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Family Caregivers can Support Good Nutrition in Seniors

A senior’s nutritional level can greatly impact their overall physical and mental health. However malnutrition is on the rise, threatening the health and wellbeing of many seniors. It’s important for family caregivers of seniors to recognize the signs of malnutrition in seniors.

What is Malnutrition?

Malnutrition, or under-nutrition, is a condition in which a person doesn’t take in enough nutrients to meet their body’s health needs. The body needs certain amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fat, calories, vitamins and minerals to heal wounds, for energy, to thrive and to survive.

If a senior doesn’t take in enough nutrients, they may become more frail and develop a range of health conditions. Malnutrition affects the immune system, and they become more susceptible to infections and disease. They also experience more weakness, a higher risk for falls, fractures, hospitalizations and death.

What Contributes to Malnutrition?

A number of things contribute to malnutrition in seniors, including:

  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Problems with painful or missing teeth
  • Poorly fitting dentures
  • Mobility issues interfere with shopping, cooking or eating
  • Illness and chronic disease
  • Loneliness, depression
  • Certain medications
  • Alcohol misuse

Signs of Malnutrition in Seniors

Signs of malnutrition in seniors can be easy to miss, because sometimes they happen so gradually over a long period of time.

Signs of malnutrition may include:

  • A body mass index (BMI) of under 18.5
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Clothing is too big
  • Rings become loose or fall off
  • Dentures become loose
  • Poor appetite or disinterest in eating and drinking
  • Fatigue or mood changes
  • Weakness

Family caregivers should watch for possible signs of malnutrition, weigh the senior weekly, and observe their eating habits for changes or concerns.

How Family Caregivers Can Support Good Nutrition

First and foremost, involve the senior’s doctor if you have any concern about their nutritional status. The doctor may recommend a consultation with a registered dietician, or other interventions. If there is any sign of tooth or denture trouble, schedule a trip to the dentist.

Many seniors find better nutrition when they:

  • Eating small meals 5-6 times per day, rather than 3 larger meals, which may be overwhelming.
  • Drink nutrient-rich fluids, such as whole milk, soup or supplement drinks. (Supplement drinks should be taken after eating a meal, not before, so they don’t get full before they eat.)
  • Focus on high calorie, high-protein foods such as cheese, peanut butter and greek yogurt.
  • Ensure foods that the senior likes are readily available.
  • Make mealtime social.
  • Get regular activity.

How Home Care can Help Support Good Nutrition

Family caregivers often turn to home care agencies for support with a senior’s nutrition. Home care aides can help with grocery shopping or meal preparation, which can make a big difference in having healthy, nutrient-rich appealing food available.

Home care aides can offer reminders or encouragement to eat and drink throughout the day. Home care aides can spend meal time with seniors, which can increase their intake and social interaction.

Home care aides can also help a senior stay active, which can promote a healthy appetite. Some seniors have their home care aides help them grow fresh garden greens and veggies, and then help them cook them up fresh. Holistic approaches like these can be very valuable for improving a senior’s nutrition, health and wellbeing.


If you or an aging loved one is considering caregivers in Center Hill, FL, please contact the caring staff at Golden Heart Senior Care of Clermont today. 1-888-423-4046.

Can Dementia and Depression Exist at the Same Time?

Dementia is complicated enough, but your senior might be experiencing depression at the same time. This can be difficult to help her to manage, especially if her dementia has progressed to the point that she’s unable to communicate to you what’s wrong. There may be more that you can do for her than you thought possible, however.

People with Dementia Can Absolutely Be Depressed, Too

Depression can have a variety of different causes, and just because your senior has dementia that doesn’t mean that she can’t experience other issues as well. Anxiety can be a big part of dementia, because of the changes your elderly family member is experiencing. The same is true for depression. Your elderly family member has experienced a lot of loss through her experience with dementia and that can absolutely contribute.

It’s Harder to Spot

Depression can be difficult to spot at times on its own. When someone has dementia, though, depression can be even more difficult to spot. Depression can “hide” in the other symptoms of dementia and your elderly family member may not be able to openly communicate with you how she’s feeling. Watch for signs like withdrawing even more from people and from favorite activities. Other signs could include greater irritability than usual, excess fatigue, and unexplained crying.

Talk with Your Senior’s Doctor

Any time that you’re noticing changes in your senior’s typical behavior, it’s a good idea to talk to her doctor. There may be nothing unusual going on, but it could be something. Her doctor can rule out possible medical causes, including side effects from any medications that your senior is taking. From there, you can branch out to find other possible solutions.

Look for Other Ways to Help Ease Her Depression

Your senior’s doctor may recommend medication or other treatments, but there are other things you can do to help to ease her depression. Keeping her active and engaged in daily life can help, as can finding activities that she enjoys and wants to do. Social engagement can also be a factor. It might be a good idea to hire elderly care providers, both to offer additional help and to serve as someone else that your family member can engage with on a regular basis.

There is no one solution for depression, especially for someone with dementia. Keep trying to find the combination that works for your elderly family member.

If you or an aging loved one is considering elderly care in Yalaha, FL, please contact the caring staff at Golden Heart Senior Care of Clermont today. 1-888-423-4046.