As the winter seems to be quickly approaching, I thought a blog post about the importance of good nutrition and hydration amongst the elderly seemed appropriate. This vulnerable group may need some extra care and dietary advice, especially as it gets colder …
Many elderly people have an increased risk of malnutrition and dietary deficiencies, compared with other adult populations. Diet, therefore, plays an important role in maintaining the health of our elderly population.
Worryingly, research suggests that malnutrition in persons over the age of 65 could be as high as 35%. So a diet that is rich in essential nutrients is vital. Several factors can affect the diets of this group. These may include:
the inability to prepare meals,
limited access to shops,
a small budget for food,
appetite impacted by medications.
Prioritising meal times each day is vital and will help ensure that our older population eat well. If you care for an elderly friend, relative or client, then encouraging then to take the time to sit down and eat a nutritious meal is especially important.
Helping them prepare a meal at home or taking them out for lunch would help to make sure that they are eating frequently and getting a varied diet.
As many elderly people have a reduced appetite, offering smaller, nutritionally dense meals is important. A range of foods which are high in calories and nutrients should be offered, whenever possible.
These meals should include a source of protein which is needed for muscle and skin repair. Protein is also important as it aids healing in people who are sick, or post-surgery. Meat, fish, eggs, milk, soy products and beans are all sources of protein.
Healthy fats, which include nuts, seeds, oily fish, avocado and olive oil are important as they supply your body with energy and are high in calories. These ‘healthy fats’ can also help to reduce the risk of developing blood clots.
Carbohydrates are important to the elderly, as they provide the fuel needed to keep their bodies functioning properly. Potatoes, bread, whole grains fruit and vegetables are all good sources of carbohydrates … other examples include cakes, chocolate and biscuits, which although not considered ‘healthy’ should be encouraged in moderation, especially if weight gain is needed.
Vegetables and fruit are an important source of fibre, which is needed to keep bowels healthy and to help prevent high blood pressure. Frozen or canned may be the only option for many elderly people, and both these are a great alternative to fresh varieties. Just make sure that they’re not packaged in syrup or contain too much salt.
“Drink, drink, drink!”
Fluids are especially important as many elderly folk do not drink enough, which can be a frequent cause of hospital admissions. Dehydration can cause fatigue and confusion, so it is vital that fluid intake is encouraged (unless advised otherwise). Water, fruit tea, milky drinks and fruit juice can all be included as part of someone’s fluid intake.
If your elderly friend, neighbour or family member has a poor appetite, then remember, it is perfectly acceptable for them to snack between meals, to help maintain their weight and energy levels. A glass of milk, cheese and crackers, nuts, toast, yoghurt and cereals are all excellent choices!
This is one of the many services Extra Help provides on a daily basis to clients who need it. We often have calls from family members who worry about their relatives and their eating patterns.
With the busy lives we all lead it’s sometimes hard to fit everything in. Having someone to help with this is invaluable. We can send a home helper in to prepare food and drinks for the elderly on a daily or weekly basis.
“Would you like to know more?”
For more information on this service and the areas we cover throughout the UK, please have a look at our website, call us on 0845 618 2904 or click here to ping over an email and we’ll get right back to you.
Until next time …
PS:Why not visit www.extra-help.co.uk and find out more?