Nutrition for the elderly – what you need to know

Nutrition for the elderly – what you need to know

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As we age, our bodies’ nutritional needs change. However, change doesn’t have to be bad, nor does it have to mean surviving on soft, bland food or boiled cabbage!

Everycare Winchester know to how to provide the best care for you, but when it comes to nutrition, do you know how to best care for your own needs? To help you move and look as young as you feel, we’ve listed below the essential components for a healthy diet (and we promise there isn’t a boiled cabbage in sight!)

Variety is vital  

The more variety in your diet, the healthier your gut flora will be. The health of your gut is paramount to your overall wellbeing, affecting everything from memory and mood to immunity and skin.

A great way to ensure you’re consuming an array of nutrients is to ‘eat the rainbow’. Sadly, we’re not talking about eating endless amounts of Skittles, but a rainbow spectrum of fruit and vegetables. Every colour provides a different health benefit, like orange vegetables are packed full of vitamin A which is great for eye sight, and purple hues provide potent antioxidants that fight ageing free-radicals.

Don’t be afraid to try new foods. We’re sure by now you know exactly what you like and what you don’t, but you’re never too old to try something new. You never know, you might discover a new favourite!

Pass the salt

As we age, we become more sensitive to salt, so a lower sodium intake can benefit those with high blood pressure; reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease.

Unfortunately, this may mean you need to pay extra attention to any packaged food you buy and the amount of salt you use to season your food. Most pre-packaged food already contains high levels of salts, so when you sprinkle on extra you’re likely to be consuming more than your recommended daily allowance of sodium, 2.4g sodium/ 6g of salt.

Tip: Swap standard table salt (which is processed to contain sodium and 0 minerals) for naturally occurring Himalayan pink salt (which contains 84 minerals including all 6 electrolytes our bodies require). Plus, Himalayan salt tastes saltier therefore less is needed!

Up your fibre

Digestive health can be an issue amongst older people with many suffering from constipation. One way to improve digestive and bowel health is to increase the amount of fibre in your diet.

Fibre can help prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol, aid diabetics by balancing blood-sugar levels, lower the risk of certain cancers and slow the rate at which nutrients are broken down so you stay energised for longer.

Fresh fruit, vegetables, beans, legumes, oats, whole grains, seeds like flax and chia and powders like psyllium husk are all great sources of fibre.

Eat omega 3’s

Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid (EFA), so called because it is needed by the body but cannot be manufactured in the body; it must be obtained via diet.

EFA’s have been found to aid brain, heart, eye, joint and skin health. They prevent abnormal neuron function, reduce the risk of macular degeneration, lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, decrease joint stiffness and inflammation, moisturise skin and reduce the risk of wound infection.

Foods rich in omega 3’s include: oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines), flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, soy beans and spinach.

Supplement for strong bones

Many people are deficient in vitamin D and calcium, particularly amongst the older generation.

Older individuals tend to eat less, have limited diets and venture out less, therefore their bodies are receiving little calcium and vitamin D.  In addition, our bodies’ ability to absorb vitamins and minerals decreases with age too. For example, the skin of an elderly person produces 4× less vitamin D compared to a younger individual when exposed to sunlight for the same amount of time.

Both calcium and vitamin D are needed to maintain strong bones which are especially important for seniors who are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis, as well as falling.

Our main source of vitamin D comes from sunshine, as only traces can be found in foods like mushrooms, egg yolks and oily fish. Calcium can be found in dairy, seeds, beans, lentils, leafy greens and fish with edible bones like sardines and canned salmon.

Unless you have retired abroad and are currently sunning yourself on a roof terrace, you ought to take a vitamin D supplement, especially during the months of October to March. Ideally, choose a supplement with both vitamin D and calcium for maximum vitamin/mineral absorption and strong bones.

Stay hydrated

Did you know dehydration is one of the biggest causes of hospitalisation in older adults?

The human body is composed of approximately 60% water. However, that water percentage decreases with age which means the risk of dehydration increases.

