At any age, keeping up with the necessary nutritional requirements can be difficult and confusing. However, as seniors grow older, some may be faced with additional challenges that can interfere with their ability to prepare and eat nutritious meals.
Losing a spouse can make their mealtimes very difficult. A Journals of Gerontology study (1993) found that many widows who used to enjoy cooking and eating, now found these things a “chore” because they had no one to share them with. The study also found that many widowers were not prepared to plan and cook nutritious meals.
Seniors with chronic medical conditions requiring special diets can find it much tougher to prepare meals. And those with disabilities may also find that eating is way too much trouble.
Even if seniors eat a diet high in nutritional value, medical problems may prevent the necessary absorption of the important nutrients.
Some Warning Signs Of Seniors At Risk
Nutritional problems can sneak up on seniors. So it’s important for caregivers to watch for “red flags.” Here’s a list of some of the things to look out for. If you do suspect a senior is suffering from poor nutrition, please consult their doctor.
- Skipping meals & eating less. – “I’m not really hungry.” With age, digestive tolerance for certain foods and spices may change. Dental issues, swallowing difficulties and chewing problems can make eating more difficult. Loneliness and depression can take away the incentive to eat. Medications can also have a negative affect on appetite.
- Complains of lack of taste and smell. – “This onion doesn’t smell very strong .” It’s normal for seniors to lose some of their sense of smell and taste. And certain medications can magnify the losses. These problems can take away some of the desire to eat.
- A noticeable loss of weight. – If you don’t pick up on the first two points, a sudden drop in weight is a visual signal that poor nutrition may be an issue.
- Constipation. – Digestive problems affect nutritional absorption. The diet may lack enough fruits and vegetables. Water intake may be low. Or medications may be to blame.
- Problems with mobility or dexterity. – “I couldn’t get to the store this week.” Physical disabilities can make it more difficult to go shopping and prepare meals. Difficulty handling utensils may make eating more frustrating and less enjoyable.
- Not as active or complains of low energy. – “I don’t feel like doing that anymore.” Passing up on things they always loved to do can be a result of low energy. When nutrition is poor, activity drops along with the energy level.
(Sources: FDA, Howtocare.com)
Who’s At Risk?
There are over 3 million people in the U.S. that are afflicted with glaucoma, of which half don’t know they have it. Although, anyone can be a victim of this disease, some people face a higher risk for contraction. They include:
- People over the age of 60. The risk increases as the age of the senior increases.
- People of Afro-American descent. They have an incidence rate of glaucoma that is much higher than the rest of the population and are stricken with the disease at younger ages.
- People suffering from diabetes.
- People with a family history of glaucoma.
- People with a high degree of nearsightedness.
- People who have had an eye injury or eye surgery.
- People who have taken steroids for long periods of time.
(Sources: National Eye Institute, Glaucoma Research Foundation)