Our bodies may change with age, but our spirit remains the same. And, as many caregivers discover, that spirit can often include a desire for independence that may not match physical capabilities. One of the most common areas of concern is an aging relative’s ability to get proper nutrition.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as it pertains to keeping your favorite senior well nourished—safely and reliably.
Where are their meals and ingredients coming from?
If your senior is in an assisted living community, they may have access to ready-made meals specifically created to meet their changing nutritional needs. However, if they’re in an independent living community or living by themselves, they’re likely responsible for creating their own meals.
Do they have a dependable way to source ingredients? Many seniors can get to a grocery store, but that’s not always the case. If they’re walking to a store, make sure they can do so safely. If community transportation is available, ensure they know how to use it and can do so easily. Many grocery stores also offer delivery options which are sometimes free of charge if you meet a minimum spend.
Start with the basics.
Consider things like kitchen safety. Can your senior safely and securely reach (and lift) pots and pans, or do their placements need to be shifted to avoid bending down too low or climbing up chairs or ladders to reach them? Kitchen organization is often a relatively easy place to start and something that can extend your senior’s in-kitchen independence and safety with little other accommodation.
Are there built-in safety features?
Every home has fire alarms, but many appliances offer built-in safety features that can give added safety and peace of mind.
Smart appliances give caregivers the ability to make sure they aren’t left on or forgotten about—even from a distance. Automatic shutoffs are another great optional feature that can provide a failsafe that comes in particularly handy if there are developing cognitive or memory concerns.
Keep an eye on nutritional labels.
It’s fairly common to see frozen meals become standard among the independent living senior population. While they’re a convenient way to feed one person, the majority of these pre-made options are loaded with sodium and other preservatives that are less than optimal for anyone, let alone seniors who may be prone to high blood pressure and other concerns. If your senior has health issues, make sure to read through labels when shopping or visiting.
Homemade freezer meals are an even healthier option, providing better nutritional content without the additives. Many churches have pantries and meal programs that can make this more viable as well.
Check out Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wheels has a long, dedicated history of feeding America’s senior population. While this service isn’t meant to be used for everyday support, they may be able to ensure a few quality meals are brought directly to your senior’s residence each week.