Understanding the health essentials for your aging parent is an important aspect of their care. The nutritional needs of an older adult can be complicated compared to the needs of children, teenagers, and even middle-aged adults.
If you are concerned about nutrition on a daily basis for your senior parent, how can you navigate the information and still provide the best care? Let’s take a closer look at some of the important points of information nutrition experts have researched.
Good Nutrition and the Health Impact
As we age our metabolism begins to slow. It is a natural process of the body and can affect one’s health by not exercising enough or eating the right kinds of food. Applying the right nutrition and diet can create a positive impact on your parent’s health.
The body doesn’t burn as many calories with basic activity, so if your parent is not able to be as active as before, eating less can help maintain a healthy weight. With this solution, the foods chosen need to be packed with nutrients.
The aging process also affects the digestive system. The body will produce fewer fluids needed to process food, and with these changes, can make it harder to absorb key nutrients. For example, it is important for seniors to get enough Vitamin B12. This necessary nutrient often found in food, helps support energy function, protects the heart and brain, and prevents nerve damage.
It is also possible that your loved one’s appetite may change with age. Sometimes this is due to a change in medications, which can cause side effects such as an upset stomach or lack of appetite. In turn, this can lead to poor nutrition.
We can’t discount the emotional health of older adults, since multiple factors come into play on the change in nutritional health. When your loved one is depressed or lonely, they may lose interest in eating their favorite foods. Or, they may turn to food to fill the void and overeat. Paying attention to their emotional needs will greatly impact how they approach a healthy diet.
Suggestions to Help
- Grocery shopping. If feasible, try to go to the store with your aging parent and help select items that are nutritious as well as flavorful.
- Make meal plans. Preparing meals ahead of time and creating nourishing dishes will help your loved one stay on track with a healthy diet.
- Pick enjoyable foods. Don’t forget to consider some of their favorite food items. Just because Brussels sprouts are healthy doesn’t mean they’ll be eaten or enjoyed.
- Season well. The aging process can also affect taste. Bland foods won’t excite the palate. While avoiding salt can be important for a healthy heart, using other seasonings can also help boost flavor to encourage better eating habits.
- Eat together. When you can, enjoy a meal with your loved one. Not only will you understand how they’re eating and ensure they are getting the nutrition they need, but you will spend quality time with them.
- Hydration and health. With all of this, remember that hydration is also very important. Part of the health plan should include drinking the proper amount of water each day.
If you find that you need extra help in planning meals and overseeing your senior family member’s nutritional needs, home care can provide the assistance needed to fill the gaps. Turn to the professionals at Relative Care for the extra support that will make your loved one’s life more vibrant and enjoyable. Contact us today to learn more about our in-home care and nursing care services.