Caregiver Challenges – Elderly Nutrition

Caregiving can be physically and emotionally draining. The ever-increasing needs of the person in your care can be challenging, and you may not always know how to cope with them. One of the bigger problems many caregivers face is in the realm of nutrition, from lack of appetite to downright pickiness. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to alleviate the problem; if you feel that your loved one’s eating situation is compromising their health, make sure to talk to his doctor for guidance.

Relaxing on General Nutritional Guidelines when Necessary

A healthy diet is the cornerstone of any care program, and eating well is especially important when someone is suffering from chronic illness. Ideally, your loved one will happily eat all the healthy foods you prepare, but it does not always work out that way. Sometimes, the only foods they feel like eating are ones that are less-than-ideal. Furthermore, at this stage of life, general guidelines, such as eating a low-fat diet, may not be as prudent. The name of the game is preventing excessive weight loss that can endanger your loved one.  You want to get those calories in any way you can, and if that means a greasy plate of French fries, rather than tofu and whole grain rice, so be it.

Accounting for the Change in Senses

As we get older, our sense of taste and smell can change, and may be responsible, at least in part, for your loved one’s eating challenges. For example, older people may not be able to taste salty foods or bitter foods as well, which makes them seem unpalatable. Dousing these items in salt is really not a good solution; it can worsen blood pressure and increase fluid retention. Experiment with non-sodium means of enhancing flavor, such as herbs and spices. The ability to taste sweets still remains pretty strong, which may translate to a penchant for unhealthy snacks. Not all sugar is bad, however, and you can allow your loved one to indulge it—just keep healthier items on hand, like dried fruit, cookies and other sweets made from whole grains and other natural, unprocessed ingredients, and fresh fruit juices.

Tread Carefully with Nutritional Drinks

Meal replacement drinks may seem like a good idea when your loved one is not feeling the food, but beware of relying on them too much. They really are not a true replacement for a meal, and are better used to bulk up caloric intake in addition to real food. People are not meant to live off of them; generally, yes, they are better than nothing. But, do not look at them as a long-term solution to dietary challenges. If you are dealing with a serious aversion to eating normally, you must take your loved one to the doctor for a full evaluation. There may be underlying health issues that you are not aware of contributing to the lack of appetite. In the event that your doctor does deem a nutritional drink necessary, he can offer guidance on the appropriate ones.

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