7 Nutrition Tips for Seniors

Written by:

Jeffrey Grossman


July 23, 2019

Eating right and having balanced nutrition can be hard for anyone, no matter their age. Over time, nutrition tends to fall to the wayside. Eating at least one healthy meal a day can be a struggle, let alone three. The importance of a healthy diet is even more of a priority for seniors.

Reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest a majority of diseases, primarily affecting the older population, stem from the lack of a proper diet. Let’s review some of the challenges associated with nutrition for older adults and seven tips to improve their diets.

Aging Related to Poor Nutrition

As we age, our bodies go through many changes. For seniors, a variety of factors come into play resulting in poor nutritional intake, such as:

  • Suddenly living alone
  • Having trouble getting around and not being able to properly cook
  • Losing senses (e.g. taste and smell)
  • Having trouble swallowing or chewing
  • Certain medications cause food to taste different or reduce appetite
  • Loss of income to buy food
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Dental health
  • Memory loss/Dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease

Caregivers play a huge role in creating a well-balanced diet for seniors on a day-to-day basis to offset these negative factors. Along with the countless other tasks provided by caregivers, ensuring seniors have a healthy, balanced diet is a critical element.

7 Nutrition Tips for Seniors

A senior diet plan ensures older adults are maintaining a healthy lifestyle, as well as limiting disease and sickness. Creating a healthy senior diet plan does not need to be a difficult task. Incorporating these simple tips can help keep seniors healthy all year long.

1. Pick Foods High in Nutritional Value

As we grow older, our bodies do not need as many calories. Look for foods that provide more nutritional value without the extra calories. Examples include:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains and whole wheat (brown rice, oatmeal, etc.)
  • Non-fat or low fat milk, almond or soy milk
  • Nuts, beans, and seeds
  • Lean meat, chicken, seafood, and eggs

2. Limit Empty Calories

Avoid foods that are high in calories and/or carbs without providing any nutritional value. Examples include:

  • Chips
  • Baked goods
  • Soda
  • Candy

Everything in moderation. A snack splurge every once in a while is completely normal and acceptable. Having said that, healthier foods should be eaten in replacement more often than not.

3. Drink 8 Glasses of Water per Day

In a previous blog post, we wrote about 7 Tips to Help the Elderly Stay Hydrated. To review, older adults do not tend to feel thirsty as often as they should. Keeping seniors hydrated throughout the day should be a priority. Avoid serving older adults sugary drinks, caffeine, and alcohol to keep them from becoming dehydrated. In general, drinking eight 8oz glasses of water per day is recommended.

4. Avoid Saturated and Trans Fats

Fried foods, vegetable oils, and margarine are all high in saturated and trans fats. Healthier alternatives include baked or grilled food, olive oil and ghee. Herbs and seasonings are also good substitutes to high-fat dressings.

5. Encourage Physical Activity

Simple arm and leg exercises can help increase appetite. If they can, have seniors walk outside to get the mail, or participate in activities at a local senior center. Anything to get the body moving is better than being idle. Increasing physical activity will also increase thirst, providing an opportunity for seniors to drink more water.

6. Add Nutritional Variety

Everyone gets tired of eating the same things over and over again. Offer variety to a senior’s diet plan. When serving meals, prepare foods with different colors and textures. Additional, offering two options at each meal is a helpful tactic. Not only do meal options encourage independence, but it also prevents seniors from eating repetitive meals.

7. Nutritional Assistance for Low Income Seniors

Community resources should be available in your area to help seniors with high-quality nutrition. Numerous programs exist offering nutritional assistance to seniors who have limited to no income:

How Senior Home Care Can Help

Nutrition is key to keeping seniors healthy, but their diet often suffers for numerous reasons. Caregivers support a healthy diet for seniors through services such as meal preparation. Senior home care can also help with fluid intake, companionship and transfers to make life easier for your loved one.

Contact Commonwise Home Care at 434.202.8565 to learn more about how home care can help your loved one.

