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Promote A Healthy Diet In Your Elder Care Routine

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By Author: Robin Hewitt
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If you’re the primary provider of your parent’s elder care, you may not realize they’re not eating a balanced diet. In an eight-year study performed by the centers for Disease Control (CDC) it was found that half of the top chronic conditions in those 65 years old and above were diabetes, coronary heart disease, all other types of heart disease, hypertension, and cancer: all diseases whose risk may be reduced by a healthy diet. Although 72 percent of those in the study achieved the guidelines for cholesterol and 56 met the guidelines for variety in diet, only 17 percent actually consumed a good, balanced diet on a daily basis. The primary causes for lack of proper nutrition were:
Oral health issues, such as missing or decayed teeth, poorly fitted dentures, changes in taste and smell, or lowered saliva levels
Use of medications that affect appetite, nutrition, oral health, or hydration
Depression or loss of appetite
Difficulty preparing or shopping for food or difficulty feeding themselves
Limited income that affects their ability to afford proper nutrition
Medical problems that ...
... impede the ability to eat

In addition, those overseeing home care often are coping with the beginning or intermediate stages of dementia, a loved one that may be resentful of their loss of independence, or an elder care patient that uses food and meals as a weapon of sorts to get their own way. Keeping those factors in mind, it is vital that you and your parent both know the daily calorie requirements and the portions of each food group that should be consumed daily in order to boost energy as well as to prevent diseases, physical limitations, and subclinical malnutrition.

According to the Mayo Clinic women over the age of 50 should consume approximately 1,600 calories a day if they are inactive; add 200 calories for the moderately active and another 200 to 400 calories if they are fully active. Inactive men of the same age group should consume about 2,000 calories a day, and add 200 to 400 calories if they are moderately active and up to another 400 calories if fully active. Keep in mind that these are guidelines, and your parent’s primary caregiver should be consulted for exact caloric and other specific nutritional requirements.

How do the calories translate into actual food portions? A person on a 2,000 calorie diet should consume the following amounts of food per day:

2 to 2.5 cups of fruit: this equals about one banana, four ounces of orange juice, and one-half cup strawberries
2 to 2.5 cups of vegetables: this is about one half cup of tomatoes, broccoli, sweet potato, and cauliflower
7 to 8 ounces of grain foods: one ounce of grain food equals one roll, slice of bread, or small muffin or one half cup of cooked cereal pasta, or rice or one cup of dry cereal flakes. At least half of the grains should be in whole grain form.
2 to 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat dairy products: 1.5 ounces of natural chunk cheese or two ounces of processed cheese equals one cup of milk or yogurt.
5.5 ounces of protein: one-quarter cup of cooked tofu or dried beans, one egg, one tablespoon of peanut butter, one-half cup of seeds or nuts equals one ounce of meat, fish, or poultry.
A maximum of six teaspoons of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated oils such as canola or olive oil.
Keep in mind that your home care patient may not have a big enough appetite to consume a large meal; five or six small meals may be more comfortable. If your parent has dental problems you can cook and dice or mash harder foods such as carrots and meats; fruits can be sliced for snacks rather than eaten whole or as part of a meal. Often it helps to plan elder care meals much the same as you would for a toddler by eliminating or limiting empty calories and making meals interesting and enjoyable rather than a chore that must be completed. If shopping or budget is a concern contact your local Senior Care Association for information regarding help that is available in your area.

Robin Hewitt is a freelance writer working with Visiting Angels to help educate those in charge of senior home care. For more information about assisted living services, visit our website soon.

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