Following a healthy diet can limit the problems we have with many chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, renal disease, and obesity. Throughout life, our bodies change and so do our nutritional needs. Unfortunately, as we get older our metabolism slows down, and our need for some vitamins and minerals, such as calcium can increase. That means what we eat needs to be high in nutrients, but usually lower in calories.
Eating right and exercising can help us avoid some of the problems of growing older, such as losing muscle and gaining fat. Eating right and exercising can also help us be healthier so we can better recover from surgery, illness, help us avoid getting sick and avoid getting injured. Not eating right can result in going to the hospital more often, longer hospital stays, longer stays in rehabilitation facilities, and earlier admission to other long term care residential facilities, such as nursing homes.
Malnutrition in seniors is common and can occur in all settings including hospitals, assisted living, skilled nursing facilities, and in the community. Finding solutions to prevent malnutrition is important in keeping seniors healthy. For those living at home, frozen foods that can be prepared in the microwave and in single serving portions, or family bringing in meals can be good solutions. Having friends to eat with can help make mealtime more fun and may help improve appetite. This might mean having lunch out with friends or sharing the cooking responsibilities and eating in each other’s homes; bring home leftovers for another meal. If your loved one cannot get out, there are programs like restaurant delivery services, and agencies that can send in caregivers to help prepare healthy meals (see suggestions below). Many communities have senior centers that offer healthy meals and socializing. Seniors who need more care but might live in their children’s homes might enjoy adult daycare centers for meals, socializing and caregiving. Services for seniors can be found in your yellow pages phone book under “Senior” or “Elder”; an Internet search of “senior programs in (your city)” may also help identify programs in your area. Sometimes children may need to become involved in their parent’s care to help make sure their loved one eats well, have friends to spend time with, and have people taking care of their needs when the family is not available to help.
Healthcare professionals can help assess your loved one’s nutritional needs by performing a comprehensive assessment and by asking questions of the senior, their family or the physician. Once their needs are assessed and recommendations made, a caregiver can help put together a grocery list based on the client’s preferred foods and prepare a list of meals that will help meet the nutritional needs. Children and/or caregivers can also be taught how to prepare healthy meals and snacks for their loved one. A Registered Dietitian can help make a healthy plan for eating right.
Programs that can help provide healthy meal services in the Oklahoma City Area are:
- Senior Nutrition: 949-2709; and
- Mobile Meals: 607-2314. Restaurant delivery: 858-TOGO (858-8646)
also for Dietician consultation or for more information, please contact the Senior Resource Center at 405-639-3939