Disclaimer: Please check with your physician before making any changes to your diet, exercise or medication routine.

7 Safety Tips for Seniors this Summer

Written by:

Jeffrey Grossman


July 18, 2019

With summer in full swing, the temperatures are tipping the scale and reaching triple digits. While summer means BBQ’s, beach trips, and late sunsets, it can also be hazardous to the senior population. Older adults are more prone to heat-related health problems and should be carefully monitored throughout the warmer months.

As a caregiver, senior summer health is imperative to keeping seniors safe and healthy. Senior home care services can help avoid summertime hazards, but here are some things to look out for and tips to help the senior population.

Summer Risks for Seniors

As we age, exposure to heat during the summer months poses a bigger threat. Elderly heat stroke, when the body’s internal temperature increases faster than it’s able to cool down, is common this time of year.

According to Health In Aging, every summer, more than 600 Americans die of health problems due to excessive heat and humidity. Seniors are at a greater risk because of increased medical conditions, side effects of medications, and physical changes to the body due to age. Risks also include:

  • Lower body water content
  • Overdressing
  • Sweat less
  • Lack of awareness to thirst and temperature changes
  • Heart conditions, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.
  • Vision loss
  • Diuretics (causing dehydration)

Seven Tips for Keeping Seniors Summer Safe

1. Keep Hydrated

Make sure seniors have access to plenty of water and sports drinks at all times. Keep liquids within reach of their bed, chair and table. Encourage them to drink, even if they are not thirsty. Steer clear of caffeine, sugar-packed drinks, and alcohol. If they do not like the taste of plain water, try adding fruit and herbs to their water to give it some flavor. Some good combinations are strawberry and oranges, mint and lime, lavender and lemon.

2. Stay Air Conditioned

Air conditioning is important, especially when the heat index is off the charts. Test out the air conditioning before summertime to make sure it is working properly. Spend time at the mall, restaurant, movie theater, library or senior center. Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps those 65 and over with limited income to cover air conditioning and other utilities. To reach your state’s program, call 1-888-674-6327.

3. Dress Appropriately

Wear loose fitting, light colored, and breathable clothing. Cotton and linen are great materials that allow air to flow easily. Dark colored clothes can actually absorb heat very quickly. Wear a wide brim hat when outside to block sun rays and prevent sunburn. Sunglasses are also very important to protect eyes from sun damage.

4. Wear Sunscreen

No matter your age or skin tone, sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher is always important! Be sure to reapply after swimming, sweating or long periods of being outside. Even if it is a cloudy day, sunscreen is still very important as the sun’s rays can still cause sunburn.

5. Apply Bug Spray

Bug spray is also just as important to keep mosquitoes away in the summer. Mosquitoes can carry viruses turning them into more than just an evening pest. Older adults have a lower functioning immune system compared to younger individuals. Using bug spray to avoid bug bites can help avoid the potential risk for a virus or infection.

6. Keep Skin Cool

Drinking plenty of liquids helps keep the body hydrated from the inside out. Use tepid water (not too cold, but not too hot) to drink and cool off with. Washcloths or towels can also help keep body temperature down when dampened; apply to hands, feet, neck, arms, and armpits for best results.

7. Avoid Peak Sun-Hours

Stay indoors between the hours of 10AM and 2PM when the sun’s rays are the strongest. Plan outings first thing in the morning or after the sun goes down to avoid over exposure to the sun and humid temperatures.

How Can Senior Home Care Help Combat Summertime Heat?

Keeping seniors safe this summer is an important role of a caregiver. Having a professional, trained caregiver is critical to the health and well-being of seniors throughout the year; especially when the risks are heightened. Senior care services can aid in services such as meal preparation, medication monitoring, companionship, and fluid intake. The home care services provided by a professional caregiver ensure your loved one is staying happy and healthy in the summer heat.

For more information on how Commonwise Home Care can help with senior care services, call 434.202.8565.

Disclaimer: Please check with your physician before making any changes to your diet, exercise or medication routine. 

