Nutrition and aging is a critical concern for many Geriatricians and those caring for an older adult. Nutrition is even more of a concern when the older adult has been diagnosed with Dementia. Forgetting to eat or hoarding food that it often spoiled in the refrigerator are key indicators of an older adult with memory loss needing more assistance. Older adults with memory loss may also crave sugar and make poor choices.
On the National Council on Aging Web site www.ncoa.org many healthy eating tips for seniors are explained, even for those on a budget. Smart shopping and choices are also emphasized.
The national council encourages seniors to make sure their plate is balanced and looks healthy. Their nutrition team of experts describes a healthy plate as looking just like a rainbow. I encourage Memory Care facilities to read this information. So many times, facility food looks like comfort food with no nutritional value or appeal.
NCOA lists the following choices as a healthy rainbow plate:
- Lean protein – bland color
- Fruits and Vegetables – orange, red, green and purple
- Whole Grains – brown
- Low-Fat dairy or carbohydrate – white
With memory loss, an emphasis on HYDRATION is essential. Small amounts of fluids throughout the day are key to staying alert and oriented. Staying away from sugar-filled drinks is important as well. Healthy finger foods should also be available for those who are having difficulty using cutlery or remembering to eat. Placing finger foods and snacks in the home or facility throughout the day is key to reminding the person with memory loss to eat.
Also, a late night healthy snack can help settle those who wake up and need some redirection.
A modified Food Guide or Pyramid is sited in the literature quite often. Jean Meyer, USDA HRNCS developed the first modified Pyramid for older adults over 70 years of age. In her pyramid, the placement of water at the bottom of the pyramid is critical. She also places a flag at the top for calcium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B12 supplements because many seniors do not get enough of these nutrients in their diets.
The need for Fiber and Omega-3 fatty acid is mentioned in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging.
Many epidemiological studies emphasize this need as critical.
In numerous Dietary surveys and studies conducted over the last few years, older adults are shown to have inadequate intake of some essential micronutrients such as Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, Magnesium, Vitamin B12, Folate and Vitamin D.
Every older adult should request that their physician test them to see if they are deficient in Micronutrients. For example, a senior who is not sleeping well may be deficient in Magnesium or even have high blood pressure due to this deficiently. In recent years, geriatrician experts are focusing on the need to rule out lack of nutritional intake or inadequate vitamin absorption as critical.
Everyone can agree that our main goal for older adults with memory loss is for them to live, as much as possible, a comfortable and stress-free life. Being deficient in vitamins and nutrients is not only uncomfortable, but a senior could possibly suffer. It is my hope and the hope of so many professionals in Gerontology and Geriatrics that our seniors get only the very best food and nutrients they deserve.