Most caregivers for older adults understand the importance of doctor visits when it comes to keeping their loved ones happy and healthy. But did you know there’s another individual who may be just as important to their well-being? This is a role that you may not have considered but is nonetheless crucial to maintaining an older adult’s physical and mental vigor.
A senior nutritionist – it all begins with diet
We’re talking about a senior nutritionist, of course. The basis of all good health starts with a nutritious diet. If your loved one’s diet is poor, it’s unlikely that they’ll fully benefit from other healthcare measures. Additionally, older adults have specific nutritional needs based on their changing health and bodies. A few of these needs include:
Increased fiber. Changes in activity level and the gastrointestinal tract can often lead to chronic constipation in older adults. Increased fiber intake will help to combat these effects. Fiber can come from whole grains (rather than processed white flour), fresh fruit (rather than juices), and vegetables (the more colorful the vegetable, the better it is for you).
Adequate calcium. For older adults, bone health is of the utmost importance, which is why they frequently need to supplement their calcium intake. This critical mineral helps to prevent osteoporosis, bone fractures, and more. Calcium-rich foods include milk, yogurt, and cheese, as well as green, leafy vegetables.
Older adults have many specific dietary needs including protein, vitamins, and more. A nutritionist is the perfect person with whom to discuss those needs.
Nutrition for your loved one’s tastes
It’s not always easy for an older adult to get the nutrition they need, particularly if they’re on a restrictive diet for a condition like diabetes or heart disease. A knowledgeable nutritionist will know how to accommodate these restrictions while ensuring that the foods your loved one eats are just as healthy as they are palatable.
For instance, those with heart conditions are often advised to follow a ‘DASH’ diet, which stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.” One of the main tenets of DASH is to restrict sodium intake; the unfortunate side effect of this health measure is that your food might taste bland or flavorless, especially if the senior was accustomed to a moderate-to-high sodium diet for most of their life. A good nutritionist will know ways to increase the “taste factor” of the DASH diet, including the judicious use of spices and seasonings (like nutritional yeast).
A nutritionist can come to your home
If you’re concerned that your loved one can’t get out to visit their nutritionist or doesn’t have escorted transportation, never fear. Many nutritionists are happy to visit the client’s home so that transportation is not an issue. And while you’re at it, you may want to think about bringing in some additional professionals to support your loved one’s work with their nutritionist.
For instance, a home health aide can prepare simple, healthy meals if your loved one has a physical condition that limits their abilities in the kitchen. An aide can even tidy up afterward to reduce the amount of housework your loved one has to do. Additionally, a visiting nurse can provide medication management and monitoring that compliments the nutritionist’s work. Nurse visits can help determine if a particular diet or supplement is effective or having the desired result on the client’s health.
Schedule a consult with a nutritionist today
Don’t delay in scheduling a consult with a nutritionist for your loved one. The sooner they start getting the vitamins and minerals they need – in a form they enjoy – the sooner they’ll see the benefits. A quality home care agency can help arrange a visit by a certified and experienced nutritionist, as well as assist you with any follow-up care required. Healthy meals for a healthy body – now that’s something for all of us to chew on.
If you are unsure how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and secure the best at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.