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 You Stressed And Exhausted from Caregiving? What Can Help?

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The number of elderly in America and the United Kingdom is rising at present and is set to do so for some time to come. The cost of looking after the elderly can be a problem for families and in addition there is a guilt factor about handing over the care of parents to third parties. The adult child then feels that they have to commit time to look after their parents and many give up their jobs to do caregiving. This is having a major impact on daily life for both the elderly and the caregiver. The extra responsibilities, stress and financial strain are causing caregiver burnout.

There are some startling facts about caregiving:

• 52% of caregivers have been treated for stress.
• Caregivers are twice as likely to become ill or develop a disability.
• Over 10 million adult children over the age of 50 are looking after aging parents in America.
• A University of Michigan study predicts that caring for elderly Americans with Dementia costs more than $18 billion a year.
• There are over 250,00 children in the UK looking after relatives.

What is caregiver burnout?

Caregiver burnout is a condition that is caused by too much long-term stress, which can be caused by solely caring for an elderly relative, or someone who is unable to take care of themselves for a prolonged period of time. They become physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted, and this can cause them to feel overwhelmed.

There are many areas that could cause caregiver burnout, because caregivers tend to neglect their own health. This means that they may become overwhelmed at a faster rate than before. Other causes of caregiver burnout include: role confusion, unrealistic expectations, lack of control, unreasonable demands and financial strain.

Symptoms of caregiver burnout

There are many possible indicators that someone is suffering from caregiver burnout. However the caregiver may not notice there’s a problem, or they may ignore indicators that suggest they could be suffering, and this may be because they are too distracted by ensuring that their relative is comfortable and receiving the help and support that they need.

Symptoms of caregiver burnout may included: weakened immune system, exhaustion. irritability, impatience, decreased productivity at work, social isolation, appetite changes, sleep pattern changes, excessive use of alcohol and sleeping medications, lack of exhaustion, and feeling overwhelmed, helpless or hopeless.

What can be done to help the caregiver?

There are a number of different things that can be done to help the caregiver to reduce the stress that they may be experiencing. Seeking emotional support might be beneficial, and the caregiver could do this effectively by using support groups.

Community support groups can provide many benefits, as it gives caregivers the opportunity to receive support and advice from those with similar situations within the community. This can be particularly beneficial because it allows caregivers the opportunity to partake in social interaction, which in turn could provide them with the opportunity to make new friends and enjoy themselves.

Internet support groups could also provide benefits to caregivers, particularly in cases where they are unable to leave their homes. They also provide caregivers with the opportunity to communicate with people from all over the world who have similar interests, and this can also be helpful in cases where the individual has a rare condition or disease. These support groups can be more convenient for caregivers, as they can be accessed at any time, providing them with help when it is most needed.

Home Care

Home care can be beneficial to both the individual and caregiver. Care workers can provide extra support to the reative, as they can visit regularly, and this would ensure that all of their needs are being met, and they also receive the extra care and support they need. The implementation of a home care package can also be beneficial for the caregiver because it provides them with the opportunity to have some respite, and do things they enjoy.

Falling Could Be Due To Low Sodium Levels?

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Low sodium levels can have a significant impact on the health and well being of elderly people. Underlying conditions along with low sodium levels could potentially cause health complications. The elderly need to be aware that taking certain medications can have an effect on an individual’s sodium levels, there are medications that cause the body to absorb less of the sodium taken in. Other age related problems may also have an impact, including: water retention, heart, kidney, or liver failure or an underactive thyroid.

Signs and symptoms of Low Sodium levels

Low sodium levels can have a substantial impact on the body. Symptoms can include; nausea, vomiting, headache, confusion, fatigue, lethargy, loss of appetite, restlessness, instability, muscle weakness, cramps, and seizures. In extremely severe cases decreased consciousness may occur and this can result in individuals entering comas. The symptoms get more severe the lower the sodium levels get within the blood.

It has been found that some illnesses may be linked to low sodium levels, and these may include: liver cirrhosis, congestive heart failure, and nephrotic syndrome in the kidneys. These conditions can make individual’s extremely ill, and if left untreated, they can lead to serious complications.

Treatment of low sodium levels

The treatment of low sodium levels amongst the elderly can vary depending on the cause. Fluid restriction or using intravenous fluids may be used depending on the cause. However if fluid restriction isn’t suitable in some cases medication can be prescribed, and monitoring what medications an individual takes can also be beneficial for maintaining healthy sodium levels. This is because some medications may affect sodium levels in the body, for example regularly taking diuretics may lower sodium levels in the body.
Low sodium levels and fractures and falls

It has been found that elderly individuals suffering from low sodium levels may be at a higher risk of having falls and fractures. There was a Dutch study in which 5000 individuals over the age of 55 took part, and the aim of this study was to determine if there was a relationship between low sodium levels and an increased number of falls. The study found that individuals who suffered from low sodium levels are 24% more likely to suffer from falls, and they were also found to be 61% more likely to suffer from spinal fractures and 39% more likely to suffer from non spinal fractures than those whose sodium levels are at a normal level.

This gives an indication that low sodium levels may increase the risk of falls and fractures, and this may be a result of some of the symptoms such as instability and muscle weakness. This may be the case because it may make walking unaided difficult, and without the right support and treatment this may result in falls.

How Home Care Can Help

Home Care may be a beneficial solution for preventing falls, and helping to maintain normal sodium levels. This is because Care Workers will be able to encourage individuals to maintain a balanced diet through prompting and encouragement at meal times, as well as prompting for any medications that may need to be taken. They may also be able to help individuals when mobilising. This would provide them with the extra confidence and stability they may need in order to prevent falls. Taking these steps may also help to maintain normal sodium levels, and this in turn could improve stability and may reduce the risk of individual’s falling. This is extremely beneficial, as it will help them to maintain independence, which will improve their confidence and help them to remain in their own home.