Nutrition needs change as we age
Let’s think about it. Does a two-year-old have the same nutritional needs as a 34-year-old would have, or even a 73-year-old? Do you think that each of these age groups has the same appetite for food? Do certain foods tend to bother different age groups more?
While generalizations regarding the types and amounts of food that are offered to older adults should not be made, caregivers need to be sensitive that older adults may have some unique problems. Listed below are some of the special dietary needs that may be observed in older adults, and the considerations to be given in assisting people in coping with these conditions.
Decreased sensation of taste, smell or vision
What you could do: Present food attractively on the plate, add a garnish whenever possible. Check the menu to see that there is a good use of color. Food should be well seasoned. Provide adequate lighting without glare.
Diminished appetite and/or ability to feed one’s self
What you could do: Provide foods that are dense in calories (many calories in small volume). Try to offer meals and snacks when the person’s appetite is the best. Check medication to determine its influence on appetite. Allow adequate time to eat. Provide appropriate utensils/feeding devices, if needed.
Diminished thirst sensation
What you could do: Offer fluids at temperatures most accepted by the person. Many prefer beverages without ice. Determine beverage preferences. Offer fluids frequently instead of waiting for someone to say he or she is thirsty.
Dental disease or poorly fitting dentures
What you could do: Many people without teeth are capable of chewing whole food. If someone can eat green beans, it is not necessary to mash or puree them. Offer fluids frequently during the meal.
What you could do: Provide high fiber foods often. Emphasize intake of raw and cooked fruits and vegetables, whole grain cereals and breads. Offer water frequently. Encourage physical activity.
Lactose intolerance, osteoporosis
What you could do: Many elderly are less tolerant of milk and dairy products. Small amounts of dairy products at a time, or eating dairy products with other foods, may be better tolerated. Try special milk products such as lactaid drops, lactaid milk, fermented dairy products such as buttermilk or yogurt
Decreased iron intake
What you could do: Encourage intakes of high iron foods with high vitamin C foods for improved absorption. Some high iron foods include deep green vegetables, red meats, iron fortified cereals.
Arthritis and or special disabilities
What you could do: Provide “easy to open” or opened containers. If overweight, encourage weight loss to reduce discomfort. Provide finger foods when appropriate. Provide foods in appropriate consistency. Obtain special eating utensils, cups, plates, and bowls, for those who need it. If necessary, consult an occupational therapist to help determine appropriate eating utensils.
What you could do: Immobility increases risk for obesity, constipation, osteoporotic changes, pressure sores. Encourage physical activity to the extent possible.
Need for socialization
What you could do: Encourage dining in a group setting. Select compatible table mates. Provide a stimulating dining environment that is comfortable and conducive to conversation.
What you could do: Be patient. Face the person when speaking. Use effective communication skills by speaking clearly.