Eating a balanced, nutritious diet and maintaining a healthy weight is important throughout your life, but can require more thought in senior years due to changes in your body and lifestyle. Between 30 and 40% of senior Australians are classed as obese, and this can have a big impact on the risk of conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis, and require greater care dependencies. Equally, underweight or undernourished individuals can struggle as acute illness and changing eating habits take their toll – and all of this can be exacerbated through the changes of moving into a care home, so keeping an eye on your weight, or that of a loved one, is really important.
Changes in the body as we age mean that although daily caloric requirements decrease, we still need the same quality and amount of nutrients and vitamins – and in some cases more, as the body becomes less efficient at absorbing them. It is therefore important not to overeat, and to make sure that the quality and nutritional value of the food is high – even overweight people can be malnourished if they fill up on sugary carbs. Make sure that the diet offered at you or your loved one’s care home helps to reflect this.
Becoming underweight is also something to watch out for. Many things can cause a loss of appetite, especially emotional stress from change – which can be a result of moving into a care home. If the meal plan offered isn’t tempting you, make sure that you aren’t suffering in silence and ask for something different. Acute illnesses such as colds or fevers can cause rapid weight loss, and also affect appetite – so even if you’re not feeling your best, try to manage some small nutritious meals and then think about safely gaining the weight back when you feel well again.
Get tested for nutritional deficiencies by your doctor to highlight if you are lacking anything, and if your diet cannot be changed in your care facility, look at taking supplements.
Don’t simply accept what you are given: assess portion sizes and proportion of food groups to make sure you are eating a balanced and healthy diet.
Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated throughout the day to keep your body and mind working properly.
The upheaval from moving into a care home can have a big impact on you or your loved one’s’ life, including their appetite and diet – and maintaining a healthy weight at this age is very important, so keep an eye on things and be proactive about managing the change.