Good Nutrition for Your Loved One

Good Nutrition for Your Loved One

Proper nutrition is always an important aspect of a persons health, but it is especially crucial as people age and begin having health issues. The elderly need to make good nutrition a priority. Good nutrition will help avoid unnecessary health problems and may prolong the amount of quality life they have.

As their body goes through the aging process many changes will be taking place. Their body needs to be taken care of in every way possible. This will keep them as healthy as possible and will give them more energy. 

Sometimes it is hard to know exactly what changes to make in nutrition and eating habits. It is overwhelming to try and figure out a diet that best suits an individual person. There are people out there who can help during this process. The articles below give some good general rules to follow when encouraging your elderly family members to have good nutrition. 

The effects of good nutrition will always be seen in the long-run and will enhance a persons quality of life. Read the articles below to see how you can implement these nutrition tips into your life or your family members life. 

  Helping your care-receiver develop and maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet can be a considerable challenge, especially if you’re an adult child taking care of an aging parent.
     As a body ages, the digestive system is more prone to heartburn and constipation. Dental problems may make chewing painful. Some medications suppress a person’s appetite or promote weight gain. Depression can bring on a change in appetite. Dad may simply not care about food. If Mom has memory loss, she may forget to eat or may think she has eaten. Finances may be tight. Some older people, after paying rent and utility bills, have little left over for buying food.
     It can also be difficult to eat properly when you’re alone. It’s so much easier to skip a meal or nibble on less nutritious foods when no one else is there.
     And then, too, we each develop our eating habits over a lifetime. While we may know about the basic food groups or the food guide pyramid, that doesn’t mean we always follow those guidelines. Changing lifelong habits is very difficult.

     As the adult child of an aging parent, you can encourage your mother or father to eat well. This doesn’t mean being pushy or disrespectful. It doesn’t mean ignoring a parent’s wishes. In fact, the more your care-receiver is involved in the process, the more likely it is to succeed.

     ●A first step may be to talk to your loved one’s doctor and ask for the help of a nutritionist who can tell you what he or she specifically needs.     Your care-receiver may have to keep a daily journal of exactly what he or she eats. (The results can be surprising, but we would probably all be surprised if we kept track of what we ate each day.) A nutritionist will recommend an appropriate diet — low salt, low sugar, or low fat; high in fiber or calcium; and so forth. Encourage your loved one to keep this diet. When the family gets together, make sure that foods on the diet are included in the menu. Don’t serve your loved one food he or she isn’t supposed to have. 

     ●Check with the pharmacist to find out if any of your care-receiver’s medications would react negatively to particular foods (like milk, for example).

     ●Be careful with vitamin pills. They aren’t a catchall that makes up for poor eating habits. It’s possible to take too many vitamins. And they’re expensive.

     ●Keep in mind that some older people find it easier to eat six smaller meals throughout the day rather than three regular-size ones.

     ●Make food preparation as easy as possible for your care-receiver. Freeze small portions that can be heated in the microwave. Make sure the food looks appealing.

     ●Check out local community resources to see what kinds of meal delivery programs are available. Maybe your parent would like to go to a “nutrition site” at the local senior center and have a hot meal in the middle of the day. Help arrange transportation if needed.

     ●Remember that no one likes to eat the same foods day after day. Encourage your loved one to eat a variety of foods within the prescribed diet, and make sure your care-receiver gets the items he or she prefers.

     ●When grocery shopping, realize it’s easy to fall into the trap of buying only ice cream or cookies or some other single food because “That’s all she wants” or “That’s all he’ll eat.” Like all of us, your loved one would prefer to live on a single, favorite treat; like all of us, he or she needs nutritious food for the best health possible.

Try these 10 simple tips to improve the overall health and nutrition of the ones you love.
1. Serve several small meals rather than 3 large meals. Many elders have a decreased appetite and can only eat small amounts of food at a time. Serving more frequent meals helps make eating less overwhelming and can help provide the nutrition your loved ones need.
2. Provide water frequently. As we age, we lose our sense of thirst. This makes dehydration a common problem in the elderly. Make sure that water is always available and encourage your loved ones to drink even when they are not thirsty.
3. Make meals colorful and attractive. Use different colors, shapes and textures of foods to encourage elders to eat a variety of foods.
4. Use herbs and spices to add flavor. Because taste diminishes as we age, it’s important to make food taste good. Rather than using salt to add flavor, try dill, parsley, cinnamon, nutmeg, onions, lemon and other herbs and spices to make food taste flavorful. 
5. Encourage eating protein. Many elders do not consume enough protein. This can lead to muscle weakness, edema (fluid build-up), fatigue and a decreased ability to fight infection. Good sources of protein include chicken, fish, meat, eggs and milk.
6. Encourage foods high in omega-3 Fatty acids. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids help decrease the risk of heart disease, decrease inflammation (which can help those suffering from arthritis), and improve mood. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include tuna, salmon, sardines and walnuts.
7. Encourage eating foods high in fiber. Eating a high fiber diet can help prevent constipation, a common complaint in elders. Foods high in fiber include whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables.
8. Encourage eating foods with zinc. In elders, zinc deficiency is common due to an inadequate intake of zinc, decreased absorption of it, increased needs and more interactions with medications. Deficiency can result in decreased appetite and decrease sense of taste already common occurrences in the elderly. Good sources of zinc include fish, poultry, enriched grains and beans.
9. Make mealtimes enjoyable. To encourage eating, make mealtimes enjoyable. Eat with the ones you love, invite guests or simply engage in pleasant conversation.
10. Encourage getting physical activity. Even in the elderly, activity has been shown to be essential for decreasing the risk of chronic disease, maximizing mental capacity and having healthier muscles and bones. It also results in greater flexibility, more lean body mass, a better sense of balance, increased blood flow to the brain, a stronger immune system, less falls (and therefore less broken bones) and better overall health.