Planning and preparing nutritious well-balanced meals is one of the many senior home care services we provide for the Denver metro area. By eating iseegular healthy meals seniors maintain strength and hydration, promote recovery, and assure proper absorption of medications affecting their overall health and well-being. Our caregivers take pride in preparing delicious, healthy meals for senior clients. The meal planning process is based on personal preferences of your elderly parent and may be driven by specific diets.
Details on meal planning & preparation services for elderly clients:
- We assist with menu planning – Our in-home caregiver can assist your senior parent in the preparation of a well-balanced grocery list to ensure proper diet. In addition, we can also help your family member clip coupons, find the best deals, monitor current food supplies in the home, and dispose of old or spoiled food.
- We’ll even do all the shopping – We encourage participation if your senior parent is able to go to the grocery store with us. Fresh air and activity are always encouraged whenever possible.
- Motivate meal preparation – Sometimes your family member just needs someone to initiate or oversee the process and other times, the entire meal needs to be prepared. We are there to be as involved as needed.
- Our home caregivers prepare nutritious meals based on personal preferences of your senior parent, provide companionship during mealtime, and cleanup at the completion of the meal.
- We follow physician and/or dietician requirements for providing balanced and appealing meals for elders with high blood pressure and heart problems, diabetes, liver and kidney problems as well as other conditions.
- Our caregivers are instructed to use fresh ingredients that tap the basic food groups.
- And, train for strategies to overcome the negative impact of medications on the taste of food.
- We balance the correct amounts of liquid and solid food with each meal.
- In-home caregivers encourage fluids at appropriate times throughout the day to help keep senior clients properly hydrated.
Studies show that over half of all seniors living at home are undernourished or malnourished. This is caused by an unbalanced diet, the body’s unwillingness to absorb food, or depression. As our trained caregivers assist with meal planning & preparation, they will also monitor the food and fluid intake of your senior parent to help promote healthy nutrition.
Malnutrition doesn’t pop-up after missing a single meal, but dehydration can rear its head quickly, especially here in Denver. Besides healthy meal planning, we also encourage proper hydration. Dehydration can lead to UTI’s and other conditions. For younger individuals, a simple antibiotic will do the trick, but many seniors are also on other medications or have difficulty administering their own medications properly. A simple UTI, brought on by dehydration, can lead to a hospital admission.
Before you make any dietary changes, we encourage you to consult with your healthcare provider. A doctor may suggest supplements if needed, and can help us devise a nutritional plan catered to a senior’s unique needs. With malnutrition rising in the senior population, it is becoming more and more important for seniors to make themselves aware of the importance of nutrition in their daily lifestyle, but they don’t have to do it alone. We can help.
Senior Eating Habits
We have a client, Martha, that we see on a daily basis. She has a vibrant personality, a socialite of sorts. We love to visit her, but when we aren’t there, she often forgets to eat. Dining is a social experience for her. Sitting with friends reminds her to host, to grab food and to enjoy a meal together. She’s a typical social eater.
As we age or take new medications, our bodies undergo changes that can lead to a loss of appetite. Food might not smell or taste as appetizing as it used to. The activity required for shopping and cooking might not be possible or as easy. Hunger doesn’t always register and eating alone might not be as satisfying. There are dozens of reasons why seniors lose their appetite and without proper care, complications quickly follow. They may be preparing quick meals on their own, but it doesn’t provide the nutrition necessary for a healthy life. As a result, senior malnutrition is on the rise.
Our caregivers know good nutrition is the foundation for seniors trying to achieve the goal of living independently at home. Caregivers can help facilitate healthy eating habits so that seniors can continue to live healthy lives. We can help find, prepare, cook and serve healthy meals. Knowing that companionship stimulates appetites, we’ll even dine with them (it’s a great part of our job). Accompanied with a regular eating schedule, we help uphold a high quality of life.
