According to the British Nutrition Foundation, life expectancy has doubled over the last 200 years with approximately 16% of the population being over 65 years old. Good nutrition can play a crucial role in the quality and longevity of life, reducing the risk of conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cognitive disease, dental diseases and overall bone and joint health. There are many factors that can influence the nutritional care of the elderly, such as medical conditions, medicinal and nutritional interactions, low income and even social isolation due to lack of mobility.
Regardless of these factors, older people tend to eat less and are less able to absorb vital nutrients. It’s important to remember that the nutritional needs of elderly people are the same as everyone else and they need to eat a varied diet filled with essential vitamins and minerals. So, how can we ensure that elderly people receive the right nutrition given these factors? We have put together an informative guide featuring 5 easy ways you can ensure the nutritional needs of the elderly are met.
Firstly, it’s important to think about the cause of any potential malnutrition. You can discuss this with the person in question and try to establish if there is a specific reason why they seem to be eating less.
A common problem is that many elderly people simply forget to eat. To help solve this, you could start setting alarms as a gentle reminder for key meal times or you could write down a schedule for them and place it in plain sight.
- Make it Easy to Make and Eat
When promoting nutrition in the elderly, it’s important to make things as accessible and easy as possible. There are many products out there that provide great nutritional value without the long process of prepping and cooking, which elderly people can find challenging.
A great way to introduce more protein into their diet is by incorporating ready-to-eat proteins, such as tuna, cheese, yogurt and peanut butter into meals.
Whole grains for example have numerous health benefits including constipation relief, a common problem for many inactive elderly people. Whole grains can come in the form of crackers, cereals, breads and other easy to cook options for meals, including microwavable brown rice and oatmeal.
Fruits and vegetables are also essential in any diet for providing important vitamins and minerals. Dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale in particular are one of the best foods for dementia patients as it is reported that these super foods have high levels of antioxidants that prevent and protect any further damage to brain cells. If an elderly person has dental problems or is unable to eat solid food, fruit and veg can be easily made into a smoothie. You could also introduce food molds to aid digestion, as mentioned in our recent blog post on innovative products to help with dementia.
- Stay Calm and Positive
Although you may be met with some resistance initially, it’s important to remain as calm and as positive as possible. Older people are often unable to eat large portions and can sometimes be put off a meal entirely because of this. In addition, some older people tend to find food quite bland so ensure that food is seasoned well in order to make the taste more appealing.
- Products for Co-ordination Problems
Problems with co-ordination are extremely common in the elderly population. There are many finger foods that can be prepped in order to help make mealtimes easier and there are also specifically designed pieces of cutlery available too. Beaucare stock a range of easy to use spoons, knives and forks for those who struggle with co-ordination. These are particularly great for dementia sufferers, as it keeps them safe in moments of confusion and uncertainty.
- Include them in the Process
Allowing an elderly person to see first hand the ingredients and types of products they will be incorporating can be really beneficial. Therefore, including them in the food buying process can really help them get involved and on board with their new change of diet.
The reassurance of having you there with them, to read labels and provide the clarity sometimes needed when buying new foods, can really help an older person feel less anxious.
Dehydration is a frequent cause of hospitalisation in older adults, as the body gets older water content decreases therefore the risk of dehydration is increased and consequences of this can become more serious. Memory is a great part of this problem, so making sure water is easily accessible for elderly people is a great place to start when it comes to keeping them hydrated.
Products such as this specialist intelligent hydration system are also a great tool, it has illuminating base signals to indicate when its time for a drink. You can even record voice messages to set and use as reminders for those who are visually impaired, making it extremely accessible.
If you require any additional advice about any of the products mentioned or how best to help the elderly with their diet, then please do not hesitate to get in touch and we will be happy to help.