18 Dec Elder Care Nutrition, Part 1: Emotions of Eating
While it is easy to get stuck in a pattern of foods that comfort us emotionally, seniors must focus on providing their body with enough nutrition to remain active and healthy. Eating a variety of foods from all food groups will help supply the nutrients needed. A healthy eating plan emphasizes fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat or fat-free dairy; includes lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts; and is low in saturated fats, trans fats, salt (sodium) and added sugars.
With older adults, it is important to know the additional issues they face with chewing, digestion and even physically handling. Here are several age-related issues to keep in mind as you evaluate foods:
- Decreased Sense of Smell – as we age, all our senses begin to dull. While eyesight is the most obvious, both taste and smell will numb down as well. Seniors may require additional seasoning for food to taste flavorful. Avoid using excessive salt and look into healthier alternative spices to have on the table and in the kitchen.
- Medications – Many medications affect the desire and ability to eat. It is important to have some staple meals that can be easily consumed. Liquid meals high in calories are often a good way to work around medication side effects.
- Dental Issues – Missing teeth, receding gums, and cold sensitivity are just a few factors that can make eating a challenging task. Food that crumbles, doesn’t require much effort to chew and is served close to room temperature will be helpful.
- Money – Seniors and older adults on a limited budget often cannot afford the latest health craze foods involving kale and avocado toast. With a scarcity mindset, they tend to buy cheaper versions of food and often receive far less nutrition. Take a look at the type of bread, vegetables, fruits and meats they consume to help avoid deficiencies.
- Physical Impairments – Older adults will have increasing difficulty manipulating a fork and knife, or even holding liquid in a spoon. Instead of soup, oatmeal or a curry with rice can help maintain independence. Specialty forks, knives and spoons can easily and cheaply be ordered online. Also, many foods are available pre sliced (apples, carrots).
- Dementia & Alzheimer’s – Memory loss diseases are increasingly common among seniors as life expectancy continues to rise. Individuals often forget if they have eaten or what foods they may like or be able to comfortably eat. It is helpful to make a wall chart or other written guide they can reference.
- Depression & Isolation – Make cooking and eating a communal event. Allowing seniors to eat off on their own is fine at times, but it can easily lead to a pattern of isolation.
In Part II, we will discuss specific foods and recipes helpful for older adult.