10 Warning Signs a Senior’s Nutrition is in Danger

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Home Instead Senior Care of Minneapolis promotes the well-being of seniors living at home. As we shared in our Senior Mealtime Challenges blog post, senior mealtimes can be difficult due to cooking for one, eating alone and a lowered appetite. And the result of these challenges can be that important nutritional needs are not met. In this post, we provide 10 things to consider to help you assess whether a senior’s nutritional profile needs some help.

1. Depression.

Living and dining alone can be a lonely experience to the point of causing depression. Not only that, but poor nutrition can lead to depression as well.

Tips: Create routine ways for the senior to have companionship in general and to take part in congregational meals. These can be Sunday night dinners with family, senior centers, senior day care services, or church events.

2. Lack of appetite.

A number of things can impact appetite, including medications, depression and lack of exercise.

Tips: Consult with the senior’s physicians to determine if medications are impacting a desire for food. And be sure to factor in an exercise routine that is within the senior’s capabilities. Ideas include regular walks or a senior fitness class at your local senior center.

3. Scarcity of nutritious items in the pantry and refrigerator.

According to studies, nearly half of seniors who live alone do not consume enough fresh fruits or vegetables or milk products.

Tips: Shop together with the senior to choose fresh healthy items from the produce aisle or a local farmer’s market. Find a cookbook that provides simple food preparation recipes.

4. Illness.

Not only can illness cause poor appetite, but declining health and illness can be worsened by poor nutrition. So it is very important to think through the senior’s diet and find healthy foods the senior will enjoy.

Tips: Browse a picture-rich healthy cookbook together with the senior on a regular basis. Plan meals around dishes that are both nutritious and enticing to the senior. Making enough so that you can create easy warm-up containers is a great idea too.

5. Physical limitations.

One fourth of elderly people living alone cannot regularly get to the store to shop for themselves or prepare the food at home. Injuries and physical limitations can prevent seniors from getting nutritious food from the grocery to the table.

Tips: There are many ways to address this issue, including:

  • Arranging Meals on Wheels
  • Soliciting help from family members to help shop and prepare nutritious meals
  • Hiring companion care.

Contact our Home Instead Senior Care of Minneapolis office to learn more. We can help you sort out the options and determine whether it’s time to bring in outside help.

6. Outdated foods and a smelly refrigerator.

Food that has expired or is going bad can not only lose any nutritional value it once had, but it can be dangerous too.

Tips: Check for spoiled foods, items with expired dates and stored food that has not been closed up or packaged properly in the pantry, fridge and freezer. Label all perishables with clearly written labels and dates.

US Nutritional Fact Label

7. A grocery list lacking in nutritious items.

If you are shopping for a senior, carefully check the shopping list.  If the list is heavy on the simple carbs and non-nutritious foods, it needs an overhaul!

Tips: Make sure the list includes a balance of healthy items including protein foods, fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy carbohydrates such as whole grain breads and cereals.

8. Weight fluctuations or poor skin health.

Is the senior gaining or dropping weight? Have you noticed a change in skin tone? Sagging skin that does not look well hydrated or a change of 10 pounds or more in a six month period could signal trouble.

Tips: Schedule regular checkups with the physician to check blood sugar, weight, hydration and other signs of vital health.

9. An empty cupboard.

Events such as power outages and storms can trap a senior at home for an extended period.

Tips: Be sure the senior is stocked up with some shelf-stable meals or drinkable nutrition such as Ensure® in case it is not possible to get to the store.

10. Isolation.

Being alone for extended periods is one of the biggest threats to aging adults, especially those with physical limitations, memory challenges, mental health issues or depression.

Tips: Create a support network of family and friends who can help the senior on a schedule with outings, exercise, companionship visits, shopping, cooking and community or church involvement.

Resources

Senior Mealtime Challenges and a Fun Recipe Contest

Our primary concern, at Home Instead Senior Care of Minneapolis, is the well-being of seniors at home. Mealtimes can be very challenging for seniors, especially for those who no longer cook for two or more. In this post we will provide the results of a study performed by the Home Instead Senior Care Network on what seniors perceive as the biggest mealtime challenges, along with ideas for how to make mealtimes a more positive experience for the senior in your life.

mealsAlso, look for recipe contest details at the end of this post. Hurry and submit your best family recipes. The contest ends on September 15th 2011!

Mealtime Challenges

According to research conducted for the Home Instead Senior Care Network, seniors described their top 10 mealtime challenges. The following is the result of the Home Instead study, starting with the most reported mealtime challenge, along with ideas and tips for helping the senior in your life to have a more positive mealtime experience.

1. Lack of companionship during mealtimes (62%)

Tip: If you can’t be there to dine with your loved one regularly, look for alternative options such as friends and neighbors. Look into activities at churches, senior centers, and resource available at your local Area Agency on Aging and your local Home Instead Senior Care network.

2. Cooking for one (60%)

Tip: You can freeze almost any kind of leftovers, including sliced and seeded fruit, by placing it in plastic containers or freezer bags. Think about creating one-serving warm-up meals from left-overs, and finding healthy, low-sodium one-serving meals.

3. Eating nutritious meals (56%)

senior shoppingTip: Buying fresh produce, when possible, is a healthy choice and is also motivating. Alternatively, buy frozen fruits and vegetables, which retain nutrient content better than canned and processed foods. Plant a garden if your senior has the ability to tend to it.

4. Grocery shopping for one (56%)

Tip: Evaluate transportation choices or grocery delivery services to help your senior get the groceries needed for healthy meals. Make a shopping list of items that work well for making small meals. And consider contacting your local Home Instead Senior Care network regarding assistance that may help your senior with activities such as shopping and cooking.

5. Eating three meals a day (49%)

Tip: Create routine around mealtime. Set mealtimes to the clock. And, because so many medications must be taken at certain meals, it is helpful to coordinate mealtime with the medication plan.

6. High expense of cooking for one (45%)

Tip: Encourage your senior to share meals, check out the local senior center which may offer affordable meals for seniors, and look into Meals on Wheels.

7. Relying too much on convenience food (43%)

Tip: Your senior may need some guidance in reading labels and choosing healthy foods. Encourage your senior to meet with a nutritionist to learn how to read labels and make healthy choices.

nursing home8. Loss of appetite (41%)

Tip: Make mealtimes special and fun. Cook up a favorite recipe, help the senior create a favorite meal, and even put out the nice china and some nice décor.

9. Eating too much food (38%)

Tip: Help the senior to establish the right portion sizes, based on activity level. Make sure at least one or two of the items on the plate are fresh vegetables and fruits for overall health.

10. Eating too little food (35%)

Tip: As much as possible, ensure that the senior is getting exercise, which will encourage a healthy appetite. If not eating continues to be an issue, contact your senior’s doctor to discuss supplemental products to ensure proper nutrition.

Contest Details

Many family recipes come with a great story. Now here’s the chance to share yours. If you’re a family caregiver, get your mom or dad’s cookbook and pull out that favorite family recipe to enter in the Homemade MemoriesSM Recipe Contest. Then tell us in a short story what makes this dish so special. Visit www.facebook.com/cookingwithgrandma to learn more about the contest and how your recipe could be a cash prize winner. The contest runs until September 15, 2011.