A pleasure for many of us, food and our needs change over the course of our lives. If you take care of a senior, you may have already noticed that their nutritional needs have changed. In fact, age, diseases and other health issues often required dietary changes. So many adjustments that can influence their quality of life and become sources of worry for you as the caregiver.
Malnutrition is common among seniors and can even cause or go hand in hand with the risk of loss of autonomy. Moreover, according to a survey conducted with members of the OPDQ in 2012, severe and moderate malnutrition is reported as one of the main reasons for interventions with the clients seen in home support programs. What are the factors to watch for, to counter these nutrition problems? How can the pleasure of eating well be stimulated in a senior? And moreover, how can you apply these tips as well when you are a caregiver?
Watch for signs and symptoms of hunger or malnutrition
Conversations with your loved one may be a good way to find out what they are eating and how often. Conversations with other people who are around them, such as other family members and friends, or professionals, is another way of obtaining an accurate picture of their eating habits. If a problem exists, you might notice weight loss, physical problems such as wounds taking a long time to heal and bruises, and dental problems. Do not hesitate to look into the medications prescribed to your loved one. Some side effects may affect appetite and digestion.
Promote a healthy and tasty diet
If the person you are taking care of is a food lover, you are starting with an advantage! But if the pleasure of eating has faded over time, how do you get them to enjoy good little meals again? First, know that appetite declines with age. Thus, you really have to eat smaller quantities of food more often - every 2 to 3 hours - to combat hunger and have energy.
The sense of taste also changes with age. The reflex might be to put more salt on foods, at the risk of increased sodium rates, which is harmful to health. Instead of using salt, you can boost the flavour of foods with fresh herbs or spices, salsas, chutneys and healthy sauces.
And of course, eating a variety of fresh, whole foods is a sure way to stay in shape and maintain the pleasure of eating.
Poster of Nutrition month 2020
(Ordre professionnel des diététistes du Québec)
Consume vitamin- and mineral-rich foods that are east to digest
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are not exclusive to seniors. You are certainly familiar with vitamins B6, B12, D, iron and calcium, which are often lacking in our diets. If your loved one consumes products containing these elements, you might have far less headaches. Also know that some foods help digestion and relieve stomach aches.
Think about your diet too
As a caregiver, you also have needs to which you need to listen. Taking care of your own health is key to keeping your energy and good humour in your role. You can consult the article Eating well to provide better care in our Practical tips section > Health and Prevention, which provides you with valuable advice.
Always take the time to sit down to eat, with the person you take care of, as a family or with friends ... sharing a good meal is always a gauge of success.