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Home Health Care: Is Your Loved One Getting the Nutrition They Need?

Mar 19, 2018 by Stephanie Howe - Owner, Comfort Keepers

Is Your Loved One Getting the Nutrition They Need?

 

The foods you eat are important to your health--and never more so than in your senior years. A healthy, balanced diet is crucial to mental and physical wellbeing.

 

Additionally, many older adults' doctors have recommended a specific diet for their health needs. But following a proper home health care eating plan or a special diet can be difficult for many seniors to keep up on their own.

Facts about Senior Malnutrition

Malnutrition means not getting the vitamins, nutrients, and calories our bodies need from food. Not eating enough of the right kinds of foods can cause many health problems, especially for the elderly.

 

Unfortunately, according to recent statistics, many seniors are not getting the nutrition they need. A recent article in Forbes stated that one in three patients admitted to a hospital were malnourished. Many of these patients were seniors. The article also found that the cost of malnutrition for older adults is $51.3 billion each year.

Risk Factors for Senior Malnutrition

A review of the risk factors seniors face for malnutrition was published in the journal Advances in Nutrition. The research found that risk factors include:

  • Cognitive decline due to dementia and Alzheimer's disease
  • Difficulty walking up and down stairs
  • Taking more than 10 prescription drugs
  • Frailty
  • Functional decline
  • Loss of hand grip strength
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Constipation

Just like your parents worried about your nutrition when you were a child, friends and relatives of older adults often worry about their loved ones' nutritional intake. This is especially important if your loved one has any of these risk factors for senior malnutrition.

Special Dietary Concerns for Seniors

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, senior nutrition has some specific concerns. Here's what you need to know:

 

1. Seniors need more vitamin D and calcium. These two nutrients work together for bone health. According to the National Institutes of Health, adults age 71 and older need 800 International Units (IU) of vitamin D, which is 200 IU more than adults ages 19-70.

Women ages 50 and up and men ages 71 and older need 1,200 mg of calcium per day. Not getting enough calcium and vitamin D can lead to bone loss and osteoporosis. Calcium and vitamin D can come from some foods or from supplements.

 

2. Vitamin B12 helps to keep cells healthy and prevent anemia. An article published by Harvard Medical School found that people over 50 are at risk of developing a vitamin B12 deficiency.

As we age, it becomes harder for us to absorb vitamin B12 in foods. The recommended daily allowance for adults is 4.2 micrograms. Some examples of B12-containing foods include clams, beef liver, chicken, dairy products, and B12-fortified foods, such as cereals. Vitamin B12 supplements are also available.

 

3. Seniors need to pay attention to their fiber intake. Fiber is the parts of foods that your body can't digest. So why do you need fiber?

It helps you feel full and helps with digestion. Eating enough fiber can help older adults with constipation. The Institute of Medicine recommends men age 51 and over consume 30 grams of fiber per day.

Women over age 51 should aim for 21 grams. Good sources of fiber include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

 

4. Everyone needs protein to help their cells function properly. The daily minimum amount of protein per day for adults is currently .8 grams per kilogram of the person's body weight each day.

A 2017 review published in Frontiers in Nutrition found that older adults may need even more protein. Good sources of protein include dairy products, eggs, meat, nuts, beans, quinoa, and soy products.

 

How Comfort Keepers Can Help

Fortunately, Comfort Keepers of Warren, New Jersey, offers meal preparation as a caregiving service. Your Comfort Keepers caregiver can assist with all the steps involved in making sure your loved one gets healthy, balanced meals--from planning and shopping for groceries to cooking and assisting with eating.

 

We can also help with special diets for conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Contact us for peace of mind when it comes to your loved one's nutrition.

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