Eating a balanced meal every time, in the three meals of the day (breakfast, lunch, and supper) can prove challenging especially for providers of home elderly care and the caregivers that have other tasks to handle. Things get more complicated if the senior has special diet needs.
Knowing the dietary needs and what else to look out for in a holistically balanced meal can help the caregiver get organized when planning meals for the seniors.
What Constitutes A Good Diet?
A nutritionally balanced meal will have proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, which is not what most aging adults get in their meals. Often, the food they eat will lack the following:
- B Vitamins
B vitamins may not be inadequate amounts especially Vitamins B6 and B12 as well as folate (folic acid), and these are found in cereals.
B6 – It is found in whole grains as well as the liver and other organ meats
B12 – It is found in cereals, lean meats and some fish such as tilapia
Folate – It is found in leafy green and cereals such as peas and beans
- Calcium & vitamin D
Seniors need to eat meals rich in calcium so that they can have strong, healthy bones. Yogurt, milk, and leafy veggies such as kales, broccoli and other with a dark green are a rich source of calcium.
The sun is the most abundant supply of Vitamin D. However, too much exposure to the sun is not healthy for the elderly. Hence they need to get the Vitamin D they need from food sources such as fish.
Caregivers Should Prepare Meals Rich In These Nutrients
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids help to reduce many of the health issues associated with aging, such as cancer, heart disease, and inflammatory problems like arthritis. Some of the food sources that have Omega 3 fatty acids include various type of fish, flaxseed oil, canola oil, and walnuts.
The seniors should get this nutrient in their meals at least twice per week. If this is a challenge, then they can get the nutrient by taking omega 3 supplements, which should be prescribed by their doctor.
Calcium is an essential nutrient for the elderly for their bone health; calcium is also a vital nutrient that helps lower the blood pressure. Seniors over 50 years of age should take around 1200 milligrams of calcium daily, which is the recommendation as per the World Health Organization (WHO). That amount is equal to four cups dairy milk, fortified orange juice, or fortified non-dairy milk like soy and almond milk. They can also take absorbable calcium from food sources such as kales, turnip greens, and other dark green vegetables.
Consuming that amount of calcium per day is a huge challenge for many people, not only the elderly. As such, relying on supplementary alternatives can help ensure the aged get the daily recommended amount of calcium. Check with their doctor to confirm if the seniors can take calcium supplements.
A healthy supply of fiber is good for the aging folk because it helps prevent constipation, heart complications, and diabetes. Whole grains, cereals such as beans, fruits, and vegetables are a rich source of fiber.
- Healthy Fats
It is important to avoid trans fats and reduce the amount of fat, especially cholesterol and saturated fats, in the seniors’ meals. The less of these types of fats or lack of, in the food, the lower the risk of the aging persons getting blood pressure and heart problems.
Lack of enough potassium is linked to high blood pressure. The seniors can get potassium from food sources such as potatoes, dairy products (yogurt), and bananas.
Tips To Make Nutrition Easier
- Getting the seniors’ nutritional needs right should not be a complicated affair. Even though you need to have the senior’s special dietary needs in mind, always give priority to the doctor’s orders.
- Avoiding the unhealthy fat in the food preparation process can be tricky. How can you know polyunsaturated fat from the saturated? Below are some smart tips that can help you figure things out.
– Do not use solid fats such as butter, use the liquid types such as olive oil.
– Avoid fatty meats, stick to seafood, poultry, and lean meats instead.
– Check the dairy products to ensure are fat-free or have a low-fat content.
- Switching it up now and then is how to spice things up when it comes to enjoying meals. Every meal should have a different taste and presentation while still catering to the seniors’ dietary needs. Give mixed vegetables, and fruits as well as various protein and carbs sources on different days.
- Prepare a meal that is bursting with bright colors, and it will be an appetizing and enjoyable thing for the elderly. As you strive to add some color and flair to the food, remember to stick the basics. To get things right, make a meal with lean meats, whole grains, vegetables, some servings of dairy, and fruits. Nuts and eggs are also good.
Tips For Common Challenges
- Chewing And Swallowing
If you are serving potatoes, consider preparing them as a mashed meal as is the case with cottage cheese, Also, consider doing the meals in small food pieces so that it is easier for the elderly to chew and swallow. If it is still a challenge for them, you can prepare the meals as thick fluids, which will be easy to eat. Also, remember to give the seniors enough water with their meals.
- Confusion Or Stress
If the elderly persons are battling with stress issues that affect their eating habits, you can make things easier for you and them by trying to eat a meal together with them to make meal-time a fun and social interaction for them. Serve sweets once in a while and only if they pose no health concerns. Remember to put out the utensils needs during meal-time and can take one food at a time, otherwise, keep the table clear.
- Dull Taste Buds And Loss Of Appetite
Taste buds tend to malfunction as we age and things worsen when there is medicine to be taken, and this can affect the appetite of many aging and aged people. You can give the food a bit of zing by using lemon juice rather than salt. Herbs, vinegar and a few types of spices can also help flavor up the meal.
Give the meal a bit of color and also make it more appealing. Also, try to vary the taste and texture of every meal. You can try to make five or six small meals as opposed to three large ones. And, encouraging the seniors to exercise regularly also helps to boost their appetite.
- Mouth Soreness
Sores in the mouth can make it hard for a person to eat. However, making the foods softer and creamier like doing pasta and mashed potatoes, can help make things easier. It also is essential to take the elderly for dental checkups.
- Strength And Coordination
If the aged persons find it hard to use utensils, then allow them to use their hands; prepare finger foods such as sandwiches and cheese cubes.
- Don’t Forget About Water
Most old people have a low sense of thirst only realizing it when they are dehydrated. You can help them stay hydrated by ensuring there is water to sip throughout the day or offer them low-fat milk or fortified orange juice. The liquids should not have any salt or sugar additives.
Since her childhood days, Angela has already admired those people who give primary care to the oldies. Because of her passion towards elders, she decided to take Physical Therapy in college which specializes rehabilitation for the elders. During her free time, she writes in her journal about the different moments she had with the elders that she loves most.