Elders, Meal Prep, and Nutrition
Nutrition and proper eating becomes more important as we age. First and foremost, elders need energy to remain active and healthy. But with many, they lose their appetite and fall in to bad, inconsistent eating habits. Because of living alone, many seniors don’t want to put in the time and work to prepare proper meals for themselves. So they get lazy, and start to skip the work required for proper meal preparation and simply grab a cookie or anything easy to eat and prepare.
In many cases, clients of Home Care Partners fall into two distinct categories. 1.) They will eat whatever is served. Or, 2.) they are picky eaters. In the latter case, usually these seniors will provide detailed instructions as to how they enjoy their meals. So in either case, our homecare staff is able to prepare and serve meals to insure proper food intake for our clients.
In some cases, not only does homecare staff prepare the meal, but then they will sit with the senior to monitor ingestion. We have had clients who become distracted upon taking a couple of bites, and attempt to get up and leave the table. Having professional staff to “corral” these wanderers back to the dining table will insure that seniors eat properly.
Menu planning also becomes an important consideration for family and care staff. What do they enjoy? And what is nutritious, and simple, to prepare and eat? When organizing the grocery shopping list, here are some characteristics to consider. (And, if there are certain dietary needs recommended by your doctor, you should certainly follow his/her guidance.)
— Easy to Chew and Swallow: Digestive processes change with age. For example, seniors do not produce the same amount of saliva as in younger years. Dry foods can be difficult to chew, and swallow. Tough meats, in large bite chunks, along with raw vegetables can be difficult to chew. Softer foods (example, pasta or fish) are much more easily consumed. Smaller, well cut portions also help. Remember, many senior citizens may be wearing dentures or have missing teeth.
— Nutritional Recipes: Most seniors tend to have smaller appetites which can contribute to weight loss. But don’t overload their meal portions. Better to keep meals on a smaller scale, and encourage small healthy snacks in between meals. Meals that are high in nutrition and calories can help elderly parents maintain a healthy, stable weight.
— Minimize Salt Content: Most seniors have salt restrictions. Minimizing intake will help reduce the body’s water retention, which will also assist in dealing with high blood pressure levels. Cooking with low or no salt is best. Remove the salt shaker from the dining table. And avoid processed foods and salted meats.
— Make it Tasty: Elders still enjoy eating. Meals may be how they organize their days. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are daily benchmarks. Keeping on a consistent schedule is important. During meal prep, adding certain seasonings (avoid hot and spicy!) will make a meal taste more flavorful. It is also important to note…our senses change as we age. Taste, and smell, may not be as strong as in early years of life. Finally, prescription medications can affect the senses of the elderly.
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John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions.
Phone: (781) 378-2164