7 Tips to Help the Elderly Stay Hydrated

Written by:

Jeffrey Grossman


July 11, 2019

As a caregiver, it can be hard to spot dehydration symptoms in the elderly. Older individuals do not tend to get thirsty as quickly as someone younger, making the signs a challenge to identify. Keeping reading to find the signs to look for and learn some quick tips to make sure the elderly people in your life are staying hydrated.

According to Mayo Clinic, “Dehydration occurs when you use or lose more fluid than you take in, and your body doesn’t have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions.” As we age, we become dehydrated quicker, due to changes in our bodies and the way our kidneys function.

Signs of Dehydration in the Elderly

If you are caring for an elder individual, look for the following signs, especially in the summer months. Each can occur early on in the dehydration process:

  1. Dry mouth/dry tongue with thick salvia
  2. Cramping in their limbs
  3. Crying, but no tears
  4. Headaches
  5. Body weakness
  6. Sleeplessness/irritability
  7. Low urine output
  8. Dry skin
  9. Constipation

One of the quickest ways to test if your loved one is dehydrated is to lift the skin on the back of their hand. Take your pointer finger and thumb, pinch a section of skin from the back of their hand, lift up, and let go. If their skin quickly falls down, back onto the top of their hand, they are not dehydrated.

If the signs above are present but ignored, they can become life-threatening and the proceeding symptoms could occur:

  1. Rapid, but weak heart rate
  2. Sunken eyes
  3. Low blood pressure
  4. No sweating
  5. Delirium
  6. Convulsions
  7. Bloated stomach
  8. Seizures
  9. Kidney failure

If your loved one has any of these symptoms, and pushing fluids does not help, they need to go to the Emergency Room immediately.

7 Tips to Help the Elderly Stay Hydrated

Hydration in the elderly can be easily managed with these simple tips:

  1. Encourage fluids. Encourage the elderly people in your life to drink often and regularly. Make sure they have liquids around them at all times. Buy them a refillable water bottle and put it next to their bed or chair if they have mobility issues. If they do not like drinking plain water, try adding some fruit. Berries, lemons, and limes are a great addition to water for flavor. Other items that can help with taste are cucumbers and mint. To really mix things up, try coconut water in addition to these combinations.
  2. Stay away from caffeine, sugary drinks, and alcohol. If too much coffee, juice, soda, wine, etc. are consumed, each can actually speed up the dehydration process.
  3. Wear breathable material. Materials such as cotton and linen allow the body to sweat and breathe naturally. Stay away from polyester-based fabrics, rayon, and jeans.
  4. Take frequent breaks. If doing activities outside in the heat, or even indoors, make sure you are taking rest breaks. The heat can quickly decrease the energy levels of elderly individuals.
  5. Eat healthy. Many fruits and vegetables contain large amounts of water to help with hydration. Some examples include watermelon, peaches, grapefruit, lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
  6. Act on early signs of dehydration. If the person you are caring for is showing early signs of dehydration, offer them a bottle of water, Gatorade, Powerade or coconut water to replenish their electrolytes quickly.
  7. Know their medications. Some medications (like diuretics) can cause an elderly person to become dehydrated even faster than normal. Stay mindful of the medications they are taking so you can increase their normal fluid intake if necessary.

Important Note: If you have additional questions or concerns, please speak with your loved one’s physician before making any drastic changes.

How Can Home Care Help Your Loved One?

Home care can help manage elderly dehydration and keep your loved one healthy! Through a personalized plan and companionship, home care ensures your loved one is:

  • Getting the right amount of fluids
  • Eating well-rounded, healthy meals prepared for them
  • Having their medications managed and monitored by a trained caregiver who is aware of any interactions that could cause dehydration, etc.

To find out more about how Commonwise Home Care can help with home companionship services, please call 434.202.8565 today.

