Diet & Nutrition Tips for Better Eating Habits
Make dining social. Elderly people often fail to eat well because they don’t like to eat alone.
Take notice of food content in your loved one’s home. Keep the refrigerator well-stocked and watch for, and remove, old or spoiled food in the fridge.
Serve finger foods or food that is already cut up. It’s easier for less dexterous hands.
Food portions should be small so they do not look overwhelming. Large volumes of food may spoil an elderly person’s limited appetite.
Monitor your loved one’s fluid intake. You should make sure they have adequate fluids by keeping a pitcher of a favorite drink in the refrigerator and serving from that source.
If your loved one has a decreased appetite you can:
- Offer high caloric drink foods such as ice cream, milk shakes, or eggnog.
- Offer familiar foods; these favorite foods can stimulate the appetite.
- Try making the main meal of the day at lunch when the appetite is often larger.
- Sit directly in front of the person and show each spoonful to help them orient.
- Offer 4 to 6 small meals a day instead of 3 larger ones.
If your loved one is having problems swallowing:
- Allow time between bites and check mouth periodically for food in the cheek.
- You may need to remind the person to swallow.
- Gently stroking the throat will help to stimulate swallowing.
Observe and alter food textures that cause the most difficulty. Liquids can be thickened with gelatin or applesauce. Solids can be moistened or pureed for easier swallowing.
If your loved one is having motivational problems:
Make the meal look appetizing on their plate. You can accent their plate with a fruit or vegetable garnish, coconut flakes or melon.
Make the dining experience pleasant for the person. Playing soft music, lighting candles or talking to them about the day’s events while they are eating will take their minds off not feeling well.
FAMILY SUPPORT SYSTEMS
Communicate about the status of your loved one with your family and friends. If people close to you understand what is going on they can give you more help and support.
Bring the children to visit, unless your loved one specifically asks you not to. Visits help keep relationships whole and maintain a sense of attachment and continuity for your loved one.
Try to share the responsibility with other family members. Ask if your relative can take your loved one to some of their regular appointments.
Plan family time together. You can have a potluck where each person brings something and you can enjoy family time together.
Lois Young-Tulin, PhD, is an Assistant Geriatric Care Manager at Complete Care Strategies