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Understanding Nutrition as Seniors Age


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Understanding Nutrition as Seniors AgeEnsuring seniors get proper nutrition while following doctors’ diet recommendations and navigating medical conditions like diabetes, dementia or arthritis can make the simple act of eating complicated for seniors and family caregivers. In honor of National Nutrition Month, we’re sharing resources that may help. Learn more about senior nutrition at www.eatright.org.

According to the professionals, six key nutrients  – calcium, Vitamins D and B12, sodium, fiber and water – are important to successful aging for any older adult.

Nutrition may be even more important to seniors who are facing common chronic medical conditions:

  • Diabetes – According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 100 million U.S. adults are living with diabetes or prediabetes. The report finds that as of 2015, 30.3 million Americans – 9.4 percent of the U.S. population – have diabetes. Older adults with diabetes or prediabetes may be advised to follow a special low-carb or diabetic diet to better control blood sugar levels. It’s important that seniors with diabetes closely follow a doctor’s orders. Family caregivers should observe and record a loved one’s food intake regularly as an important part of managing diabetes.
  • Arthritis – Since mobility often is a problem for those with arthritis, preparing meals can be challenging. Your senior’s doctor could recommend an anti-inflammatory diet to help reduce inflammation that causes arthritis pain. By conservative estimates, about 54 million adults have doctor-diagnosed arthritis, the most of which is osteoarthritis, which affects an estimated 31 million Americans.
  • Heart disease – Heart disease can lead to a heart attack and congestive heart failure. Diet is important to preventing these conditions and maintaining an older adult’s health if he or she has already been diagnosed with heart disease or congestive heart failure. Experts suggest a reduced sodium diet may help manage swelling in the ankles and legs, and keeping weight down to proactively manage the disease.
  • Dementia – Dementia conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease may present a host of challenges for an older adult, from safety issues including the inability to remember to turn off the stove to forgetting to eat altogether. A senior with dementia likely will need additional help at home to manage and ensure a healthy diet and proper nutrition. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in general, a healthy diet is one that is lower in saturated fats. Difficulty swallowing can be part of the progression of Alzheimer’s disease so a special diet may be required to manage these issues as well.  

These five reasons could impact an older adult’s ability to get the proper nutrition:

  1. Problems chewing
  2. Medications that interfere with sense of taste
  3. Depression
  4. Inability to cook
  5. Loneliness due to eating alone


Let’s not underestimate the impact of senior loneliness. Home Instead Senior Care® research shows lack of companionship is the biggest mealtime challenge for seniors. Dining alone can magnify loneliness and feelings of depression, which in turn can suppress appetite and lead to poor eating.

Anyone can drop off a meal, but engaging seniors while they eat, even sitting down with a cup of tea, could make a positive difference in his or her social life. Spending mealtime with loved ones as often as possible or even calling at meal times might make an important impact on his or her health.

Other resources that may help aging loved ones with proper nutrition:

Knoke, Lanita.jpg Author: LaNita Knoke

LaNita Knoke is a Registered Nurse with more than 25 years of clinical experience including direct care and clinical business. As a healthcare strategist, she is responsible for the healthcare adjacency strategy for the Home Instead Senior Care global network, which includes a focus on care transitions programs, community resources, and understanding of home care as it relates to the clinical continuum.

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