Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Proper Nutrition for Elderly: Quiz

Learn about the link between nutrition and health among the aging.

We all know about the correlation between diet and health. For the elderly, a nutritious diet is essential to maintaining health and promoting longevity.  A proper diet keeps aging muscles, bones, organs and other body parts in good working order for the long haul. Getting the necessary vitamins and minerals from healthy food boosts immunity and fights off illness-causing toxins.  Beyond reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure, eating a proper diet also fights against type -2 diabetes, bone loss, anemia, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Yet studies show most elderly don’t eat a nutritious diet.  Test your understanding of diet and nutrition for the aging by taking this quiz and see if you know the essentials of a healthy diet for a healthy senior.

1)  The average person puts on 10 to 20 pounds from 45 to 65.  This is_____?
A.    quite normal.  We need to expect body changes as we age.

B.     to be avoided.  A person’s recommended weight should remain the  
  same throughout the adult years. 
C.    caused by aging, not by inactivity or overeating.

D.    not that common.  Most people don’t put on weight as they age.
ANSWER:  B   In fact, dramatic changes in weight can lead to negative health issues. Maintaining a proper weight through a lifestyle of health diet and exercise, even if started later in life, contributes to longevity and a better quality of life.
 2)  Being notably underweight _____.

A.    is a sign of possible health problems.

B.     is wonderful!  Don’t we all want to shed a few pounds?

C.    can lead to fatigue, cognitive confusion and depression.

D.    both A and C.
ANSWER: D Significant lose of weight is a red flag to many health concerns.  Many of today’s elderly suffer from malnutrition from not eating enough food or getting the proper nutrients from the food they consume. Poor diet increases risk of falls, mental confusion and osteoporosis.
3)  Elderly get all their nutrients or vitamins and minerals from the food they eat.
A.    true

B.     false
ANSWER: B In fact, the aging are less able to absorb some nutrients from their diet and may need to take vitamin supplements.   For example, after 50, the stomach produces less gastric acid making it difficult to absorb vitamin B-12 from food, which is necessary to keep blood and nerves vital.  Another important nutrient combination is calcium and vitamin D.  Calcium is needed for maintaining bone strength, but cannot be absorbed without vitamin D. With age, the body is less able to synthesize vitamin D on its own and so supplements become necessary. 

4)  Elderly with urinary incontinence should _____.
A.    cut back on the amount of water they drink each day.  We don’t want 
to risk any embarrassing accidents.
B.    supplement with coffee or soft drinks.
C.    drink eight 8 oz. glasses of water daily.
D.    not worry about drinking water unless they feel thirsty.
ANSWER: C  Incontinence can be embarrassing, but should not stop an elder from drinking enough water.  Getting enough fluids can be an issue for the aging because they do not always realize when their body is thirsty.  Usually drinking eight eight-ounce glasses of fluids per day is enough but if in doubt, check the urine color.  Pale yellow urine is best.  Bright or dark yellow means you need to drink more liquids.
5)  Elderly are less active and so should consume fewer calories to avoid
     putting on weight.
A.    True
B.     False
ANSWER:  B   For the majority of elderly, diet isn’t about losing weight anymore; it’s about eating healthy meals.  Eating a balanced diet is more important than counting calories, but for those who count this is a good guideline.
Women over 50:  not physically active = 1,600 calories a day
                               some physical activity = 1,800 calories a day
                               very physically active = 2,000 calories a day
Men over 50:        not physically active = 2,000 calories a day
                               some physical activity = 2,400 calories a day
                               very physically active = 2,800 calories a day
6)  Elderly often lose interest in food due to _____.
A.    changes in sense of taste and smell.
B.     poor fitting dentures make eating painful.
C.     medications affecting their appetite.
D.    eating alone.
E.     All of the above.
ANSWER:  E   All of the above can affect the eating habits of the elderly causing them to lose interest in eating properly.  Not maintaining proper meals is a leading cause of malnutrition among this age group.
7)  Food choice has nothing to do with Alzheimer’s disease.

A.    True

B.     False
ANSWER: B  Key nutrients are very important for the brain to function at its best.  Eating a selection of brightly colored fruit, leafy veggies, fish and nuts packed with omega-3 fatty acids can improve focus and decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
8)  The best diet for the elderly to follow is _______.
A.    Vegan Diet
B.     Atkins Diet
C.     Mediterranean Diet
D.    Western Diet
ANSWER: C  Known for increasing lifespan by 8-14%, the Mediterranean Diet is also credited with lowering the risk of heart disease.  A veggie loaded diet with legumes, fruits, fish and unsaturated fats like olive oil, the Mediterranean Diet is ideal for the elderly.

9)  Seniors and the Elderly need 1,200 mg. of calcium daily to maintain good bone health.  A common source for calcium is milk, yogurt and cheese.  Non-dairy sources include ______.

A.    tofu, broccoli, almonds and kale
B.     mushrooms, molasses and salmon
C.     basil, soybeans and sardines
D.    All the of the above
ANSWER:  D There are a lot of great sources for calcium even for those who don’t tolerate dairy easily.  Getting enough calcium prevents osteoporosis and bone fractures, which to the aging, is a major issue. 

