So many of our social activities are based around eating, so how can it be that millions of U.S. seniors are at nutritional risk? Once someone becomes a nutritional risk they also become more susceptible to other health issues and disease.
What is a “Senior at nutritional risk”?
In order for a senior to be at nutritional risk they can have one or more factors:
- Lack of Funds – When a senior doesn’t have enough money to make ends meet they may put off buying groceries; thereby, putting themselves at nutritional risk.
- Inability to cook – Many times seniors simply aren’t physically able to cook. You may find that they find it easier to eat a bowl of cereal than to actually cook a meal for themselves or skip meals.
SOLUTION: This is where a professional caregiver can be helpful; preparing meals a few times a week or even cooking enough to provide meals from the freezer can be an option when hiring a caregiver. Programs such as “Meals on Wheels” can also help to get minimal nutritional meals to the home of those at nutritional risk.
- Eating unhealthy foods – It’s often easier for seniors to eat packaged foods that are ready to eat by simply heating them up on the stove or in the microwave. While these foods may be quicker they most likely are filled with high amounts of sodium, sugars, and other not so healthy ingredients.
SOLUTION: Having someone precook healthy meals and freezing them or learning what to watch for on labels can help steer seniors towards eating healthier options.
- Having health issues that require special diets – Those with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems and many more diseases should eat from menus that are designed to help them keep these diseases from getting worse. Many times these diseases can have minimal to no symptoms while eating foods that are antagonizing the disease, until it’s too late and the damage has been done.
SOLUTION: Talking with a dietitian or nutritionist can help to learn portion sizes and healthy preparation methods; while having someone make sure the foods available fall in the healthy category can also help.
- Being unable to shop – Many times people don’t think about how often their loved one should get to the grocery store in order to get fresh fruits and vegetables. Many times seniors are limited in their ability to go places unless they ask for help from friends and relatives to go out; so they will often go without.
SOLUTION: Buy fresh frozen fruits and vegetables, which have been shown to have as much nutrition or more than those purchased in grocery stores. Have an In-Home Care Service caregiver take your senior to the store weekly or bi-weekly.
- Unable to Eat – Those who suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s, severe strokes, & other health issues can become unable to eat. When this happens they become at nutritional risk & require special diets of foods or drinks that they can enjoy.
SOLUTION: High protein meal replacement drinks are one solution to this problem; but please consult your physician to see what they recommend for your particular case. Sometimes you or a caregiver can still provide softer foods such as mashed potatoes, mashed squash, and other soft foods that are easy to swallow depending on the ability of the senior to safely swallow.
There is no reason why any senior should be at nutritional risk. You may not realize what your loved ones are eating unless you visit frequently; this is one reason why a regular caregiver can often be a first line of defense in assuring your loved one is never at nutritional risk.
Photo by mikemccaffrey