Missing out on proper nutrition increases the risk of illness and disease. For elderly or disabled patients who are housebound and already at risk, malnutrition may prove to be the tipping point. In some cases, your patient may have lost their appetite and be unwilling to eat the food prepared for them. At other times, the food might not be available, or your patient may be unwilling to cook for themselves. When the diet fluctuates, the fear of malnutrition is real, but there are ways to ensure your patient receives the proper nutrition to support their optimal health.
It may be difficult as a caregiver to suggest options to the family, to help their loved one maintain proper nutrition, but it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of your client. It is also important to recognize some individuals can be malnourished while eating enough food. In this case, the food they're eating does not support their nutritional needs but may support their weight, and in fact, increase the risk for obesity.
Nutritional needs change with advancing age as energy expenditure reduces taste and smell changes and medical conditions may increase or reduce an individual's need for nutrition and energy. Signs of malnutrition or undernutrition include:
- Lack of appetite
- Chronic tiredness and irritability
- Inability to concentrate
- Always feeling cold
- Loss of fat or muscle mass
- Taking longer to heal wounds
Watching for these signs yourself, as well as educating your clients loved ones on the importance of nutrition and the signs to watch out for, will help your client maintain their nutritional strength. If your clients family is unable to provide meals, they have several options. Meals on Wheels is a community-based program delivering meals intermittently to those unable to shop or cook for themselves.
Additionally, consider stocking your clients' refrigerator with healthy foods that may be easily prepared and little to no time. For instance, boxed, shelf-stable soups are easy to warm up, tasty and nutritious. Many grocery stores provide a variety of fresh salads that may be eaten throughout the week. Sliced cheese, string cheese, and sliced chicken are all nutritious foods that are easy to eat and require no preparation.
Your community may have additional meal delivery services for those who are unable to get out on their own. Mom's Meals is a nationwide organization providing refrigerated, home-delivered meals for those who are recuperating at home or trying to manage a chronic disease. If your client has a good appetite but unable to cook for themselves, meal delivery from local restaurants on occasion is another option. Groceries can be delivered from local supermarkets or even from Amazon.
Grow Your Career With Harmony
At Harmony, we understand the importance of nutrition to optimal health and encourage our clients and their families to find options to fit their needs. Contact us today so we can work together to provide high-quality, in-home care to those who need us!