Everyone knows the importance of good nutrition, but it can be difficult to apply that knowledge consistently. According to Kathleen Zelman, RD, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, seniors are at a significant risk for malnutrition, and eating alone is a major factor contributing to this risk.
Changes in lifestyles, bodies, and attitudes toward eating are all completely natural, but can be dangerous if seniors do not find ways to overcome the negative effects. The changes that can influence seniors’ poor eating habits include loss of appetite, loss of taste and smell, changes in dental status, problems swallowing, disabilities, and psychological and social factors. As seniors’ bodies change, it can be daunting to grocery shop or to prepare a full meal. With decreased appetites and loss of senses, some seniors may not even want to eat. Those with Alzheimer’s may simply forget to eat. Often, when seniors eat alone, they choose to munch on snacks instead of eating a healthy meal.
Seniors who are not surrounded by family lose the incentive to cook. They don’t have anyone else to cook for so they don’t see the point.
Caregivers can help their seniors get proper nutrition. They could check to see if their seniors have expired food and if they are running low on any food. If they have time, the caregivers could even prepare meals for their seniors.
Another reason seniors may not eat properly is difficulty in getting food into their home. Caregivers can help make sure their loved ones have adequate funds and transportation to purchase the right foods in proper quantities.
With some help from a family member or friend, eating well later in life doesn’t have to be difficult. The dangers of eating alone can often lead to exacerbated medical issues. As a caregiver, you can help ensure your loved one is getting the nutrition they need by putting a plan in place.
Marie E. Littrell is the Administrator of Park View Meadows, assisted living by Americare, in Murfreesboro. She can be reached at 615.907.5800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.