Adult children of aging seniors might assume that their elderly parent is eating well, but this may be far from the truth. The loss of a spouse, changing medical dietary requirements, ineptitude in the kitchen and physical or mental frailty can all contribute to a lack of healthy eating. As people age, their sense of taste and smell can diminish and they may not look forward to meals as they once did. A trained and caring in-home caregiver can provide companionship at meal times and monitor senior eating habits with meal planning, shopping and food preparation.
Healthy Eating and Age-Related Changes
As people age and their bodies change, their dietary needs change as well. Some seniors have problems practicing good eating habits due to dental problems and difficulty chewing, loneliness and depression, or economic concerns. Metabolism can slow as the result of the natural aging process and a lack of exercise can intensify the problem. A slower metabolism means that the body does not burn as many calories and the senior must eat less to maintain a healthy weight.
Maintaining the Proper Weight
Older people, especially those who are not active enough, should be eating foods with high nutritional value so they can get all the health benefits they need from a diet with reduced calories. The recommended average caloric intake for active women is 1,800 per day and 2,300 for active men. Older people who do not exercise as they should require fewer calories.
Health risks associated with overweight in older adults include heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and stroke. At the other end of the spectrum, underweight seniors may be at risk for osteoporosis, memory loss, decreased immunity and loss of muscle strength. A home health caregiver can monitor the eating habits of the aging senior to make sure they are eating the right foods, especially if there are medical dietary requirements.
A Healthy Diet
The National Institute on Aging, part of the NIH, recommends that people over the age of 50 watch their calories, limit sugar and solid fat, and eat a healthy diet with food from the five main food groups. A mix of whole grains, veggies, fruits, dairy products and protein are recommended. It is suggested that seniors choose lean or low fat foods and eat seafood a couple of times per week for protein. Low fat and fat free dairy products provide vitamins and minerals for heart health. When it comes to vegetables, a rainbow of deep colors in tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach, sweet potatoes and beans is recommended.
What a Caregiver Can Do
Seniors may find themselves in a position where they have to do all the meal planning, shopping, cooking and cleaning up in the kitchen, which can be overwhelming. Caregivers can help promote healthy eating for seniors by doing the following:
- Check the refrigerator to make sure there is an ample food supply
- Get rid of expired or old food
- Shop for healthy ingredients
- Prepare nutritious meals
- Encourage eating foods that are high in nutritional value
- Discourage eating empty calories in cookies, cake, soda, etc.
- Transport the senior to a favorite restaurant
- Provide companionship at mealtime
Hiring an In-Home Caregiver
When you need a home health caregiver for your aging loved one, contact Home Helpers of South Shore at 781-585-1244. Learn about the support we provide to make life easier and allow your aging parent to remain at home.
We serve the following communities:
Abington , Braintree , Brockton , Buzzards Bay , Carver , Cohasset, Dighton , Duxbury , Falmouth , Halifax , Hanson , Hingham , Holbrook , Hull , Humarock , Kingston , Lakeville , Marshfield , Mashpee , Middleboro , Norwell , Pembroke , Plymouth , Plympton , Quincy , Randolph , Rockland , Sandwich , Scituate , Taunton , Wareham , Weymouth , Whitman