March is National Nutrition Month, sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In light of this, we were hoping to start a discussion about seniors and nutrition, and the impact your caregivers can have on the overall health of those they care for. Many caregivers prepare meals for those they care for, and a good diet is critical for improving health and quality of life.
As a person ages, their dietary needs change. Different systems in the body begin running slower than they once did, potentially leading to nutrient deficiencies. A senior’s diet should take this into consideration and aim to supply the body with things that may be lacking. All cases are different, so start by following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and remember to take specific circumstances into consideration. A few things to be aware of include:
- Seniors need more calcium and vitamin D in their diet to help maintain proper bone health.
- Many seniors don’t get enough vitamin B12, which aids in keeping the nerves and blood cells healthy.
- Fiber helps seniors stay regular. It also helps lower their risk of heart disease and other related issues.
- Increasing potassium and lowering sodium intake reduces the risk of high blood pressure.
- Saturated and trans fats should be carefully managed, due to their close connection with heart disease.
Ask your clients what kinds of foods they like and, keeping special nutrient needs in mind, find foods they’ll enjoy eating. When applicable, find out if the client’s doctor has given any dietary suggestions or restrictions.
Just as each client has unique dietary needs, remember that they also have their own preferences. There may be some foods that your clients just won’t eat, and that’s okay. As your caregivers put forth the effort and become familiar with the client’s taste, they will be able to prepare better-tasting, healthier food for them as a result.
What sort of foods do you prepare for your clients, and how do you manage training your caregivers on preparing meals? We would love to hear your ideas or have you provide more suggestions, just share your questions or comments below.