Even before we start to age, getting the proper nutrition from day to day can be a challenge. We may not know how to cook that well, or our budget may make it difficult to get the quality ingredients we want.
However, for aging adults, getting the proper nutrition everyday can be particularly difficult. There are many nutrition challenges in aging adults, but there are also ways to work around them to ensure that the aging adult you love or care for can get the healthy nutrition needed.
The following are some common examples of nutrition challenges in aging adults:
- Loss of smell or taste
Judy Knudsen, a University of Wisconsin Extension family living educator for Brown County, says, “We walk into a kitchen, and we smell how good the food is, the aroma, or we taste something, and it tastes great.” However, as people age, their sense of taste and smell can grow weaker and weaker. Eventually, the senses that made food so enticing before can be all but gone, leaving them with little motivation to eat their meals.
- Financial struggles
Aging adults living on a fixed income can have a particularly hard time affording the groceries they need to make the meals they require. This can leave the aging adult feeling stuck or embarrassed to ask for financial help or resources.
- Physical challenges
It can also become more difficult to chew and swallow as we age. Even if an aging adult is hungry, the discomfort from those complications, along with things like ill fitted dentures, for example, can discourage an elder from eating.
- Lack of transportation
Aging can often mean that an adult is no longer able to drive themselves to the grocery store or their favorite restaurants. It can also be difficult and potentially unsafe for them to try to navigate public transportation. These transportation issues can cause major problems with access to the foods aging adults need.
As a family member and/or caregiver to an aging adult, it’s important to be on the lookout for signs that the elder may be experiencing some of these common nutritional challenges, especially because the individual may not be forthcoming about mentioning it themselves.
Here are some signs to look for that may indicate an aging adult you love is struggling to get the nutrition needed:
- There isn’t an adequate amount of food in their kitchen.
- There haven’t been any dishes in the sink lately.
- The adult seems to have a lack of physical energy.
If you’re looking to help an aging adult avoid the nutrition challenges that come their way, Knudsen recommends bringing up the conversation to the aging adult in the most respectful way possible, considering that the adult may be embarrassed or apprehensive about sharing their struggles. From there, ask questions about the concerns you have.
Maybe ask about how they’re getting to the grocery store or how much food they’re buying when they go. Ask them how often they’ve been eating or if they’ve been having physical troubles with cooking.
Asking these questions in a gentle, considerate way will let the aging adult know that you’re trying to help and will also keep them from shutting down. Once they tell you about their nutrition practices, offer help in the ways that you see fit, and be careful not to overwhelm the elder with new changes to their nutrition routine or the way they cook.
If you have been noticing nutrition challenges in aging adults in your care, Home Care Assistance can help! Our elderly care in Raleigh and the surrounding areas includes services such as meal preparation that can help ensure that an aging adult is eating the balanced meals needed to stay healthy. To learn about how our home care services can help, contact us today online or at 919-436-1871.