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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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A nutritious diet is especially important for seniors’ health. That is because a variety of factors puts older adults at greater risk of malnutrition, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. These factors include chronic disease, physical disability, isolation,limited income and medications that limit nutrient absorption.

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As we age, our bones lose density, muscles lose flexibility, and joints become worn over time. Mobility can become limited and balance can be affected, making us more at risk for falling and fracturing bones. Seniors are especially prone to falling, and also to diseases such as osteoporosis and arthritis, which can impose limitations in the most basic activities of life.

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For older adults, there are particular benefits of healthy eating. They include increased mental acuteness, resistance to illness and disease, higher energy levels, faster recuperation times and better management of chronic health problems. Eating well can also be the key to a positive outlook and staying emotionally balanced.

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Diet has a direct effect on senior blood pressure. Seniors need to reduce their salt intake, and increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in their diets. Seniors who consume a diet high in sodium are more likely to experience high blood pressure, which increases risk for heart disease, stroke and other health problems.

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Because more than sixty percent of the human body is made up of water, staying hydrated is important to keep our bodies functioning properly. Elderly adults are among the most at risk groups for dehydration, one of the most frequent causes of hospitalization after age 65. Because of the potentially serious consequences of this condition to seniors, as a caregiver it’s important to recognize the causes and symptoms of dehydration as well as how you can help your loved one stay properly hydrated.

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