It can become difficult for elderly people to prepare nutritious food for themselves, especially as appetite and nutritional needs change as people get older.
The sorts of meals they may have eaten in their younger days may not be quite what they need now for a healthy life. Shockingly, over 1 million elderly people in the UK are malnourished or at risk of malnourishment.
A live-in care professional can ensure that their client eats enough, but not too much, and that what they eat is healthy and provides the right balance of nutrients required in older age. They can help immensely in ensuring nutritional needs are carefully met and can provide the helpful nudge their clients need to stay on track, reminding them when it’s time to take their vitamins or grab a glass of water.
How do you promote adequate nutrition and hydration in care?
Eating well is important for all of us whatever our age in order to stay fit and healthy, but as we get older our nutritional needs change and it is more important than ever to think about what you are eating. Good nutrition is not only required for a fit healthy body but will also keep you mind sharp and give you energy at a time in life when mental and physical agility may be waning.
Our Live-in care professionals are knowledgeable about a balanced diet and will offer their expertise to the people in their care. The following tried and tested tips help to promote adequate nutrition and hydration throughout the day:
No matter what age you are, it’s important to stay fully hydrated. This benefits everything from your overall health to brain function.
Elderly people are much more prone to getting dehydrated. This can be dealt with by drinking a minimum of 1.5 litres each day (equivalent to about eight glasses of water). If you find that someone doesn’t particularly like the taste of water on its own, there are lots of great alternatives.
If you are thirsty, this means you are already dehydrated. However, sometimes our sensation of thirst can reduce as we get older, particularly if you have had a stroke or have Alzheimer’s disease, so you may not realise soon enough that you are becoming dehydrated.
Many of the human body’s nutritional needs can be met by the foods we eat, so it’s important to eat enough of a variety of foods to help stave off malnutrition.
Eating well means enjoying your food and having plenty of variety in your diet so you get all the nutrients you need and maintain a healthy weight.
As people get older, weaker and less active, and especially where they have medical conditions, the simple things, such as food, drink and a sense of independence often become life’s most important aspects. Having tasty, nutritious meals can become a highlight of the day, while conversely, meals that are unappealing or of low quality can make eating a tedious and unpleasant chore, risking a further decline in health.
Not eating properly causes the risk of things like disease and delayed recovery time after illness to skyrocket. We recommend sticking to a schedule of three meals a day, tailored to manageable portion sizes. There’s no need for the meals to be large – a small or medium size plate, with a balanced offering of food can be sufficient. Ideally, you’d also leave some room for three healthy snacks throughout the day, too such as dried or fresh fruits and nuts.
Remember to include plenty of protein from healthy sources (fish, meat, eggs, tofu etc.) Adequate dietary protein intake (at least 1.0–1.2 g/kg/day) is recommended for adults aged over 65 years to optimise muscle health and function, and to support recovery from illness and remember your carbohydrates (you can find these in foods like rice, bread and potatoes) for energy. Fresh, frozen, canned or even dried fruit and vegetables should also feature heavily.
It’s not just about physical health. Its study found people receiving live-in care have higher levels of happiness with ‘softer’ positive outcomes. They enjoy their home-cooked meals and the sense of freedom and independence that’s maintained. Better at Home Report, Live-in Care Hub
Your nutritional needs change as you age and eating well is so important to maintain vitality in later life. You should be eating a balanced diet full of vitamins and minerals, protein, healthy carbs and fats. You can find out more information about your nutritional needs , click here: Guide To Good Nutrition (which also has a handy downloadable shopping list)
Get enough calcium
Bone mass decreases throughout life, so it’s important to find ways to replenish what is naturally lost. Cheese, milk and yoghurt are all great sources, as are fish like mackerel and legumes including beans and peas.
The recommended upper limit for calcium is 2,500 mg a day for adults 19 to 50. For those 51 and older, the limit is 2,000 mg a day. If your diet isn’t as good as it should be, you may want to consider taking a dietary supplement. Go for one that contains calcium. Your GP or pharmacist can help you choose one that’s suitable for you.
Top up on vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency (hypovitaminosis D) is an increasingly common condition among people of all ages, but older adults are at increased risk. The signs of low vitamin D are often subtle and can be confused with other health conditions.
British Dietetic Association spokesperson Priya Tew says: ‘It can be difficult in the UK to meet our vitamin D needs through sunlight and diet alone. For this reason, it’s recommended that over-65s take a supplement of vitamin D of 10 micrograms per day. Try to get out in the sun for 10-15 minutes a day without sunscreen, too.’
You can buy vitamin D supplements at most pharmacies and supermarkets, but you shouldn’t take more than 100mg a day as it can be harmful – in line with NHS guidance. However, if your doctor advises you to take a different amount, you should follow their advice as the amount you need to take can depend on a number of factors.
Remember the B vitamins
Provided that you eat a well-balanced diet, including wholegrains and cereals, you should be getting all that you need. However, as we get older it becomes harder to absorb vitamin B12, which is found in meat, cod, salmon, milk, cheese, eggs and some fortified cereals. Alternatively, you could take a supplement: doses of 2mg or less per day are unlikely to cause any harm.
Prevent malnutrition in the elderly with live-in care
Malnutrition is a huge problem for the elderly population because nutrition needs change as you get older. If the right adjustments aren’t made, you can find yourself deficient in lots of essential vitamins and minerals, and facing a decline in health if it isn’t resolved. Seek advice from your GP or healthcare providers on how to adapt your diet to your age and activity levels so your body has everything it needs to help you thrive in later life. And it is particularly important to have high calorie meals if you have little appetite so your body gets what it needs.
“81% of Hub clients say: “I get all the food and drink I like when I want”, compared with just two thirds (66 per cent) in residential care and only half (52 per cent) of those in nursing homes. One in 12 (over 8 per cent) of nursing home patients said: “I don’t always get adequate or timely food and drink” – or “I don’t always get adequate or timely food and drink and I think there is a risk to my health” Better at Home Report, Live-in Care Hub
One of the key reasons malnutrition occurs is because nutrition needs change as we get older, but diets aren’t often adapted to meet those changes. Live-in care services will help to ensure nutrition is maintained as carers are trained to focus on the nutritional needs of the elderly.
With no rigid timetables, each day is planned around the client and their own routines and preferences (this is especially beneficial for those with dementia). Live-in care professionals can adapt quickly and easily to any changes in needs. Indeed, getting to know their charges well also helps a carer spot when someone might just be little off colour, enabling health issues to be picked up as early as possible.
If you’d like to discuss your situation, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact us for a free, no obligation discussion.