Overview for Caregivers - Nutrition & Hydration
As we age, our nutritional needs change (1). Eating a nutrition-packed diet can help older adults feel their best and stay healthy (1). Giving your body the nutrition it needs by eating healthy can help prevent or manage diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease (2).
Healthy eating for older adults is…
- eating a variety of vegetables and fruits
- eating whole grain products like brown rice, oats, quinoa etc.
- eating healthy fats such as those found in nuts, seeds, avocados and fish
- eating healthy portion sizes – older adults generally require fewer calories
- limiting or eliminating foods high in unhealthy fats, sugar and salt such as cakes, cookies, doughnuts, fast foods, soft drinks etc.
- drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated
- making sure important nutrient needs are met – Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron and fiber
- a supplement can help make sure the body gets the nutrients it needs; talk to the doctor to find out which one is right for the person you are caring for (1)(2)(3)(4).
A lack of key vitamins and minerals in the diet can occur from a combination of factors:
- side effects of medications can lessen appetite, cause nausea, make food taste differently, or prevent absorption of vitamins and minerals
- limited income and lack of transportation may affect access to quality food and the number of meals per day (5)
- chronic conditions or disability can limit movement needed to cook
- Chewing problems (6).
Things to consider
- Some signs that your loved one may not be reaching their nutritional goals include a decreased appetite, weight changes, no longer able to cook or shop, taking lots of medication or not having enough money to buy food (1). If you notice these signs, ask your loved one to speak with their doctor (1).
- Use Canada's Food Guides to help make healthy choices.
- Call Telehealth Ontario toll-free at 1 866 797 0000 and speak to a registered dietitian about healthy eating.
Drinking liquids throughout the day is especially important for older adults (7). Fluid is needed for your body to function well; if the body doesn’t get enough fluid it can become dehydrated (2). Dehydration can lead to dizziness, fainting, confusion, constipation, low blood pressure and increase the chance of a fall (2)(7).
Things to consider
- The signs of dehydration include: thirst, low blood pressure, increased heart rate, dry lips and mouth, dizziness/confusion (7).
- The amount of fluids you need depends on your age, gender and level of physical activity (7). Certain circumstances – like illness, exercising, hot/humid weather, staying in heated buildings – require more fluid intake (7).
- Drink frequently throughout the day instead of drinking large amounts in one sitting (7).
- Your fluid intake can include water and a variety of foods containing high amounts of water like fresh fruit and vegetables (7).
(1) Dietitians of Canada. (2018). Older Adults eating well. Retrieved from http://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Seniors-nutrition/Older-adults-eating-well
(2) HealthLinkBC (2016). Healthy eating and healthy aging for adults. Retrieved fromhttps://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthlinkbc-files/healthy-eating-adults
(3) Government of Canada. (2015). What is healthy eating? Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/tips-healthy-eating/what-is-healthy-eating.html
(4) Wolfram, T. (2018). Special nutrient needs of older adults. Retrieved from https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/healthy-aging/special-nutrient-needs-of-older-adults
(5) Health in Aging. (2018). Nutrition – Unique to older adults. Retrieved from http://www.healthinaging.org/aging-and-health-a-to-z/topic:nutrition/info:unique-to-older-adults/
(6) Dietitians of Canada. (2018). Managing chewing problems. Retrieved from http://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Dental-health/Managing-Chewing-Problems.aspx
(7) Dietitians of Canada. (2018). Facts on fluids - How to stay hydrated. Retrieved from http://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Water/Facts-on-Fluids-How-to-stay-hydrated.aspx