Helping seniors eat is a crucial aspect of working in long-term care facilities or in-home care. Seniors may experience trouble with eating due, for example, to a lack of appetite or as a result of certain disabilities or diseases. Alzheimer’s, for instance, can cause changes to taste and appetite while various medications can cause dehydration and thus difficulty with swallowing.
Whether it be due to general changes that accompany age, complications resulting from disabilities, or for other reasons, it’s very important for seniors to receive adequate nutrition. Assisting seniors with eating requires some creativity, patience, and expertise from healthcare training. How can you as a health care aide assist seniors with eating? Keep reading to find out.
Try Encouraging Appetite Through a Daily Routine and Sensory Stimulation
If seniors are struggling with eating due to a poor appetite, then setting up a regular snack and meal schedule throughout the day may be helpful. This is because a daily eating routine can help the body feel prepared to eat at scheduled times.
It may be beneficial to schedule multiple snacks throughout the day as opposed to a few large meals. Seniors may sometimes not have the stamina to complete an entire meal, and big portions can feel overwhelming.
When speaking of sight, it’s important to note that it happens to play a large role in stimulating appetite, as do the other senses. Colourful and well-seasoned food will be more appetizing to take a bite of than something bland. Seniors may also experience diminished sensations, so sometimes they may need a bit more seasoning and flavour to get their appetites stimulated.
Various Physical and Motor Disabilities May Need to Be Addressed to Make Eating Easier
During your career in healthcare, you may see that many seniors can experience trouble eating due to physical or motor restrictions. These may include difficulties with coordination, chewing, and swallowing. Serving foods that require only minimal use of utensils can make the process of eating easier. Seniors with this problem may also feel more comfortable eating in settings where this disability will not be so readily apparent to others.
Difficulties with chewing may be similarly addressed by modifying the way food is served. An overall reduction of the necessity for chewing, such as shredding or even liquefying food, can prove helpful. Moreover, liquid foods like soups and smoothies can also be enriched with the nutrients seniors need.
Complications with swallowing may be caused by dryness of the mouth. In this case, it’s advisable to avoid serving dairy products, which can increase the production of mucus and make swallowing more difficult. Oily liquids like broth, on the other hand, make these mucus secretions thinner. If the problem lies with motor disabilities, then clients may need adaptive devices such as weighted utensils to help reduce tremors and make it easier to use cutlery.
Open Communication Will Go a Long Way in Helping Seniors Eat
One of the most significant ways you can help seniors eat during your health care aide career has to do with communication and employing an empowering approach. By communicating with your clients, you may find out what times of day they like to eat and what foods they enjoy, or even any problems they may be having with the eating process.
Sometimes seniors may experience problems with traditional communication, for example, if they suffer from dementia. Be observant in these cases as to other ways they may be trying to demonstrate discomfort with eating or perhaps a dislike for a certain food. A refusal to eat or a refusal to swallow could be an indication that a client doesn’t enjoy a particular meal. Never perceive such behaviours as a slight to your person and instead see them as signs that the approach to eating must be tailored.
A lot of various factors can contribute to eating problems among seniors, so it’s important to always be encouraging and communicative when finding the right solutions. If a certain solution doesn’t work, simply remain patient and use your health care aide training and knowledge to creatively search for a different approach.
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