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Seniors and Nutrition

Good nutrition contributes to a greater quality of life for seniors

More than 1 in 3 seniors in the care of others is at risk for under- or mal-nutrition (Mayo Clinic/American Dietetic Association). Malnutrition is the lack of proper nutrition, not necessarily a lack of food. Detecting malnutrition in seniors may be difficult, and even seniors who eat enough may be eating the wrong foods to keep themselves healthy. At Comfort Keepers® Canada, we help seniors live healthy, independent lives and promote senior nutrition.

As seniors age and change, so do their nutritional needs. Making sure those needs are met makes a real difference in their quality of life. Caregivers or family members should be aware of the signs and symptoms of hunger or malnutrition in older adults, which include the following:

  • Watch for physical problems, such as poor wound healing, easy bruising and dental difficulties.
  • Keep track of weight loss, which may require purchasing a home scale or transporting the older adult to the doctor’s office for weight checks when the individual is unable to stand without assistance.
  • Pay close attention to seniors’ eating habits and ask them to tell you where and when they eat, but don’t rely on self-reports a lone. Since our caregivers, the people we call Comfort Keepers®, often spend mealtimes with seniors at home, they may have a better idea of normal eating habits.
  • Suggest family members visit during mealtimes, which can improve a senior’s consumption. If a senior lives alone, make sure you know who is buying his or her food.
  • Know what medications an older loved one takes and whether they can affect appetite and digestion. Use the resources available through your local retail pharmacist to check for drug nutrient interactions or possible side effects of prescribed medications.
  • If there are medical questions regarding nutrition, medication, and health, Comfort Keepers suggests seniors, their family members, and other caregivers speak with doctors about tests that can help identify chronic malnutrition or other nutrition-related problems.

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Food safety for seniors: each year about about 13 million Canadians become ill from eating foods contaminated by bacteria, viruses or parasites, Health Canada reports. However, safe food handling, preparation and storage practices can greatly decrease the risks of food-borne illness. These practices are particularly important for seniors.

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Seniors are at a higher risk of dehydration than younger adults. In fact, one study showed that up to 48% of seniors were dehydrated upon admission to the emergency department for other issues. Staying hydrated keeps the cardiovascular system healthy. Proper hydration positively affects both blood pressure and heart rate.

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A healthy diet delivers essential nutrients for optimal health and plays an essential role in improving the quality of life and independence of senior citizens. According to the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health, good nutrition may help seniors slow the onset of many diseases, manage the symptoms of chronic illness, lessen the impact of disease on lifestyle and boost longevity.

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Hunger and malnutrition is a greater problem for Canada’s seniors than many may realize—and it is due to a wide variety of causes, not just financial constraints. According to a report by FoodBanks Canada seniors accounted for 5.5% of food bank clients in a typical month.

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A well-balanced, heart-healthy diet—rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains—reduces plaque build-up in the arteries to deliver a free-flowing stream of oxygen to all parts of the body, including the brain.

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