We’re going to talk about cooking in this installment of our video series featuring Registered Nurse Faith Kozlowski. Faith shares experiences about some patients’ ability to shop and prepare healthy meals for themselves. As we age our appetite changes along with our metabolism. We need fewer calories, our hormones change, and we may be on medications that have side effects such as dizziness. Additionally body changes include decreased taste buds on the tongue, a decrease in nerve ending response to taste and smell and change in our taste and smell threshold. These physiological changes can affect our appetite. Food doesn’t taste or smell as good anymore so it is even more crucial to be creative and prepare foods that are appealing. Without a desire to eat an elderly person is at risk of dehydration and malnutrition.
One paper we found on the subject titled “Food and Nutrition for Life: Malnutrition and Older Americans” has this to say. “Written diet instructions frequently give the older person a long list of foods to avoid without adequate instruction on how to prepare foods so they taste good. Without individualized instruction and ongoing follow-up by trained professionals, older persons placed on special diets may indiscriminately eliminate foods and not substitute foods that will give them adequate calories, nutrients and eating pleasure. Specially prescribed diets often restrict salt, fat and sugar. If not expertly prepared, these same diets may offer less taste, and depress older appetites already depressed from social and chronic disease factors.”
Preparing the food is only part of the approach. In order to eat fresh foods on a daily basis we need to go to the grocery store several times a week. Fruit and veggies can go bad in a few days, so those who enjoy these important foods must constantly shop. It can be hard for elderly people to get around, much less go to a grocery store several times a week. Many times they end up eating a steady diet of frozen or canned foods, which are highly processed and low in nutrients but easier to prepare.
Recent studies indicate that ailments associated with aging can be positively impacted with a healthy diet, proper hydration and exercise. Many of our blog articles detail Alzheimer’s research indicating that these practices are helpful to brain function. There are services such as “Meals on Wheels” that deliver prepared food to people who cannot manage to cook for themselves. Hiring an in home health aide to shop and cook for you is another option. A seasoned one will monitor your hydration levels as well and promote a holistic approach to healthy living. Be proactive whatever your preferences are. Make choices that empower your health, increase your vitality and sustain your independence.
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