One need that remains constant throughout our lives is the importance of a well balanced diet. For the elderly, disabled and ill, having a healthy diet can be especially crucial. These groups of people are often at higher risk of malnutrition, in the form of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, for several reasons. Maine home care specialists can aid in curbing nutrition related problems by providing services such as meal preparation and nutritional/dietary support.
Someone may experience malnutrition for many reasons. They include but are not limited to:
- An inability to use the stove or other appliances due to mobility/functional problems
- Cognitive or psychological reasons such as depression or Alzheimer’s/dementia
- Not understanding a restricted diet, such as one designed for diabetes
- Sore mouth or gums from dentures or other oral problems
- Medical conditions or medication that affects appetite or the absorption of nutrients
Elderly people may require fewer calories since their activity levels are typically lower than that of a younger person. Simply eating less food is not a sufficient method. It is highly important to maintain a healthy nutrient level. This can be achieved through eating nutrient-dense foods. Low-fat milk, fruits, green vegetables, lean meats, cereals, seeds and nuts are all packed full of nutrients.
Three important vitamins and minerals to keep an eye on are vitamin B-12, zinc, calcium and vitamin D. Vitamin B-12 helps maintain blood cells and helps prevent anemia. When there is a B-12 deficiency a person may feel fatigue, weight loss, constipation, depression or dementia. Zinc is an important player in immune system health, wound healing and blood clotting. When a person does not consume the proper amount of zinc they may experience a loss of appetite, lack of taste or smell, hair loss skin problems or depression. Calcium and vitamin D help to maintain a strong skeletal system and slow bone loss and osteoporosis that are common in the elderly.
If there is any suspicion of a deficiency in vitamins or minerals, an appointment should be made with a doctor. Malnutrition can lead to illness, infection, or bone and skin problems. He or she may suggest a change in diet or supplements. Certain vitamins and minerals can be harmful when taken in high doses, so the addition of a supplement to your daily routine should be discussed with your doctor first. In addition to seeing a doctor or nutritionist, a Maine home care professional from MAS Home Care may be able to come into the home to prepare meals or go grocery shopping if mobility is an issue. They can check in on a loved one to make sure he or she is eating properly, discuss any food related concerns, or help to understand a diet plan prescribed by a doctor.
MAS Home Care of Maine (Portland and Lewiston areas)
21 Saco Street
Westbrook, ME 04092
MAS Home Care of Maine (Bangor and Machias areas)
360 Harlow Street
Bangor, ME 04401
MAS Home Care provides in-home care services to the elderly, chronically ill and physically disabled through Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.