Healthcare is such an important part of life in any care home, and nutrition for the elderly is without a doubt an essential aspect of this. Ensuring that elderly people eat enough and eat healthily can be a challenge in a care home, but it’s vital in helping them to have more energy and maintain a strong immune system.
According to Age Concern, 6 out of 10 older people in hospital are at risk of becoming malnourished, which means that it’s very important to review the nutrition of elderly people living in your care home. Read on below to find out why nutrition is so important and what you can do to improve it for people living in care homes.
There is a legal requirement for people living in your care home to have good nutrition and hydration, and the Care Quality Commission sets out regulations for this very clearly. The importance of these guidelines is even more apparent now that there are more people than ever aged over 65. As older people are particularly susceptible to health problems, providing them with good nutrition is an essential part of good care.
According to the Public Health Agency, an important part of nutrition for elderly people is ensuring a varied and regular diet, which includes three meals a day and two snacks. The Eatwell plate, which illustrates the different food groups that constitute a balanced diet, shows that people need plenty of complex carbohydrates, protein and fruit and vegetables in order to live a healthy lifestyle, along with moderate amounts of healthy fats that can be found in oils and nuts. Although elderly people may need less energy if they are living a less active lifestyle, they still need plenty of protein, fibre and vitamins.
Good hydration is a key part of nutrition, and can be particularly important for elderly people who suffer with health problems. Lower mobility, a reduced appetite, incontinence, medication and mental health problems can all be risk factors for dehydration, and in care homes it is essential to keep track of the fluid intake of elderly people. Dehydration can result in confusion, headaches and irritability, as well as constipation, urinary tract infections and renal stones. You can help to prevent these health complications by offering a selection of drinks, taking preferences into account and also ensuring that cups are easy to use.
There are many ways to ensure good nutrition and hydration for elderly people in your care home. One the simplest ways is to start is to discuss dietary preferences with each person, so that the meals they are served are appealing to them and they will be more likely to eat. If possible, they should be given a choice of meals, so that they can be active participants in their own nutrition. It may also help to be flexible on the times that people eat their meals, as some prefer to eat later and, if served earlier, may not eat as much.
The individual needs of people living in your care home should always be considered, to make them feel comfortable and confident. People living with dementia may require special dining equipment to remain independent, such as handled beakers, so make sure this option is always available. Those who have difficulty chewing should be given the option of soups or smoothies, and trained staff should always be on hand to sensitively assist anyone who needs it. If a person is reluctant to eat or has a low appetite, it may help to discuss their food preferences with them and ask if they have any special requests.
The nutrition of the people living in your care home should always be a priority to ensure their comfort and enjoyment, as well as maintaining a healthy lifestyle.