Is your elderly loved one eating right?

Do you have an elderly loved one living at home by him or herself? Have you noticed shifts in their eating patterns? Are they eating more TV dinners, cooking at home less and eating out more, or holding onto spoiled food? Perhaps their physician has expressed concern regarding their weight due to diet or eating patterns, or is concerned about cognitive issues, such as memory loss. If you have answered yes to any of these questions, it may be time to look into elderly homecare and alternative meal options for your aging parent or relative.

There is a lot to consider when an elderly loved one becomes more dependant on others as they age, and a healthy diet should be a top priority. According to the “Older Americans 2010: Key Indicators of Well Being” by the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging Related Statistics (The Forum), “The increase in the size of the older population is paralleled by an increase in the prevalence of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease. Since diet is a modifiable lifestyle factor, dietary improvement can lead to reduced disease risk and improved health in older adults.” Because chronic diseases such as stroke, cancer and diabetes are among the most common and costly health conditions, making the necessary dietary adjustments is crucial to your loved one’s health.

It is likely that your elderly loved one’s decline in nutritional health is a result of an increase in functional limitations. Some experience limitations with ADL (activities of daily living), others have issues with IADL (instrumental activities of daily living). ADL are the things we do regularly, including self-care, or hygiene-related activities such as, bathing, dressing, grooming, eating, etc. IADL are activities that take a little bit more effort, but still completed regularly. These are activities such as using the phone, maintaining a household, laundry, preparing food, handling transportation needs, managing finances, etc.

Elderly Homecare and Meal Planning Options

When searching for the proper meal solution for your loved one, one option is a Meals on Wheels program. The operations of these programs differ from region to region; some operate as non-profit organizations, others have received government funding. Other elderly care options for consideration include pre-made meals, or a privately owned meal delivery service. If cost is an issue, some Meals on Wheels programs offer sliding scale fees (variable costs based on one’s ability to pay) or free meals if you meet certain criteria. However, in many areas there may be a waiting list for such services.  There are frozen meal services available for delivery, including some tailored to special diets.

For many people, hiring a home health agency to provide an elderly caregiver to come in and cook meals tailored to your loved one’s tastes and diet has proved to be the best solution for them. Some home health agencies offer tailored and affordable plans, with many flexible elderly homecare options. These options can include having someone come in once a week and prepare several meals for your loved one that can be reheated throughout the week. Or, if you prefer, someone may visit your loved one’s home at meal time and provide them with companionship while preparing the meal. Many seniors have a decreasing appetite. Eating alone often exacerbates this and leads to eating less or eating a less balanced diet. An elderly caregiver can also take a person out for their favorite restaurant meal or pick up special food for them, even if they are living in an assisted care facility. This can be a special treat for your loved one!

Everyone ages differently. As individuals face challenges with different tasks, care providers can provide a wide range of elderly homecare services beyond just meal preparation and companionship. As seniors age, they typically require greater help with other daily activities such as transportation, medication management, household chores, grooming, dressing, etc. Elderly homecare providers also offer these non-medical, or “custodial” services in plans tailored to you and your loved one’s needs. Learn more about EasyLiving’s available elderly care options here.