A question no caregiver ever wants to ask themselves is any variation of, “Did Mom forget to eat again?” Unfortunately, this is an all too common problem among seniors. There are many social, economic, and psychological factors that contribute to seniors not eating properly, and over six million seniors in the U.S. are malnourished or at risk for being malnourished. Some seniors simply do not have the mobility to get out and shop, or prepare meals for themselves anymore.
Causes leading to malnutrition: Many seniors do not have the economic ability to purchase healthy foods, or do not know where to begin. Some have diet restrictions that make food unappealing or make preparing foods difficult, as they are unsure how to adjust recipes to fit the restrictions placed on their diets by medical professionals.
Sometimes seniors are simply not interested in eating because medications they are on are suppressing their appetite. Sometimes seniors don’t eat enough simply because the prospect of eating alone is not appealing. There are many other reasons seniors all too often go without eating, or eat too little, or eat the wrong foods. Many seniors find themselves in a position of getting by on a terrible diet, or eating things like pizza, frozen foods, and Chinese take-out.
Malnutrition is a serious concern for seniors and, left undetected and untreated, can lead to serious health consequences. Seniors who are not getting a proper diet are at increased risk for infections, have difficulty or delayed wound healing, often bruise easily, may be victim to impaired respiratory function, and suffer other physical and mental ailments such as muscle weakness, fatigue, and depression.
What can you do as a caregiver to make sure your parent is eating? And, not just eating, but eating the right foods that will help them fight off illness, avoid costly medical interventions, and have better quality of life? There are many options, some easier and more practical than others, that caregivers can use to help the senior in their life eat better:
Encourage exercise. This can stimulate appetite, help them be healthier, and get them moving.
Consider outside help. The fact is that many caregivers are juggling care with full time jobs, families of their own, and other responsibilities. Finding a solution for their senior loved one that involves outside help can be a win-win. Assisted care, an in-home assistant, or something to that effect is a good option, but can be costly, and is sometimes not something an independent senior wants.
Consider Meal Delivery options. Mom’s Meals (momsmeals.com) and other meal delivery services offer freshly prepared meals, many designed specifically for seniors, delivered to their door. This type of service can make it easier to get healthy and delicious meals to the table without a lot of extra time and effort on the part of the senior or the caregiver.
Make meal times social. For many seniors, mealtime is unappealing because they are eating alone. Thus, they forget to eat, or skip meals, or simply grab something fast, easy, and often not very nutritious. Help them find ways to make meals social.
Talk to their doctor about potential contributing factors to their poor eating habits. If your parent is skipping meals, it may be that their medication is decreasing their appetite. It could be that their teeth hurt – thus making chewing difficult. It could be some other solvable medical factor. Try to eliminate these problems to increase their interest in eating.
About R.O.S Therapy Systems: R.O.S. Therapy Systems began as a backyard project in 2010. Scott Silknitter was searching for tools to help his mother care for his father, Roger Owen Silknitter, during a 25-year fight with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. That project became a personal mission to help all family caregivers. From family caregiver training and activity books to mobile apps to activity systems, R.O.S. has grown to become a single-source provider of informational “how to’s” and a growing provider of adaptive tools for the millions of husbands, wives, children, and family members that become caregivers.
Common sense advice and instruction based on proven principles of communication, engagement, and daily living are the heart of everything R.O.S. offers for family caregivers. Improving quality of life for caregivers is our mission, and designing everything for a family caregiver struggling with a loved one is the starting point. Whether it is dementia, diabetes, Parkinson’s, ALS, stroke, visual impairment, developmental disabilities, or any other issue that forces someone to care for a loved one, R.O.S. and its Caregiving 101 program are here to help.