Managing the nutritional intake of an elderly loved one requires a comprehensive understanding of their dietary needs, as well as the time to provide sufficient support.
Maintaining a balanced diet is crucial to warding off the effects of malnutrition, and can help to improve both quality of life and (in some cases) the potency of the body’s defences against specific conditions.
Here, we’ll look at some of the typical and specialist dietary recommendations you should consider for your elderly loved one.
Please remember that dietary changes are best considered with the assistance of a qualified nutritionist, health or care specialist.
Factors that affect elderly nutrition
A whole series of factors can impact on the dietary intake of elderly people, including:
- Drug-nutrient interactions
- Lack of mobility
- Low incomes
- Social isolation
- Poor dentition
- Diminished sense of smell and taste
- Ability to absorb nutrients
Basic dietary requirements
Basic dietary requirements tend not to change drastically with age. A balanced diet should include:
- Protein (meat, fish, eggs and pulses)
- Fruit and vegetables (five portions per day)
- Carbohydrates (potatoes, cereals and pasta)
Potentially harmful foodstuffs such as salt and alcohol should be ingested in moderation only.
Dietary recommendations A–Z
Calcium is essential to maintaining bone health. With age, this mineral can be reabsorbed, resulting in a condition known as osteoporosis. To keep bones strong and robust, make sure your loved one’s diet includes a selection of the following foodstuffs:
- Leafy green vegetables
For older people whose weight is within a healthy range, you should make sure to limit their intake of saturated fats in order to promote heart health. However, if your loved one’s BMI is below average, you may wish to speak to a nutritionist about potentially increasing their consumption.
In order to improve your loved one’s digestive health and help them maintain regular bowel movements, you should ensure they are consuming the recommended amount of fibre (approximately 21g for women and 30g for men per day). The following foods are rich in fibre:
- Wholegrain cereal
- Wholegrain bread
- Brown pasta and rice
- Fresh fruit, vegetables and pulses
Your loved one’s ability to conserve water is likely to have decreased with age, making regular hydration even more important. Precise requirements vary from person to person, but you should aim for a minimum daily intake of 1.5L. This should primarily consist of water, but may also include:
- Fruit juice/squash
Iron is a key component of haemoglobin, which enables oxygen to be transported around the body. An iron deficiency could result in your loved one becoming lethargic, or (in extreme cases) anaemic. Iron can be ingested from:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Dried fruit
Vitamin C is crucial for the creation of body tissues (both soft and hard), and aids in the healing process. It’s also an antioxidant that may play a role in the prevention of heart disease and cancer. Fresh fruit and vegetables can help to optimise your loved one’s vitamin C level, but some supplementation may be required.
Vitamin D aids the absorption of calcium and helps to strengthen bones. Your loved one can obtain vitamin D from sources including:
- Exposure to sunlight
- Oily fish
- Fortified cereals
- High quality supplements (approximately 10mcg)
Zinc can help your loved one maintain a strong immune system, and is found in:
- Wholemeal bread
Find out how The Good Care Group can reduce health risks and improve your loved one’s quality of life by optimising their dietary intake.