If your body is dehydrated it struggles to regulate temperature, transport nutrients around your body and lubricate joints. This will likely result in feeling cold, tired and achy.

Aim to drink 2 litres of water a day and ensure fluids are always readily available to you. Keep a bottle of water next to your bed or on your coffee table so it’s always near to hand!

A tipple & a treat

Good news, alcohol and chocolate are firmly on the menu.

Red wine and dark chocolate (70% cocoa +) both contain flavanols which can provide a myriad of health benefits. They can aid brain health by protecting neurons, help the brain’s ability to learn new information, improve memory and cognitive functioning, help blood circulation which regulates body temperature, reduces fatigue and reduces foot/hand swelling, so pass the wine (for a small glass every now and then!)

It’s important to note that portion control is required; 30 to 60g dark 70% cocoa and 175ml wine is enough to reap the benefits.

A final word

Food is not just fuel, it’s a way to nourish your body, ignite your taste buds and bring you joy. Be mindful of the ingredients you are putting into your body, but most of all, enjoy what you’re eating.  Life’s too short for overcooked cabbage and stodgy mush!

Are Neurological Conditions Becoming More Prevalent In The Elderly?

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In the UK at present there are approximately 10 million individuals suffering from a neurological condition that have a significant impact on daily living. Although neurological conditions can affect any individual at any point in their lives it has been found that these conditions are more prevalent in the elderly and this may be the result of a number of different factors including environmental factors and genetics.

In America it is estimated that one in four adults suffer from mental illness, and 6% of those individuals suffer debilitating effects as a result. In America there many other neurological conditions that are prevalent such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

These neurological disorders can have a significant impact on an elderly individuals daily life. The main issue that affects an elderly individual is memory disorders; these are often the result of conditions such as: Dementia, Motor Neurone Disease, and Parkinson’s.

Dementia

Dementia is one of the most common neurological conditions to affect the elderly population. In the UK there is currently over 800,000 individuals suffering from Dementia, and approximately a third of those individuals are aged 95 or over.

Dementia is a condition that causes an ongoing decline of the brain and in an individual’s abilities, resulting in them experiencing problems with: thinking speed, memory, language understanding and judgement. This in turn can cause an individual to encounter a number of difficulties with daily living, and this is largely because it can make tasks much more challenging as the ability to remember and concentrate is greatly reduced.

At present there is no cure for Dementia, however for milder cases of Dementia there are medications that have been shown to be effective in relieving some of the symptoms. For example Antipsychotics could be used on a short term basis to treat individuals suffering with Dementia who display aggressive behaviour, or those who may be at risk of harming themselves or others. However medications may not be effective for all individuals who are diagnosed with Dementia.

Parkinson’s

It is estimated that 1 in every 500 individuals are suffering from Parkinson’s in the UK, and most of those who are diagnosed with the condition are aged 50 or over.
Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition, that is caused by a lack of Dopamine as a result of the death of a number of nerve cells in the brain.

There are a number of symptoms that could indicate that an individual is suffering from Parkinson’s, and these include: tremors, rigidity, slowness of movement, pain and tiredness. It is difficult to diagnose Parkinson’s , and this is largely because the only way Parkinson’s can be diagnosed is through a specialist examining the individual for any physical signs of Parkinson’s, and taking a detail history of any symptoms that the individual may be experiencing.

There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s, however there are medications available that may help an individual to manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s

Motor Neurone Disease

It is estimated that 2 in every 100,000 people are diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in the UK each year. Generally Motor Neurone Disease affects individuals over the age of 40, and is most common in individuals between the ages of 50 and 70.

Motor Neurone Disease is a rare condition that causes parts of the nervous system to become damaged, which in turn causes progressive weakness and muscle wasting. This condition can have a significant impact on daily living and cause an individual to experience great difficulty in completing a number of activities including: gripping, walking, speaking, swallowing, and breathing. The main symptoms of Motor Neurone Disease include: a weakened grip, shoulder weakness, leg dragging, slurred speech, and a foot drop as a result of ankle weakness. Symptoms generally progress over time, and this may leave an individual unable to move, as well as experiencing great difficulties with communication, swallowing and breathing.

