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Nutrition Important to Older Adults

Caregivers setting out food for senior woman
Proper nutrition is vital to healthy aging. Look for warning signs that Mom or Dad could be headed for trouble.

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October 19, 2011

Good health for older adults begins at mealtimes. Is Mom or Dad getting enough to eat? Are your parents eating the right foods? A CAREGiverSM from Home Instead can lend a hand with grocery shopping and meal preparation, as well as detecting signs of trouble.

Q. The older Dad gets, the less appetite he has. How do I know if he’s eating too little? Living alone, he sometimes forgets to eat.

Proper nutrition is vital to healthy aging. Look for these warning signs that Dad could be headed for trouble, from Home Instead Senior Care® network’s “Cooking Under Pressure” public education campaign:

  • Loss of appetite: If he has always been a hearty eater but no longer eats as he used to, it’s time to find out why. Underlying illness could be the root cause.
  • Little to no interest in eating out: If he has always loved eating out at a favorite restaurant but no longer is interested, dig deeper to determine the problem.
  • Sudden weight fluctuation: A weight change -- losing or gaining 10 pounds in six months -- is another sign that something could be amiss.
  • Expired or spoiled food: Check the refrigerator for expired or spoiled food. He could be saving food until it’s no longer safe. Make sure that all food is labeled, with the date, in large letters and numbers.
  • Skin tone: Observe Dad’s skin tone. If he is eating properly, skin should look healthy and well-hydrated.
  • Lethargy: If Dad has regularly been active and enjoyed taking walks, but suddenly become lethargic, he should see a doctor. Poor nutrition could be to blame.
  • Cognitive problems: Seniors who live alone might forget to eat. If you suspect dementia, quick intervention is vital.
  • More than three medications: Medication can influence both appetite and weight. Check with his doctor to find out if medications could be the culprit.
  • A recent illness: Illness or a hospital stay could make your dad lose interest in eating. Make sure he has reliable help at home.

Support in the way of companionship, and meal preparation and shopping assistance could be just what your father needs. Contact the local Home Instead Senior Care® office to learn more.

For more about seniors and nutrition, along with information about the importance of mealtime companionship, visit www.foodsforseniors.com and www.mealsandcompanionship.com.

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