Planning three meals a day is a time-consuming task, but this can become even more difficult for seniors and their caregivers. Previously, we identified mealtime challenges faced by seniors, and caregivers should know how to manage your loved one’s mealtime challenges so you can ensure that they are consuming all the necessary vitamins and nutrients.
Since nutrition directly affects the aging process, all caregivers should know how to help their loved ones face these physical, financial and social challenges.
Managing Physical Challenges
- Poor Dental Health. Oral hygiene should be a top priority as we age. If your loved one still has their natural teeth, they should brush and floss their teeth at least twice a day and rinse with fluoridated water. Dentures should be cleaned with a denture-cleaning toothbrush and a paste or powder. Whether your loved one has natural teeth or dentures, they should visit the dentist at least two times a year.
- Difficulty Swallowing. If your loved one has dysphagia (impaired swallowing), they at a greater risk of choking and they may eat less due to discomfort. Simply change the food’s texture and the thickness of liquids to reduce this discomfort.
- Limited Mobility. Join your loved one on trips to the grocery store, or research local grocery stores that offer home deliveries if your loved one is not comfortable going to grocery stores alone. Reorganize the kitchen to make it safer for your loved one by keeping heavy and frequently-used appliances on the counter.
- Medication Side Effects. If you notice a loss of appetite or any other harmful side effects, consult a physician to determine the cause and see if there are any alternative medications for your loved one.
- Loss in Senses. A loss in senses can be very problematic for those who need to follow a specific diet, so use herbs, lemon juice, vinegar or other seasonings to add flavor. Regularly check expiration dates on groceries to reduce the risk of your loved one accidentally consuming spoiled food.
Managing Financial Challenges
- Inexpensive yet Unhealthy Processed Foods. Purchasing healthy food can be difficult for seniors on a tight budget, but there are available services and programs to help, such as local food banks, senior centers and even churches. You just have to keep your eyes and ears open to find them.
Managing Social Challenges
- Changes in Lifelong Habits. Simply put yourself in your loved one’s shoes and it’s not hard to understand why these changes are so upsetting. However, the key is to understand their previous habits and try to maintain them as much as possible. For example, if your loved one frequently dined out but can no longer drive, why not take them to some of their favorite restaurants a few times a week?
- Living Alone. A recent study found that 85 percent of seniors report that having a mealtime companion makes the food taste better and encourages them to eat healthier, showing that simple things such as sharing a meal with your loved one can go a long way in promoting your loved one’s nutritional status.
This wide variety of mealtime challenges faced by seniors and their loved ones shows the importance of paying attention to any minor changes in your loved one’s behavior as this could be signs of a bigger issue. Knowing how to manage your loved one’s mealtime challenges is essential, so click here for more food advice.