In America we know that a healthy life is dependent on good nutrition. Yet in a nation where people die from complications of too much food, some die from too little. Most of us think of malnutrition as a killer in developing countries. But today it is a real problem among our elderly population.
A recent study found that 16% of our elderly population is malnourished. And according to the CDC between 2,000 and 3,000 older adults die from malnutrition each year.
The contributing factors of malnourishment among the elderly are a combination of physical, social and psychological issues. Physically speaking, as we age our sense of taste and smell diminishes. Combine that with dietary restrictions, then food really becomes unappetizing.
Also physical pain and poor strength can make even the simplest tasks difficult—opening a can, peeling fruit, washing veggies, even standing for a long period of time. Other health issues that can lead to decreased appetite are dental problems, the use of some medications, or chronic illness.
Depression plays a role in malnutrition. Losing a loved one, failing health, lack of mobility can cause depression, making mealtime less enjoyable.
A limited income also contributes to malnutrition among the elderly especially if they are required to take expensive medications.
So, what can you do to ensure that your elderly loved one receives the proper nutrition? First, if your loved one is losing weight, then immediately talk with the doctor to identify the contributing factors. Is it the medication, the diet restriction, the illness?
Encourage your loved one to eat foods rich in nutrients like peanut butter, fresh fruits, and raw vegetables. And if your loved one is on a bland diet use lemon juice, herbs and spices to adjust the flavor of the food.
Visit during mealtimes or invite your loved one to your house on occasion. Making meals a social event may make eating enjoyable again.
Provide food saving tips like coupons, store fliers or splitting bulk foods with a neighbor. Early bird specials with a friend can also be an uplifting outing.
Lastly, consider outside help like Stay At Home. We can help your loved one shop for groceries, prepare meals, and provide that one-on-one companionship that is so very important.
The Stay At Home family