Here’s a telling number: More than half of senior citizens in America are malnourished when they are admitted to the hospital. Widowed and other older Americans living alone, as well as those living in nursing homes are the most likely to suffer from poor senior nutrition.
Malnutrition in the elderly can lead to everything from lack of energy and constipation to severe anemia, bone loss, poor wound healing and increased hospital re-admissions. If you are caring for an aging parent or employed as a home helper, you can take crucial action now to help your loved ones maintain a healthy diet as they age.
Eating Alone Too Often
Unlike teenagers who may be squandering their calories on fast food or grabbing candy bars on the go, malnutrition in the elderly has its own unique causes. The first is isolation, eating so many meals alone. Eating is a social activity, and eating in isolation day after day can lead to depression as well as dangerous declines in nutrition.
Why Senior Nutrition Rapidly Declines
Nicole Nicols, Health Educator, writes that seniors may also limit their diet due to:
A gradual decline in sense of taste and smell can reduce appetites and make food less enjoyable.
Jaw pain or missing teeth making it harder to chew.
Frailty may make healthy meal preparation difficult.
Forgetfulness can lead to skipping meals or forgetting to vary their food choices.
Lack of Transportation to a decent grocery store can limit access to fresh fruits and vegetables and lead to more reliance on canned or boxed food.
Healthy Senior Nutrition is a Team Effort
Good eating and great nutritional habits can be achieved despite these obstacles. For seniors living alone it’s essential to their well-being that they have someone to share meals with on a regular basis, whether it’s a relative or professional companionship care.
By now you’ve probably heard of the USDA’s “My Plate” nutritional guidelines, but did you know that Tufts University in Boston has unveiled a My Plate for Older Adults? Better yet, the nutrition scientists have identified 5 five key senior nutrition needs you need to make a priority when shopping and planning meals with, or for, your aging parent or relative.
In our next blog post we’ll list these. We’ll give you simple steps you can take as a home helper to ensure better senior nutrition and avoid a rapid decline in your loved one’s health.
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