Tag Archive | loneliness

Just a Nibble – Nutrition and the Elderly

A decline in appetite and nutrition is a serious problem especially when seen in the elderly. Regardless the adage “they’ll wither and die” seniors do not have to wither before they die.  Age doesn’t matter. As humans we require good nutrition to function. The body still needs energy and without the energy obtained from food, malnutrition happens.

There are a number of reasons seniors eat less and when families or caregivers see these signs, it’s important they address them immediately.

        • Dental Issues–  Ill-fitting dentures make gums tender and sore. A quick trip to the dentist for regular visits (especially to have dentures and partials checked) is important. Sores, blisters and even serious infection can occur in the mouth and though a parent may have dentures, dental hygiene is still important for healthy gums and bad breath.
        • Loneliness and depression – Depression and loneliness are major contributors in malnutrition for seniors. Their desire to live slips away and “the nothing left to live for” syndrome creeps in. A caregiver or regular visits and phone calls help with this issue. It’s not fun to eat alone and  adding calls or visits at mealtime boots moral and the sense of being needed or loved. If depression seems evident, contact a physician for additional help and care.
        • Bodily functions slow – As the body ages, the stomach empties slower, digests slower and the senses of taste and smell lessen. The body doesn’t crave to be fed but it still needs to be fed. Adding bright colored foods and “stick to your ribs” meals, helps. Bright colored fruit and steamed vegetables (steamed to a soft chew) are more enticing. Their consistency is softer and the availability is much easier for snacking. Baked sweet potatoes, oatmeal with a spoon of powdered milk added, thickens to an easier consistency to aid the swallow reflex. Adding cinnamon, thyme, and other flavorful and aroma filled spices to warm cereals and hot teas aid in stimulating hunger.
        • Dementia – Varied types of dementia lead seniors to simply forget how to prepare foods or even how to or when to eat. As dementia progresses foods must be pureed to a consistency that can be sipped through a straw or from a spoon. Careful monitoring is required at this stage as the body will forget how to swallow and choking is a hazard.
        • Preparing meals is too cumbersome – Seniors are more apt to skip meals when they feel cooking is too much for one person.  Adding easy to cook meals is a great answer. Though frozen meals are not high on the nutrition list, something is better than nothing. So add easy one-step meals to the freezer and look for meals which offer more vegetables and higher proteins. Rather than purchasing the single serve meals, purchase the middle size (2-3 serving size) this will allow for left overs that can be reheated for another meal. Prepare casseroles that can be broken into single or double size meals and frozen. Small fresh servings of salad, coleslaw and cut-up vegetables can be placed in zip-loc bags for easy access.
        • Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate – A great investment for aging parents  – a water cooler. Companies will deliver and change the water bottles to prevent seniors from lifting and tugging. Coolers are available with hot and cold water making it possible for hot soup mixes, coffees and even some one-step meals to be prepared by simply adding hot water. Keep cups or plastic glasses in the places seniors frequent most. If it is there, they will usually sip.

Yes, loss of appetite is a sign of aging. But it is not the norm. When seniors skip meals or weight loss occurs, seek the guidance of a physician and a nutritionist. Remember, eating is essential to good health…regardless of the age.

Be and “Elder” Elf

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By Cindy Sproles

The holidays have arrived. Christmas trees, decorations, parties, a flurry of friends and family, keep us filled with joy and fun. However, the fun does not always resonate with our seniors. There are a number of things that “put a damper” on such a festive season. It’s important to become sensitive to those things that may trigger hardship or sadness for our elders.

Despite the stumbling blocks the holidays bring, we challenge you to put on an elf hat and become an “Elder” Elf. What does an Elder Elf do? It’s simple. Make visits, calls, visit nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Make yourself available to those seniors who may be lonely or forgotten for the holidays.

Be aware of the following things and take action:

*Loneliness is a major source of depression – The holidays spur times of deep reflection for everyone. Fond memories of loved ones past swirl in our minds as we pull out the Christmas decorations. For aging parents, the loss of a spouse or even children, surface and the longing for times past rise. Be mindful of those elders who have lost their spouse. Invite them to spend time with you, call, visit, include them in your holiday activities.

*Take note of the things that cause stress – For some aging parents, the festive hoopla is confusing, i.e. Alzheimer’s patients, those with dementia. Festivities sometimes cause confusion and stress. Simply be mindful of those needs and adjust visits and interaction to fit their needs.

*Give seniors permission to NOT purchase Christmas gifts – It sounds a little harsh, but the truth is, many seniors will overspend their already slim budget, in order to purchase gifts for grandchildren and great grandchildren. Those gifts can sometimes number in the 50’s depending on the number of children. Be sensitive to the small retirement budget of elder parents and give them permission to stop the Christmas spending. Initiate a “name drawing” or a dirty Santa Christmas where only one gift is purchased rather than buying for every family member. It’s a hard habit to break but one that will relieve enormous stress from your aging parents.

*Note holiday safety – Scams will be on the rise, opportunity for robberies and even identity theft – Take the necessary precautions to firm up security for your aging parents. Be sure deadbolts are in place, windows and less used doors are locked. Encourage seniors to never give their social security or bank information to anyone over the phone. Place charge cards and debit cards in a secure location. Keep an eye on bills and if your aging parent has difficulty getting to the street for their mail, check with the Postal Service about adding a mailbox at the door of a parent’s resident. Safety is always first.

One other suggestion. If your aging parents have since passed, adopt a senior at a nursing home or hospital. Look in your church at seniors who may be alone and make them part of your Christmas season. Assisted living and nursing home facilities maintain a list of those who have no family. Make Christmas stockings by gathering items such as toothpaste, skid-free socks, lap blankets, short devotional books, fragrance free sensitive skin lotions, close-heeled house shoes, soft cookies to deliver to nursing homes. Something so small can make such a wonderful difference.

This Christmas, be an Elder Elf. It’s our job to care for our aging parents and friends. Put on the elf ears and become a senior’s special elf.