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"Dear Jayne, My mother is suffering from poor nutrition! What can I do to help her?”

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Dear Jayne:

My mother lives four hours away from me. Not too far but just far enough that with the demands of my work and family, I can’t be there every week. During my last visit, I went along on an appointment she had scheduled with her family doctor.

During the visit, her physician reviewed blood work she recently had done. I couldn’t believe what I heard! My mother is deficient in a variety of vitamins and minerals, and her cholesterol was very high. The doctor asked about her diet and the impact it was having on her health.

What I learned is that she has been relying on convenience foods and fast food for most of her meals. I assumed because she looks healthy that she was doing fine. Now I know I need to help her better manage her mealtimes.

Do you have any advice?

Kind Regards,

Kristen

Strategies to Help Seniors Avoid Malnutrition

Dear Kristen:

This is a concern we hear often from families! According to the Alliance for Aging Research, as many as one in two older adults are at risk for malnutrition. And it isn’t just because of limited financial resources. Here’s a little more information on the causes and a few suggestions that might help your mother. (READ MORE)

Seniors are at risk for poor nutrition for many reasons, which may include:

  • Medication side effects such as nausea or loss of appetite
  • Lack of transportation to and from the grocery store
  • Mobility issues that cause grocery shopping to be tough
  • Chronic illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease and arthritis that make meal preparation difficult
  • Untreated depression that leads to a lack of interest in food
  • Memory loss that causes a senior to forget to eat
  • Lack of interest in cooking for just one person

What you probably need to do first is sit down and talk with your mother about the challenges that are preventing her from eating healthy. It may be one of the reasons listed above or it could also be that she’s developed bad habits over time.

Many seniors and their families aren’t aware that nutritional needs change as we age. Tufts University is a leader in the field of nutrition and aging. They created a program to help seniors make better food choices. MyPlate for Older Adults breaks down nutritional needs in to a visual chart you can use to plan menus. The site contains easy recipes that even use convenience foods like frozen vegetables and fruits.

But it still requires grocery shopping, meal preparation and cooking time. If your mother is looking for easier alternatives, some of the meal delivery services might be a better solution.

  • HomeBistro: This nationwide home delivery program is different than others in that meals are already prepared. A senior only needs to reheat them before serving. HomeBistro meals are based on the Mediterranean diet, known for promoting a healthy heart. It can be a good plan to help your mother reduce her cholesterol while improving her nutrition. Each meal is 700 calories or less and contains no more than 800 milligrams of sodium.
  • HelloFresh: Another option for your mother to consider is HelloFresh. She can choose her own menu options and will receive a delivery once a week. The box will contain recipes and all of the ingredients needed to prepare each of her meals. While it eliminates the hassle of meal planning and grocery shopping, she will still need to do the prep work and cooking.
  • Meals on Wheels: A budget-friendly choice is to contact her local Meals on Wheels program. You can find it using her zip code to search Meals on Wheels America. These local programs typically deliver meals every day or two. A drawback is that meal choices are often very limited. Fees are usually on a sliding scale based on income.

Another option to consider is a move to a senior living community. Benchmark Senior Living’s dining experience combines healthy, chef-inspired meals with an opportunity to socialize with friends. You and your mother are always welcome to join us for a meal and private tour at your convenience. 

I offer the above suggestions as general information.  Concerns about your mother’s dietary needs should be discussed with her medical provider to ensure that her specific needs are being met. 

Until next time,

Jayne

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Jayne Sallerson is a warm, enthusiastic and compassionate executive with a heart for working with seniors. Jayne has been in senior care for more than 20 years and she says, “I still love what I do.” At Benchmark Senior Living, Jayne now serves as Executive Vice President. A native of New England, Jayne loves to travel, meet new people, and hang out with her favorite pug, Henry.
Jayne started this blog as a way to share the many questions she and her team get every day with other people looking for answers.