Elderly people can lose interest in eating full, healthy balanced meals as they get older. This can have serious, long-term effects on their health and well-being.
Here are 10 top tips to encourage older people to eat:
1. Keep hydrated
Lack of water can cause appetite suppression. It’s needed for all bodily functions and is a dehydration is a common problem in the elderly. Frequently prompting drinks, checking they are being drunk, and making drinks more interesting by adding cordial etc can all help
2. Keep it saucy
Linked to hydration – depending on individual preferences, elderly people (who may be slightly dehydrated or have swallowing issues) often prefer meals with a sauce to soften it and lubricate it’s journey to the stomach. For example, if making a roast dinner, lots of gravy can encourage elderly people to eat more. 20% of our water intake comes from food.
If food is not appetising, you won’t eat as much. Especially as elderly people can lose acuity of their taste and smell senses, they take more information from visual cues. Spending some time on how the food looks can make a big difference.
4. Location location location
If people have mobility issues, they may be keen to eat in their armchair or in bed. If they can get up, it is worth encouraging people to sit at the dining table to eat, as this is a better sitting position and allows more defined ‘meal times’ to develop. It can be more sociable and a change of scenery is never a bad thing either!
5. Get their teeth and swallowing checked
Maybe they can’t chew properly or are in pain, which is affecting what they can eat. Softer or blended foods are better here.
6. Offer a menu
Giving some options will give you information about the sort of thing they most want to eat. You can use this information to tailor the menu to keep in the favourites and get rid of the unloved chicken kievs in the back of the freezer, for example.
7. Keep meals smaller
People’s appetite reduces as they get older, and getting a huge plate of food can be a bit demoralising when you’re just not hungry. This can lead people to just pick at it and not try to finish it. Instead of three large meals a day, you could try five or six smaller ones, as long as they’re healthy.
8. Quality not Quantity
Making sure meals are as healthy as possible by possibly adding protein powder to drinks, shredded veggies to scambled eggs etc, and using healthy, natural ingredients can all help.
If you are really worried about someone’s weight, drinks such as Fortisip contains proteins and the vitamins, minerals and trace elements needed for a nutritionally complete diet. If you are considering this, it’s probably worth speaking to their GP about their eating.
10. Reduce levels of salt
Around 75% of the salt we need is already in everyday foods like bread, cereal and ready meals. Elderly people can eat too much salt either through the use of ready meals, which can be very salty, or by over-salting their food. By doing this, they are in danger of raised blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.