Our senior population often struggles with maintaining proper nutrition. Hurdles can range from breakdown of natural teeth and oral health, consequences of a low income, and memory loss issues. Our advisors at Senior Living Experts have some tips on how to maintain proper nutrition.
Seniors that suffer from poor oral health, swallowing difficulties (including aspiration), and inability to use standard eating utensils can suffer from malnutrition. There are a few solutions to this issue:
Soft food diets can help, as well as mixing pureed vegetables into mashed potatoes, or fresh fruit smoothies to gain vital nutrients. Specialized cutlery are designed for arthritic hands and help maintain independence in eating.
A senior on a fixed low income may need to make difficult choices between paying for food and paying for medication. Healthy choices tend to be more expensive than their fast food counterparts, so it is easier to utilize that option. However, there are other solutions to this problem. SNAP benefits and utility assistance can help them stretch their income further.
Memory loss can cause a senior to forget to eat, or change their preferences to a very limited scope of foods. Nurses, care staff, and family members can learn how to hide pureed vegetables in a meatloaf, or make banana "ice-cream". Many modifications can be made to standard diets to "hide" nutritious foods in our favorite dishes.
Nurses can encourage their patients and families to practice suggestions above. More ideas include monitoring weight, medication management, meal prep and reminders, and utilizing community based services like food pantries. Focusing on nutrient rich foods will have a great effect on diet, especially for our seniors that don't eat much.
Consequences of malnutrition can include a weakened immune system, delayed wound healing or necrosis, muscle wasting, bone loss, and an increased risk of death. It is important for nurses, care staff, and family members to monitor how much the senior is eating, to prevent this from happening.
Promoting a nutrient dense diet and eating with our seniors are good habits to protect our elderly population from malnutrition (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2019).