As a caregiver, it is important to pay attention to the nutrition of your loved one. Malnutrition is a serious senior health issue. Look for the warning signs and help your loved one avoid poor nutrition.
A diet lacking in nutrients and/or too little food is only partly to blame for malnutrition. It is often caused by a combination of physical, social and psychological issues. Issues with dementia or dental can lead to a decrease in appetite or trouble eating. Chronic illness, use of certain medications, difficulty swallowing or absorbing nutrients, a recent hospitalization, or a diminished sense of taste or smell also can contribute. Dietary restrictions can help manage certain medical conditions, but might also contribute to inadequate eating. Limited income might make it hard for your loved one to afford groceries. Depression can cause a loss of appetite.
Look for malnutrition. Uncovering problems with malnutrition at the early stages can help prevent complications later. Observe your loved one’s eating habits. Watch for signs of weight loss, such as changes in how clothes fit. Your loved one may also be experiencing poor wound healing, easy bruising, and dental difficulties.
Once you have determined that your loved one is experiencing a problem with malnutrition, it is time to get help.
- Talk with your loved one's doctors. Medication might need to be changed.
- Work with a dentist to treat oral pain or chewing problems.
- Consider working with a registered dietitian.
- Encourage your loved one to eat foods packed with nutrients.
- Experiment with seasonings and recipes.
- Plan between-meal snacks.
- Make meals a social event by encouraging your loved one to join programs or invite your loved one over for an occasional meal.
- Consider outside help such as community services.
Proper nutrition will help promote good health and independence and increase longevity.