There is currently no cure for Motor Neurone Disease, and the only treatment aims at present are to make the individual feel as comfortable as possible, give the individual the best quality of life possible and to compensate for the progressive loss of body function. For example breathing masks and some medications may help to relieve some symptoms of the condition.

Home Care And Neurological Conditions

The implementation of a Home Care package may be extremely beneficial for an individual who is suffering from a neurological condition, and this is largely because a care worker will be able to support an individual with most areas of daily life including: medication management, personal care, meal preparation, domestic duties and they can also help with supporting an individual with completing activities that they enjoy. For example a care worker may be able to help an individual to get out and partake in social interaction opportunities.

Are More Elderly Individuals Suffering From Mental Health Problems?

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Within the UK more and more people are being affected by problems surrounding mental health. It has been found that 1 in 4 people within the UK will experience some mental health problems throughout the course of a year. However it is important that if you feel that yourself or a loved one may be suffering from a mental health disorder the appropriate help should be sought. There are lots of organisations available that can provide help and advice to help you get through the condition.

Types Of Mental Health Disorder

Depression is a condition that causes an individual to have persistently low moods, and feelings of anxiety and tiredness. Depression is one of the most common forms of mental health disorders in the UK and it currently affects 1 in 5 older people. It is also more common for women to be affected by mental health disorders in comparison to men.

Anxiety is another common form of mental health disorder. The main symptom of this condition is constant or unrealistic worry about aspects of daily life. Anxiety can also cause a number of other symptoms including: restlessness, increased heart rate, sleeping problems, and feeling shaky. Anxiety is becoming more and more common in individuals within the UK.

There are a number of different mental health disorders that could affect an individual at any point in their lives. These conditions include: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Phobias, Personality Disorders and Eating Disorders.

If you feel that yourself or a loved one may be suffering from any mental health disorders, it is important that you seek advice from a doctor. You shouldn’t have to suffer in silence, and there is a wide variety of help that is available for dealing with mental health disorders. In the UK the NHS website has lot of information that help signpost you to the help you need. Some of the charities that are working with Mental Health issues are Mind, Sane and Rethink who are there to help you nationwide.

Mental Health And The Elderly

Mental health problems are not a certainty of ageing, however at present the rate of older individuals suffering from mental health disorders is increasing. Within the elderly population Dementia is one of the most common forms of mental health disorder. Dementia affects an individual’s memory, and can have a significant impact on the individual’s ability to complete daily living tasks unaided.

Depression is also an increasing common mental health disorder to affect the elderly. Currently it is estimated that between 10-16% of those over 65 are suffering with Depression, and 2-4% of those individuals are suffering with severe Depression. This may be a result of more and more elderly individuals living alone, as well as elderly individuals being moved into residential or nursing homes, where the surroundings are unfamiliar.

There a number of different types of mental health disorders that can affect the elderly and these can include: delirium, anxiety, and late on-set schizophrenia. Although these are similar to the common types of mental health disorders, the nature and course of the illness may be different in comparison to younger individuals and the treatment of the disorders may also be different.
As with many health issues, do not delay seeking advice as there are many sources of help that are not judgemental about your condition. People often seem to think that their situation is totally unique until they start talking to professionals that deal with mental health issues every day.

Home Care And Mental Illness

Implementing a home care package may be a viable option for those who are suffering with mental health disorders. This is because it will give them the opportunity to receive the help and support that they need. Care workers would be able to visit individuals within their own homes, and provide help with all aspects of daily living including: meal preparation, medication management, as well as providing assistance with domestic duties. A care worker can also provide support for going on outings.

A home care package may be extremely beneficial for an individual suffering with a mental health disorders, as it will give them the opportunity to take control, and start doing the things that they want to in order to make daily living more fulfilling. Care workers can, also, help in pointing people to other sources of help and advice.