It is a sad fact that many seniors are going hungry. Hunger and malnutrition are significant problems among elderly populations, and seniors who live on their own are at particular risk for suffering from hunger and inadequate nutrition.
In order to prevent senior hunger and malnutrition, there are several things that senior care givers should consider regarding the diet, health and practices of their family members:
There may be physical signs that could indicate that a senior is struggling to maintain adequate nutrition. These physical indicators may include dental problems, unexplained bruising, or sudden increases or decreases in weight. It is important to consider that weight gain can actually be a sign of inadequate nutrition.
Long established eating patterns and habits that have recently changed can be an indication of underlying malnutrition issues. Sharing regular meals with a loved one and talking to them about their food choices on a regular basis can alert family members as to what is going on with their loved one’s diet and nutrition. Sudden or drastic shifts in what a family member is or is not eating can indicate that there is an underlying issue.
If one suspects that their loved one is not eating properly but is unable to confirm it by direct interaction with the senior, it may be time to consult with a professional health care provider. Doctors can help confirm the nutritional needs of the senior and possibly identify the effects of certain illnesses or medications on a senior’s appetite or diet. Doctors can also help eliminate other reasons for physical symptoms the senior is experiencing, or the family senior care giver is observing. Pharmacists and doctors can also confirm any potential food-drug interactions that could harm the senior.
If a senior care giver believes a family member or loved one is suffering from inadequate nutrition, there are ways to help. The first step may be to determine why the senior is not eating sufficiently to meet his or her nutritional needs. If nutrition seems inadequate, talking to the senior can help determine the major reasons for their food choices which could include inability to get to the grocery store or prepare food, inadequate financial resources or issues of pride or even depression related to the senior’s inability to be entirely self-sufficient in obtaining and preparing food. If the senior is not forthcoming or is unable to clearly express themselves for health reasons, some guess work may be needed.
The reasons behind the nutritional deficiency may influence the solution. There are many community resources to help with hunger issues including programs like Meals on Wheels and other community-based programs that can help provide seniors with meals and food. It can also be beneficial for concerned family members to hire a home care provider who can come into the senior’s home on a regular basis to provide services like grocery shopping, preparing meals and making sure the senior is eating a diet appropriate for his or her age and health condition. Home care providers also have specialized training and can work with family members to identify and address nutritional issues and other issues related to a senior’s physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.