You might look at the title ‘Nutrition for older people‘ and scroll past thinking that this post doesn’t apply to you. If you know an older person, whether they are your grandparents, great aunts/uncles, the couple that lives next door or that little old lady you see pottering around her garden every morning. Then this is a post that you need to read.
Up until recently, I worked on a community hospital ward, receiving patients who had been admitted from the community by their GP, community nurse or specialist nurse teams. They were admitted for a variety of different reasons, from infections, end of life care and those who were just not coping at home and required a bit of tender loving care.
One of the most common problems that many of these elderly patients suffered from was malnutrition. They would be admitted underweight, neglected and in need of someone to reach out and care for them. Some would never see any visitors apart from the healthcare professionals looking after them, which is truly heartbreaking that they have nobody in the world to pop in for 5-10 minutes to see how they are doing.
During their time on the ward, they would be treated by the doctors, loved by the nurses, chatted to by myself and the healthcare assistants and fed by the housekeepers. As their discharge date approached we’d have to complete a friends and family questionnaire to see what they thought of their time on the ward. Time and time again one of the things that stood out on those questionnaires was that the food was lovely. Which you might think is strange considering they should be commenting on the care from the nurses etc., however, to them it was the ability to have regular meals and drinks that mattered most to them.
Nutrition for older people
Now it’s time to think about the older person in your life, when did you last check that they were eating regularly, eating the foods that they need to keep them going and drinking enough throughout the day to stay hydrated. I’m not saying that this is an easy task, as I fully understand just how independent and stubborn some people can be.
Barchester has put together a handy nutrition for older people guide for you to take a look at. It includes a range of information from what causes malnutrition, how to encourage eating, how to get a balanced diet, hydration, and suggestions for finger foods for those who prefer to graze throughout the day instead of eating a large meal three times a day.
As patients were discharged from our community hospital ward we would send them home with a loaf of bread and a pint of milk to ensure they had the basics before friends and family/social services popped in with a shopping delivery. We’d also suggest to family members how they could make an extra serving of meals at home and then take around for their loved one so that they had a meal ready to be heated up. Batch cooking is also a great way to ensure that their freezer is full of meals that just need to be defrosted and heated with minimal effort.
Do you have an older person in your life?
How do you ensure that they are eating regularly?
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post