Aging is a fact of life. As our bodies age, we require just as many – if not more – vitamins and nutrients. As we get older, however, we also tend to have smaller appetites. If you have elderly parents, it may sometimes be a challenge to help them stay healthy by eating right. Physical ailments, medications, mobility limitations, and other factors may make it difficult for an older person to eat as healthfully as they should to maintain their strength. If you need some ideas on how to help your parents eat well even in old age, here are some tips.
Visit with a Nutritionist
Visiting with a nutritionist is one of the best things you can do to help your elderly parents. You and your parents may not be aware of all their nutritional needs, and a nutritionist or dietician can help all of you learn exactly what type of diet is best for your parents’ individual needs. A nutritionist can help your parents learn healthy eating habits and help them come up with healthy meals, snacks, and eating plans. When you all attend the meeting together, you can be more helpful in encouraging and implementing the recommendations of the nutritionist.
Help with Grocery Shopping
One of the reasons elderly people don’t eat as well as they should is that grocery shopping is more difficult for them. They may be unable to shop on their own, even. Without regular trips to the grocery store, they may lack the healthy, fresh ingredients they need to prepare healthy snacks and meals. Help make sure their pantry and fridge is stocked by driving them to the grocery store regularly or doing their shopping for them. Picking up and dropping off things like fruits, vegetables, milk, and meat, can be an incredible help to them.
Help with Meal Preparation
Many elderly people are unable to cook for themselves anymore, or at least not to the extent that they used to or need to in order to stay healthy. If your parents have trouble preparing meals, help them by cooking for them. You can deliver meals, or you can stock their freezers with pre-made meals and ingredients that are ready to defrost when desired. If this is difficult for you, you can also make use of a program like Meals-on-Wheels, or you can ask for help with meal preparation and delivery from other family members, church members, or neighbors.
Make Necessary Changes
There are other things you might be able to do to help your elderly parents eat healthy. For example, you might consult with their doctors about changes to their medication – either type, dosage, or time taken – that can help increase their appetite. If your parents are having other difficulties with eating healthy, you may need to seek out new foods. For example, chewing or swallowing may be difficult, so introducing items like smoothies might be effective. If certain types of foods make your parents feel sick or have other side effects, help them find alternative foods that are preferable and still have the same nutritional content.
Kathryn Thompson is a caregiver and a nutritionist who devotes part of her time providing encouraging advice for you and your elderly parents because she knows it may sometimes be a challenge to help them stay healthy by eating right.