A doctor might say something like, “It’s never too late to start eating with more nutrition.” But in our minds, we are quick to make excuses too. It’s hard to tell a senior that they need to eat better, let alone expect that they’ll change something so fundamental after so many years. Culture and habit are very strong forces and often neither are working in favor of better nutrition, but there are options to help us achieve a healthier life.
Loss of Appetite
An elderly relative or spouse who experiences a loss of appetite can be extremely distressing. People tend to think the worst, but loss of appetite isn’t always a bad omen. There are many reasons seniors can lose their appetite that aren’t life threatening. Reduced activity, diminished senses of smell and taste, depression and side effects of medication can affect a seniors health and their appetite. Sometimes, there is no single cause, they just aren’t that hungry. According to Evaluating and Treating Unintentional Weight Loss in the Elderly, no cause is identified in approximately 26 percent of cases.
What You Can Do
First, consulting a doctor is always a good idea, especially for cases of rapid weight loss.
Second, if medication or disease isn’t causing the loss of appetite, it’s time to look at behaviors that can naturally enhance appetite:
- Make grocery lists and shop together. Getting to and from the grocery store can be difficult and stressful. Shopping together can make the process of preparing food pleasant for everyone. Grocery shopping provides excellent motivation to get out of the house and walk a little. Planning meals ahead of time and moving around encourages an appetite.
- Make a regular schedule for small meals. If someone isn’t eating that much food, eating a Thanksgiving-plate-size portion probably isn’t in order. Eating small meals, more often throughout the day at regular times can increase appetite and consumption.
- Make strong food. Fragrant, salty, sour, rich, etc. – all of these are good ways to describe meals that seniors delight in eating. The senses of smell and taste diminish as we age so bland food that doesn’t appeal to them won’t stir an appetite. Find their favorite meals and stick to those or try something else that will fulfill their needs.
The Tough Part
People need to eat…often. More often than we think. Keeping track of someone else’s diet is labor intensive. It requires planning, preparation, and cleanup. Keeping up with a regular schedule can be difficult. Anything can pop up in a day. During the holidays or when people visit it can be hard to keep track. But maintaining a daily routine and diet isn’t something you do most of the time, it’s ALL the time.
Alzheimer’s Nutritional Challenges
Alzheimer’s is expected to affect 7.1 million Americans by 2025. Many risk factors contribute to the proliferation of the disease, but one of them deserves more attention: nutrition. If a person’s vascular system isn’t working the way it should, it is believed that the brain doesn’t receive essential nutrition and oxygen. Practicing good nutrition prior to the onset of Alzheimer’s is ideal, but for those already diagnosed, it’s not too late. Seniors who already have Alzheimer’s disease can use help practicing healthy nutritional habits to help them stay healthy and independent as long as possible.
Helping to maintain proper nutrition for those who have Alzheimer’s and dementia can be difficult. It takes patience and knowledge to stir a healthy appetite. The challenges are unique among individuals, but can include any of the following:
- Diminishing dexterity might require assistance while eating, or finding foods that are easier to eat and don’t require fine motor skills. Easy-to-eat food also helps with dentures.
- Forgetting and not eating meals occurs since memories aren’t being created and perceptions can change. People can forget when they ate, or they might not even recognize a meal as food at all.
- Lack of appetite can be caused by a number of reasons. Social eaters often require company in order to enjoy a meal. Medications and inactivity can also inhibit appetite.
- Stress and distractions can keep someone from eating. They might need a calm quiet environment in order to stay focused on eating.
- Changing diet can be difficult for those who prefer unhealthy foods, but there are always healthy alternatives. Foods high in cholesterol, saturated fat, sodium, and refined sugar should be greatly limited or eliminated. A good variety of foods ensures an adequate nutritional balance.
Alzheimer’s Nutrition Tips
To overcome these challenges, caregivers can apply a number of approaches to ensure their loved one gets the nutrition he or she needs. The Alzheimer’s Association provides a number of excellent tips and strategies on their website for caretakers to use including the following:
- Simple and distraction free meals and table settings. Nothing but white plates of food on the table with a couple food choices and the necessary utensils.