Keeping Cool: Harms of Elderly Dehydration

Written by:

Jeffrey Grossman


July 11, 2019

As summer quickly approaches and temperatures heat up, hydration plays a big role in our health and well-being. Outdoor activities make it easy to forget to regularly hydrate, which can be detrimental. For the elderly population, staying hydrated is increasingly vital.

As a caregiver, being aware of elderly dehydration is helpful to know to provide holistic care. Dehydration negatively affects everyone’s health, causing both short and long term deficiencies. Home companionship services can help avoid elderly dehydration, but it is important to know the facts.

The Bodily Breakdown of Elderly Dehydration

We have all heard it before, thirst is the first sign that the body is already dehydrated. Unfortunately, an elderly person’s body is slower to recognize dehydration, thus, they do not feel thirsty as quickly. In turn, the elderly do not drink necessary amounts of water, significantly increasing the chance of dehydration.

The increased risk of dehydration in the elderly results from their body’s lack of fluid retention, making hydration a daily essential. As we age, our bodies lose water, which is not easily replaced. According to Parentgiving.com, 52-60% of our bodies are made up of fluids until the age of 60. Once we reach 60 years old, our body’s fluid levels drop down to 46-52%. A loss of muscle mass and an increase in fat cells can be blamed for the fluid loss.

Some Causes of Elderly Dehydration

  1. Illness/Medical Conditions: Vomiting and diarrhea can quickly cause someone to become dehydrated. Common medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s, or someone who has trouble physically moving, can lead to a lack of drinking enough fluids.
  2. Medications: The elderly are typically prescribed a number of different medications to be taken at one time. Some of the medication’s side effects can cause dehydration, especially diuretics, due to an increase in sweat.

Short and Long Term Dangers of Elderly Dehydration

Young or old, dehydration can be very harmful to the body. Some of the problems we see in the elderly population are:

  1. Increased Confusion: Someone may start to show signs of confusion if they are dehydrated. If the elderly individual has Alzheimer’s/Dementia, the confusion may rapidly increase. Symptoms may also show up in the form of headaches, tiredness, moodiness, and inability to comprehend. Over time, dehydration can cause trouble with memory processing and cognitive impairment, leading to a lower quality of life.
  2. Anxiety/Depression: Mental illnesses, in and of themselves, have many negative side effects on the brain, let alone the body. Elderly people who suffer from dehydration can experience an onset of anxiety and depression. Mood swings and isolation are commonly followed by anxiety and depression.
  3. Low Energy Levels: When an elderly person is not hydrating properly, they may notice a loss of energy. In turn, they are not able to get up as much, leading to a loss of muscle. Elderly people have an increased risk of falling when they are not physically active or working out their muscles. The long term effects of low energy and activity levels can increase the elderly’s proneness to being bed bound.
  4. Urinary Tract Infections (UTI): Anyone who is not drinking enough fluids increases their chance of developing a Urinary Tract Infection. UTI’s can lead to kidney and bladder infections because there is not enough fluid to flush out bad bacteria.
  5. Kidney Failure: Kidneys need water to actively remove toxins from the blood and cleanse our systems. Without staying properly hydrated, the kidneys begin shutting down. Dehydration prevents our kidneys from working effectively to deliver essential nutrients throughout the bloodstream. Some signs include concentrated urine and kidney stones.
  6. Comatose/Death: In severe cases, dehydration can be fatal to the body. We can only survive 3-4 days without water, but our bodies are actively losing hydration every minute. Dehydration can result in an elderly person slipping into a coma, and possibly dying, without active treatment and fluid intake.

How Can Home Care Help Keep Your Loved One Healthy and Hydrated?

Since elderly individuals do not feel thirsty as quickly, having a professional, trained caregiver is vital to their health and well-being. Getting enough fluids every day may seem like a simple task, but not everyone thinks about the repercussions of dehydration.

Home companionship services, through home care, can help with meal preparation, monitoring medications, and fluid intake. The services provided by a caregiver ensure your loved one is staying healthy and hydrated daily. For more information on how Commonwise can help with home companionship services, call 434.202.8565.