One of the biggest concerns of family members and providers of home nursing services in Dubai is the diet of their elderly wards. In general, older people will have a poor diet due to a variety of factors which include:
- A decrease in taste buds
- Gastrointestinal changes
- Poor or loss of sense of smell which makes food less appealing
- Effect of certain medications on their sense of taste and appetite
- Poor eating choices due to lack of healthy food options at home
A well-balanced diet offers various benefits to the elderly which include improved heart, bone, and brain health. A diet rich in vitamins and minerals is crucial for their quick recovery from illness as well.
Improving Your Elderly Loved One’s Diet
- 1 Improving Your Elderly Loved One’s Diet
- 1.1 1. Identify which nutrients your loved one is missing or must have more of
- 1.2 2. Incorporate changes slowly
- 1.3 3. Assist your loved one with meal planning and food shopping
- 1.4 4. Make cooking and preparing meals easier and safer for your loved one
- 1.5 5. Encourage your senior family member to drink more water
- 1.6 6. Make mealtimes happier for your elderly loved one
- 1.7 Written by: Ibrahim Khader
- 1.8 Share this:
If you’re worried that a senior family member isn’t eating right, below are some tips you can follow to help them have a healthier diet:
1. Identify which nutrients your loved one is missing or must have more of
Health experts and dietitians say that for older people to have a balanced diet every day, they should eat:
- Five portions of fruit and vegetables
- More lean meats such as poultry and fewer portions of fatty red meat
- Nuts, seeds, beans and legumes
- Wholegrain cereals, bread, pasta and rice
- A small serving of dairy products such as low-fat milk, cheese or yogurt
Older people are also recommended to consume oily fish such as tuna and salmon and eggs two to three times a week.
These foods are rich in various vitamins, minerals and other nutrients your elderly loved one needs. Fish and walnuts, for instance, contain omega-3 fatty acids which can reduce inflammation and lower triglyceride levels and the risk for repeat episodes of coronary heart disease.
Your elderly family member will also need calcium to preserve bone health. This important mineral can be found in milk and other dairy products and leafy green vegetables.
To ensure your senior family member is getting the right amount and type of nutrients daily, consult your loved one’s doctor first. The specialist will know which nutrients your loved one needs to have more or less of. You can then work with a dietitian and your elderly family member to come up with a well-balanced weekly meal plan.
2. Incorporate changes slowly
If your elderly loved one has gotten used to eating unhealthy foods, you will have difficulty introducing healthier meals and eating habits. This might be because some older people can be hesitant about change. As such, you have to take it slow when introducing healthy foods and better eating habits to an elderly family member.
For instance, if your elderly parent has a habit of eating French fries or mashed potatoes with dollops of butter at every meal, you can start by substituting these side dishes with sweet potatoes. They are root veggies that are more nutritious and contain fewer calories than potatoes. You can serve them mashed or baked which are healthier cooking and prep methods. Do this at least once a day and eventually, start adding more vegetarian side dishes.
However, don’t take out potatoes from your senior’s weekly menu. You can still let them enjoy their favorite potato dish (and other guilty pleasures) twice or thrice a week.
3. Assist your loved one with meal planning and food shopping
Try to involve your elderly family member in planning the weekly menu. This can inspire your loved one to be more excited about enjoying the pleasures of eating well. Make sure you suggest nutritious ingredients and dishes so that there’s always something healthy on the table for your senior loved one to eat.
When planning the weekly meals and shopping, think about dishes and snacks that are easy to cook and prepare. Get ingredients that will make it easier for your elderly loved one to cook and prepare meals as well. For instance, tinned fish is a good alternative to fresh varieties since it can be added to salads and pasta dishes without much preparation.
Finally, make sure that you, another family member, or a nurse can accompany and assist your elderly loved one when going to the supermarket or farmer’s market.
4. Make cooking and preparing meals easier and safer for your loved one
If your elderly loved one can still cook and prepare meals, make things easier and safer for them. Make simple changes in the kitchen such as moving cooking utensils and food products from high cupboards and shelves to places your family member can reach them without using a stepladder.
You can consider having a wall oven installed as well to make it easier to get hot food in and out.
Spend some time preparing and cooking meals with your senior family member, too. According to mobile nursing service staff, the time you spend in the kitchen with your loved one can turn into a pleasant bonding activity – something that all older people need.
5. Encourage your senior family member to drink more water
Water is something that everyone needs, regardless of age. Older people need to drink at least eight glasses of water every day to avoid dehydration and other health issues such as constipation and fatigue.
To ensure your senior loved one is sufficiently hydrated every day, keep water accessible. Remind your elderly family member to drink every now and then as well. You can also give your relative foods with higher water content such as soups, smoothies and watermelon.
6. Make mealtimes happier for your elderly loved one
Lastly, loss of appetite can make eating a struggle, but nevertheless, you still have to encourage your senior parent to eat. You can do this by making mealtimes as relaxed as possible by giving your elderly loved one plenty of time to eat enough.
Avoid rushing your senior family member to eat. You can also remind your loved one to eat smaller portions of food so that he or she won’t feel “forced” to finish everything on the plate.
Written by: Ibrahim Khader
Ibrahim Khader founded Angels of Medical Care in 2010. The name “Angels” was chosen because of his belief that nurses are angels of healing and care with the blessings of the creator. The company has flourished and is now one of the best, most renowned home care companies in Dubai.