- Be flexible to food preferences. Reduced smell and taste might require meals with more vibrant colors, smells and flavors.
- Take time so that they can chew and swallow carefully. Meals can take an hour or more.
- Eat socially. Research suggests that people eat better when they are in the company of others.
- Work with Alzheimer’s. If a person continues to ask about eating breakfast, consider serving several breakfasts — juice, followed by toast, followed by cereal.
The work required to maintain proper nutrition in those who have Alzheimer’s can be overwhelming. Alz.org provides a stress test to see if you should consider help. If you know you need help, we can sit down with you for a free assessment and we’ll make sure you get the right mix of care.
Most of us know that we should probably eat more foods that we don’t care to and less of the foods that we love, but changing is hard to do, especially on our own. Seniors might need help with activities of daily living, like driving places and taking care of the house, but an added bonus of caregivers is that they can help with senior nutrition too. Having someone around to help shop, cook and clean is an excellent way to get nutrition on the right track.
Proper eating habits should begin early in life and continue through the golden years, but many of us are getting a late start. Most of us have grown up with today’s fast-paced, fast-food society which makes it easy to deviate from healthy choices, but seniors face more serious risks due to obesity related diseases than their younger counterparts, like:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Memory loss
- Higher risk of dementia
Caregivers can help seniors choose healthy snack alternatives and plan menus that provide adequate nourishment. Preparing and eating healthy meals together fosters better eating habits.
According to the American Diabetes Association, nearly 26 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, that is 8.3 percent of the population. Anyone can develop diabetes, but it is more common in people who are overweight and not physically active. Diabetes can occur at any age but the risk increases as we age. Extended Family Home Care provides in-home senior care services to the elderly in metro Denver, Colorado. Our team of caregivers assist with diet and intake monitoring when appropriate. Our senior caregiving services include planning and preparing healthy meals and making sure our elder clients are hydrated and properly nourished. These services can help prevent and manage diabetes in the elderly.
Many wonder what they can do to help manage or prevent diabetes. According to the CDC, it is very important to Watch your weight – Weight loss is the number one way to reduce the risk of diabetes if you are overweight. By losing weight you improve insulin resistance, which is the body’s way of using energy from the food we eat. Research suggests that slow, steady weight loss is the best approach.
Eat healthfully – Consider eating more fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Consider buying and trying a new fruit or vegetable every time you go shopping for groceries. Choose healthier meals and change your high fat meals and snacks for fruits, vegetables or nuts. Read food labels and choose foods with less fat, calories and salt. Reduce the amount of fried food you consume and eat smaller portions. Drink more water!
Spice up your life – Cinnamon has been shown in a number of studies to reduce blood sugar levels. Cinnamon slows the emptying of the stomach after eating, improves the effectiveness of insulin, and has antioxidant properties.
Beware of endless snacking – Additional weight increases insulin resistance, and leads to higher blood sugar levels. Consider eating your meals at the table, and limit the mindless nibbling as much as possible. If you’re not hungry for an apple, you’re probably not really hungry at all. Try a glass of water, instead.
Fill up on fiber – High fiber foods, such as 100% whole grain breads, cereals, rice, pasta legumes and fresh fruits and vegetables have a significant impact on controlling blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of glucose into the blood stream. This helps to avoid blood sugar spikes and sudden drops in blood sugar levels, and promises a steady, reliable stream of energy throughout the day.
Be more physically active – Develop healthy habits. Go for a walk with a friend, a neighbor, your family and take the dog with you. Use the stairs whenever possible and park further away to walk a few more steps.
Many seniors remember Jack Lalanne on TV saying, “Exercise is king. Nutrition is queen. Put them together and you’ve got a kingdom.” If that’s the case, senior caregivers are the key the kingdom. Besides proper nutrition, caregivers also put an emphasis on physical and social activities. They provide a unique opportunity to make a difference in more ways than one. Talking, sharing meals, and participating in other activities cultivates a healthy lifestyles that is crucial to helping seniors live independently in their own homes for as long as possible.