Hints & Tips – Ageing
Good health is the key to maintaining a productive and independent life. Here we give some general advice to aid healthy ageing and look at some issues that may arise in the very frail elderly. We also offer some tips for when you are helping someone in their day to day lives.
Nutrition and Hydration
- Eat a varied, well balanced diet containing carbohydrates, protein, fats and plenty of fruit and vegetables – Follow our link to the ‘Eat Well Plate’ for advice on a balanced diet
- Find out drinks and food preferences as these are more likely to be consumed and benefit health
- Understand how the individual likes to eat, when they have their main meal, where they like to eat and even the crockery they like to use
- Prompt, remind and motivate them to eat and drink throughout the day and during mealtimes to help them eat and drink more
Reduced Abilities and Senses
- Prepare for the meal by following individual cues for eating, such as washing hands and discussing the meal ahead
- Make sure the eating environment is set up for success: ensure there is good lighting, the correct glasses, hearing aids are in use
- Reduce distractions and noise during mealtimes
- Ensure the food and drink can be clearly seen: by using appropriately coloured crockery and glassware and a contrasting table cloth
- Modified crockery and cutlery can be used to help make eating and drinking easier and maintain independence
- Taste and season the food well
Eating and drinking can become very difficult, and in some cases dangerous, where oral hygiene is poor. Damage to the mouth cavity can severely restrict the ability of someone to eat or drink well and therefore increase the risk of malnutrition and dehydration. Make sure any dentures being used are clean and fit well. Unclean or infected gums and teeth can also increase the risk of chest infections so it is very important to maintain good oral hygiene habits.
If someone is eating very small quantities and are unable to maintain a healthy body weight food can be fortified with nutrients. The principle of fortification is to add calorie and/or nutrient dense ingredients to what is being eaten or drunk. Some examples of this would be:
- Use full fat milk instead of skimmed or semi-skimmed milk on breakfast or in drinks
- Add cream into soups
- Put butter or margarine on vegeatables
- Spread extra jam or marmalade on morning toast
There are many ways where extra nutrients can be added, especially if foods are being made from scratch.
In order to introduce extra calories into a diet use the following as a guide:
- Fat and oil contain 9 calories per gram
- Carbohydrate (refined and starchy) contains roughly 4 calories per gram
- Protein contains around 4 calories per gram
If someone is recovering from illness or the body is in repair then protein is needed. It is important to understand that if the body is not getting enough energy to do day-to-day functions any available protein will be used for energy and not supporting recovery.
When fortifying foods taste them to ensure they taste delicious. If by fortifying food it becomes unpalatable then it will most likely be discarded. Any food or drink left on the plate or in the cup is wasted nutrition.
Ageing brings with it many complications including making it harder to swallow safely. It could be that someone is finding it difficult to move food and drink to the mouth; process the food in the mouth; and/or swallow safely. Follow our links to the section on difficulty swallowing for lots of help with this.