I have blogged before about the Home Care Assistance of Annapolis Balanced Care Method™ that focuses on a holistic approach to senior care – encompassing health in mind, body and spirit. As an Annapolis elder care provider, we approach all aspects of our client care with a focus on balanced care. And proper nutrition and hydration is a key component to this Balanced Care Method approach. Proper nutrition is essential for providing a senior adult’s body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to promote optimum health, fight disease, promote a strong immune system, increase energy, and mental sharpness.
Yet, challenges to achieving proper nutrition exist for seniors, including difficulty with chewing and swallowing, poor digestion, decreased appetite due to medication side effects, reduced metabolism, reduction in senses such as smell or tasteor perhaps an overall disinterest in eating due to a lack of social interaction or even difficulty finding the physical strength or balance and agility required to meal plan, grocery shop and cook. I am often concerned when I meet with a new client and they describe their daily eating plan and it goes something like this: “Oh, I eat whatever I can grab quickly” or “Sometimes I eat lunch but skip breakfast because it’s one less meal I have to make” or “I usually wait until my family member brings something by for me to heat up.”
Eating healthy for seniors is not about dieting, sacrifice or eating bland and tasteless foods. Rather, just as it is for any age, it should be about fresh, colorful, appealing food choices that are eaten with friends. And seniors who are not as active as they once were do not need to eat as much as they once did. I finally got it into my head that no matter what meal I served my 82-year old Mom, she would send back half – half a sandwich, half a bowl of soup, half a chicken breast. Finally, the genius in me (sarcasm intended) realized that I was over-serving my Mom at every meal and she was miserable feeling like she had to “clean her plate” (as a child of the Depression Era was taught!).
The National Institute on Aging presents the following caloric guidelines for folks over 50 years of age:
- A woman over 50 who is not physically active needs about 1600 calories per day.
- A woman over 50 who is somewhat physically active needs about 1800 calories per day.
- A woman over 50 who is very active needs about 2000 calories per day.
I know, ladies, it isn’t fair, but here are the stats for men:
- A man over 50 who is not physically active needs about 2000 calories per day.
- A man over 50 who is somewhat physically active needs about 2200-2400 calories per day.
- A man over 50 who is very active needs about 2400-2800 calories per day.
At Home Care Assistance of Annapolis, we train our caregivers that it’s not just about caloric intake but about following solid nutrition guidelines with a proper balance of fruits, veggies, calcium, grains and protein, good fats (nuts, avocado, salmon) reduced sodium, sugar, processed foods and white flour or “bad carbs and to focus on color, color, color – the more colorful the plate, the healthier the plate.
At Home Care Assistance of Annapolis, we also focus on brain health and incorporating anti-inflammatory nutrition into our client diets to promote healthy longevity. Anti-inflammatory foods have been proven to maintain and even improve brain plasticity and overall cognitive function. Our caregivers are trained to prepare foods rich in antioxidants, Omega-3s and Vitamin E. Antioxidants are found in many fruits and veggies, legumes, tea and my personal favorite… CHOCOLATE. Chronic inflammation is associated with many serious age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
This Home Care Assistance Anti-inflammatory Trail Mix Recipe is delicious, easy to make, and easy to pack on the go. Our caregivers make it for our clients and you can make it at home too – it is adaptable for those with nut allergies (like yours truly):
- Almonds, pistachio and walnuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Dried soy nuts
- Dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, blueberries, tart cherries)
- Flax seed granola
- Unsweetened dried coconut
- Dark chocolate bits
- Roasted green peas
- Mix equal parts of each ingredient in a large bowl.
- Make a single serving and eat immediately or set side small baggies or containers of the mix to eat at a later date. You can store the trail mix in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 month.
Although any significant change in a loved one’s appetite or eating habits should always be discussed with their physician, these tips will help to make sure your elderly loved one gets the most out of his or her meal times.
- Prepare Favorite Foods – Eating a nutritious meal is easier for seniors when it contains their favorite foods in easy-to-eat portions. For seniors who struggle with dental pain or chewing problems, adapting the cooking method used may make it possible for them to still enjoy their favorite foods. For example, hard foods, such as apples or carrots, can be steamed or pureed so that they are softer. Finger foods, such as lettuce wraps, small cuts of fruit and bite-sized pieces of meat may also be more manageable for seniors.
- Identify Causes of a Low Appetite – There can be many different causes of low appetite in seniors, and it important for them to be addressed before they lead to malnutrition. If a senior does not respond to their favorite foods, it may be necessary to check their medications or ask a physician if their health condition may affect their appetite. For seniors who struggle with meal preparation, providing them with already prepped meals each week can help them to eat a nutritionally-balanced meal even on days they are fatigued.
- Make Meal Time Social – Loneliness and depression can have a significant impact on a senior adult’s appetite, and seniors who eat alone are more likely to skip meals. When possible, arrange for an Annapolis part-time caregiverto stop by during meals or make a phone call to check in during that time. This makes it possible to identify what types of foods a senior adult is eating while also contributing to positive emotional well-being. By staying attuned to your loved one’s needs, you can make sure they get proper nutrition at their meal times each day.
For other senior nutrition tips and to find out how we incorporate healthy nutrition into each client’s plan of care, please contact one of our Care Managers at 443-302-2771. We are always available and can help tailor a care plan to the individual needs and dietary preferences of your aging loved one. Bon Appetite!