10)  Being carb smart for the aging means limiting consumption to about 6-7 ounces of grains daily.  An ounce of grain is equal to _______?
A.    a crouton
B.     a croissant
C.     a slice of bread
D.    a loaf of bread
ANSWER:  C   A couple of slices of bread a day sounds fine, but most people don’t realize that pasta, cereals, beans and many vegetables all are considered carbs.  Filling up on carbohydrates is a problem for everyone, but for the elderly it means missing out on getting the proper nourishment from their diets.  Eating carbs labeled “whole” is better option, as they have more nutrients and fiber.

As people age, eating well can be an important element of maintaining a positive mental outlook and remaining emotionally well balanced.  Eating a healthy diet is no longer about sacrificing and watching one’s weight.  It is about enjoying fresh, colorful foods and being creative in the kitchen.  Enjoy a healthy meal with friends today and you will feel vibrant and healthy, inside and out.


HomeAid Health Care which provides non-medical home services for the elderly who wish to remain safe and independent at home.  HomeAid is a sister company to Prairie Home Assisted Living which has served the  physical, spiritual, mental and health needs of their residents since 1999.  Together the two companies provide comprehensive care that meets the needs of the elderly in the Fox Valley of Wisconsin.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Malnutrition Among the Elderly

Many of America's elderly are going hungry.
Malnutrition is now being recognized as a major health risk among the elderly.  Studies show that an increasing number of Americans over 65 are not getting the calories, proteins or essential vitamins and minerals necessary for good health.  In fact, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, only 17% of the older adult population is actually consuming a quality diet.  Surveys show that 30% of seniors skip at least one meal a day and many are living on less than 1000 calories daily.  An estimated 15 – 20% of the over 65 population suffers from malnourishment.  At a time when the entire country is concerned about obesity and overeating, it sounds amazing that a substantial segment of American’s elderly are going hungry.
There are many reasons why the elderly are not eating the quality or quantity of food they need.
·         Reduction in sensitivity to taste and smell.  A loss of appetite is often related to an older person’s loss of ability to taste and smell foods. 
·        Medications. Side effect of medications or combinations of medications can cause a reduction of appetite, increase instances of nausea and make food taste differently.   
·        Poor dental health. Poorly fitted dentures, jaw pain, mouth sores and missing teeth make chewing difficult and can lead to avoidance of eating protein laden meats.
·        Financial difficulties. Living on a fixed income often means the elderly must decide between purchasing quality foods and paying bills.
·        Inability to shop.  Navigating busy street and crowded shops can be daunting for the elderly, especially in bad weather.  Many forego shopping for fresh produce and try to get by with what is on hand.
·        Physical frailty.  Lack of strength, arthritic pain, dizziness or disabilities can make even simple meal preparation too much of a task.
·        Forgetfulness.  Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and poor memory can hinder a senior from eating a proper variety of foods on a regular schedule.  It is common among elderly with cognitive challenges to skip meals and not be aware of when they last ate.
·        Depression.  Sadness due to difficulties with health, loss of family and friends or loneliness can affect appetite and cause an elderly person to lose interest in food.

Dangers of malnutrition for the elderly

Malnutrition leaves an elder open to nutrient deficiencies, muscle atrophy, and a weakened immune system. It plays a role in morbidity, mortality, recovery from illness, overcoming functional disabilities and physical complications.  Malnutrition is directly related to increases in infections, imbalances in electrolytes, loss of skin integrity, anemia and overall weakness and fatigue.

Common conditions associated with aging are really due to malnutrition

It is not always easy to recognize if an elderly loved one is suffering from malnutrition.  Weight is not always a good indication. According to Dr. William B. Bateman Jr. of the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, a person can be quite overweight and still be nutritionally starving to death from a protein point of view.  The obvious signs of malnutrition are loss of appetite and an unintentional loss body fat.  Other indicators include dry and dull hair, conjunctive dryness and a receding of the gums. An onset of mental confusion, light-headedness, loss of taste and smell, weakness in motor skills, falls and fractures, and skin sores are all indications that dietary imbalances exist.

The problem is that many of the symptoms of malnutrition among the elderly are commonly thought of as a natural part of the aging process and not seen as signs of a treatable condition.  Even among medical professionals, many older patients with nutrition risks have their symptoms treated without care providers addressing the root of the problem. The fact that elderly experience a physiological decline, grow frail, and become increasingly susceptible to illness had long been accepted as just an unfortunate part of aging.  Yet recent findings show that many of the common conditions associated with aging are largely related to malnutrition.

Gerontologists are now excited about recent evidence that indicates that the illness and disease burden experienced by elderly could be significantly lightened by following a better diet.  According to Dr. Ranjit K. Chandra of the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, it is not impossible for 80- or 90-year-olds to have immune systems similar to that of a 40-year old if their dietary needs are not compromised.  Even those elderly who have suffered from malnutrition can begin to restore their immune systems, improving their resistance to diseases, by correcting dietary deficits. 

Following a proper diet is essential to the health and longevity of seniors and the elderly.  By consuming a nutritionally balanced diet seniors can add years of health to their lives.  To learn more about the specific nutritional needs of the elderly check out the “Elderly Nutrition Handout” available at www.scribd.com.

Malnutrition in the Elderly: An Unrecognized Health Issue by Danielle Maher, Student Nurse &Carol Eliadi, EdD, JD, APRN.
Nutrition and the Elderly, by Leanne Beattie and Nicole Nichols, www.sparkpeople.com, retrieved 6/18/12.
Ten Reasons Why Your Aging Parent May Not Be Eating Properly, by Leonard J. Hansen. www.agingcare.com. Retrieved 6/19/12.