Nutrition for Older Adults
According to Oxford Languages, nutrition is: “The process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth.” In essence, good nutrition is eating a healthy, well-balanced diet so that our bodies can perform optimally. Registered dietician nutritionist Angel Planells says: “Food is an essential component of quality of life.”
If nutrition allows us to be our best energetic selves, then we can live to the fullest.
While this simple concept is easy to follow for many of us, in the context of a nursing home, the health and growth aspect of nutrition is especially vital to the science of the rehabilitation process. This means that all our residents, who are older adults, especially rely on nutritious diets to not only grow and maintain their health but also to recover from illness or injury.
While nutrition is important for all ages, it’s increasingly necessary for the elderly who are: managing chronic illnesses such as cancer, hypertension, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis; regaining their motor skills; or rehabilitating their physical independence.
The elderly increasingly rely on nutrition to deal with the health issues and rehabilitation goals that a 30 year old may not have; as health becomes more of a priority with age, so does a healthy diet. And with the lifestyle changes that accompany the aging process, such as moving to a nursing home, older adults require diet modifications to help them adapt in a healthy way.
An older adult, for example, may need more protein to compensate for the fewer calories they need on a daily basis. Nutrition is an individualized process, and the specific nutritional needs for each elderly person is especially important for them and their caregivers to follow.
Nutritional Challenges for Older Adults
Despite the need to change their diets, the elderly may have difficulty adapting to these new lifestyle and biological changes that are caused by aging. As a more regimented, detailed focus may be required to maintain nutrition, older adults also face physical limitations that make it harder for them to do so. Chronic illnesses, such as the ones listed above, may make it harder for them to do things like prepare food or grocery shop.
Living alone at home may put stress on the elderly to prepare all their meals, which might cause them to resort to less healthy, pre-made or processed foods. Other physically challenging changes include medications that may inhibit their appetite.
Being physically limited to eat healthy with these new lifestyle and biological changes isn’t the only limitation the elderly may face. Older adults, as with everyone else, may also have a hard time understanding how to adapt their nutrition in an effective way. This is especially true if they’ve been eating the same diet their whole life.
It’s with these new challenges associated with aging that should come a rehabilitation and restructuring of your loved one’s nutritional plan.
The Nutritional Solution for Elderly Rehabilitation
The ultimate nutritional goal for older adults is to ensure their increased dietary requirements are met with no physical challenges. In other words, maintenance of health and quality of life is essential. At Hancock Hall, our dietician focuses on how each resident’s nutrition impacts their healing process.
For older adults’ rehabilitation, maintenance and growth, it’s pivotal that they are actually able to get the nutrients their aging bodies need. That’s why it’s ideal for our residents to receive dietary guidance from our very own dietician, Laurie Figliola.
By having a properly informed nutrition plan, the health and therefore quality of life that our residents can have will be maintained and even enhanced. At Hancock Hall, our residents have individualized nutrition plans based on their food preferences, medical requirements, and health goals.
These individualized nutrition plans don’t just ensure health and quality of life is maintained. These plans also emphasize the individuality of each resident by including them in their own preferences. Including older adults in their diet decisions improves their well-being and gives them a much-needed sense of control that is crucial to their rehabilitation process.
It’s important to allow our residents to make their own food choices, but with the professional guidance that ensures they’re maximizing their nutritional intake, preventing weight loss, and getting other nutritional necessities that are so crucial to rehabilitation.
The Big Picture
Aging doesn’t have to mean a decrease in quality of life. With closer attention to nutrition and lifestyle changes, it’s possible for older adults to lead healthier, happier lives than ever before as they rehabilitate and grow. However, with physical and educational restrictions limiting a lot of our residents from adapting their nutrition to their age, we are proud to say we offer the best personalized nutrition plans at Hancock Hall.