How to Manage Your Elderly Loved One’s Dietary RestrictionsJune 1, 2023
As we age, it’s common for dietary needs to change. New food allergies arise and certain health concerns make certain foods out of the question, even if they were a common part of one’s diet. These changes are not only difficult for the senior, but for the caregiver preparing their meals. Learning how to manage your elderly loved one’s dietary restrictions is a challenge for any caregiver. However, following these tips will help you create a meal plan for your elderly loved one that fits their lifestyle.
What are some common dietary restrictions for the elderly?
You can never anticipate what exact dietary restrictions are going to arise in your loved one. However, there are a few common restrictions many seniors develop due to health concerns. These include:
- Low-sodium diets: this kind of diet is recommended for those with high blood pressure or other pulmonary concerns. Decreasing one’s sodium intake can help decrease the risk associated with these concerns.
- Low-fat diets: for those with high cholesterol or a history of heart disease, low-fat diets are recommended to help them manage the condition.
- Diabetic diets: for those who have, or have developed diabetes in their older life diabetic diets help them manage blood sugar levels throughout the day.
- Gluten-free diets: while some may see “gluten-free” as a diet fad, it is so much more than that for those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. A gluten-free diet helps them feel healthy and happy.
- Lactose-free diets: “lactose-free” is a spectrum, but for many lactose intolerant individuals it is simply better to stay away from milk products to help their digestion move properly.
Why is nutrition so important for seniors in particular?
Of course, healthy eating is important to individuals of all age groups. Those caring for seniors, however, should make strides to ensure their loved one is eating properly, as it can help mitigate physical and mental health concerns, prevent chronic conditions, and lead to an overall improved quality of life.
Getting the elderly to stick to their specialized diet, however, can be rather difficult. As they age, some seniors experience problems associated with diet, such as decreased appetite, changes in smell and taste, or difficulty smiling and chewing. This makes the already challenging task of feeding an elderly loved one twice as hard.
Though each dietary restriction needs to be handled in its own way, there are a few key things you can do to ensure your loved one is eating a quality diet—no matter their restrictions.
Use spices and herbs instead of salt
As referenced above, aging can change how we interpret different tastes and smells. While this varies from person to person, it often manifests as diminished senses. To combat that, many overload their food with salt. Instead, pack your loved one’s food with spices and herbs you know they love. This should help alleviate the desire to add more salt to one’s meal.
Be mindful of carbohydrate intake
Carbohydrates are important for providing energy to the body, as well as great sources of fiber. You don’t want to cut carbs out of your loved one’s diet completely, however, it is important to consider where those carbohydrates are coming from. Stay away from processed bread and sweets, and instead provide foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains in their diet.
Don’t forget the importance of fiber
Older adults are more likely to have digestive issues. In order to help things move as they should, it is recommended that older adults consume 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day—both soluble and insoluble. To increase your loved one’s fiber intake, add more dishes containing ingredients such as oats, fruit, wheat flour, nuts, and vegetables.
If your loved one has problems chewing and swallowing…
When seniors struggle with chewing and swallowing, they are more likely to be nutrient deficient. If your loved one has started to express issues with either of these important factors of eating, fortify their diet with enriched soups or smoothies. Also stress the importance of drinking copious amounts of water, as this will help with digestion as a whole.
Set a regular eating schedule
While one should certainly listen to their body and eat when they are hungry, one of the best ways to ensure your loved one is eating properly is to set a meal and snack schedule. When older adults eat at roughly the same time every day, it trains their bodies to be ready to eat at said times. This is especially helpful if your older family member has experienced a decline in appetite.
Talk to a registered dietitian for more support
If coming up with healthy meals that fit your loved one’s dietary restrictions seems like an overwhelming task, consider meeting with a registered dietitian. They should be able to help you come up with a meal plan that fits your loved one’s dietary concerns. Speak with your loved one’s primary physician to make sure this diet fits their health concerns. They can recommend a quality dietitian in the first place.
For support at home, hire an at-home caregiver
The responsibilities of caring for a loved one are daunting to even the most dedicated family caregivers. If you ever find that the support of an at-home caregiver would help you provide higher-quality care to your elderly loved one, give Home Care Powered by AUAF a call. For 30 years, we have offered seniors in the Chicago area the support they need to live comfortably at home. We would be happy to assist your loved one too.
For more information on our services, give us a call at 773-274-9262.
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