterest in eating and a preference toward withdrawal are red flags, especially when those conditions did not exist previously. A new tendency toward depression, possibly even including increased consumption of alcohol are also signs that a senior may be inclined toward a less nutritious diet, or eating much less than before.
Significant weight loss is another sign that an elderly person may be undernourished, and may be receiving much less nutrition than his/her body actually requires. Weight is something that loved ones or home caregivers in Menlo Park should always be aware of because it is one of the few signs which is readily observable in a senior’s daily life. When a senior begins to bruise easily or has wounds that are taking much longer to heal than they used to, this might well be a sign that malnutrition has entered the picture, and is slowing down the body’s natural recovery processes.
If a senior should be placed on new medications by the family doctor, this is a time when people who are in close contact should diligently monitor eating habits, to determine if there is any loss of appetite or a sudden aversion to specific foods. Some medications are known to affect appetite in this way, and there’s no way of knowing who might be affected without careful observations for several days following the start-up of new meds.
Restoring senior interest in healthy foods
Caregivers and loved ones in Menlo Park who observe any of the tell-tale signs of looming malnutrition, or of in-progress undernourishment, should take steps to reverse this disinterest before it leads to health issues. Discussing the situation with the family doctor is a good place to start since the elderly person’s health is at stake, but there are some things which can be done at home as well.
Adding a little zest to the daily diet can help, so try spreading peanut butter on various foods, sprinkle chopped up nuts on cereal or yogurt, use whole milk and cheese wherever possible, and add lemon juice, herbs, and spices to bland foods so they can be livened up a bit. Another great way to encourage more interest in eating and ingesting nutritional foods is to promote more opportunities for exercise and activity. This will usually make a person hungrier after the expenditure of energy and will provide a nice boost to the immune system as well.