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​10 Ways to Make Senior Mealtime Healthier and Happier

Posted: 5/21/2019 8:00 AM by Interim HealthCare
As we age, eating can become less enjoyable due to a diminished sense of taste or smell, and a lack of appetite caused by health issues or medications. Particularly for seniors who live at home, mealtime can become a weary chore or an exercise in snacking while watching TV.
  
Yet, proper nutrition is essential for continued health and longevity. These 10 tips can help you reinvigorate Mom or Dad's enjoyment of mealtime:
 
1. Make it social.

Breaking bread with others is often more enjoyable than dining solo. Seniors who live alone can invite a friend or neighbor for a meal (consider forming an informal lunch or dinner club). Another option is to join breakfasts, lunches or dinners offered at the local senior center or place of worship.

If you have a loved one who lives alone and needs some help with daily tasks, consider hiring a home aide, who can cook, provide company during mealtime and provide other critical care components to keep Mom or Dad happy and healthy.
 
2. Turn up the taste.

Sugar and salt are packed into many sauces, dips and other common food accents. Skipping those unhealthy additions can often mean bland, boring food. 

Instead, senior meals should bypass the salt- and sugar-laden condiments and add flavor using fresh pepper, mustard, garlic, ginger, citrus juice, spices and dried or fresh herbs according to taste. Instead of sugar, add sweetness with cinnamon, vanilla extract or a touch of maple syrup.
 
3. Don’t forget to drink.

Dehydration can put a damper on appetite. If drinking enough water is a challenge, make it more appealing with slices of lemon, lime, orange or cucumber, a few fresh mint leaves or a few crushed raspberries.
 
4. Downsize servings.

For someone who isn’t particularly hungry to begin with, a piled-high plate isn’t likely to provide much appeal. Serve smaller portions, and make sure they deliver ample nutrients. If getting enough calories is an issue, enrich meals with calorie-dense foods like olive oil, soft cheeses like ricotta, nuts or nut butters and avocado.
 
5. Provide food that is visually appealing.

Visual appeal can help overcome the challenge of diminished taste and smell. Include lots of brightly hued fruits and vegetables with every meal. Serve food on colorful dishes that contrast with both the table and the food. In studies, people with dementia tended to eat more when food was served on dark blue plates. Bonus: Veggies and fruits provide a variety of important nutrients.
 
6. Set the table.

Deck it out with a tablecloth or placemats, napkins, silverware, flowers — whatever you can add to make meals feel special for your loved one. Make sure the room is well lit.
 
7. Set the mood with music.

In one study, people with dementia consumed 20 percent more calories when familiar music was played during meals. For other seniors, music can help meals feel special and can evoke memories of special meals and celebrations past. 
 
8. Counter cotton mouth.

Some medications slow saliva production, and that can interfere with appetite and also make chewing more difficult. Chewing gum, brushing the teeth or swishing with an oral rinse made for dry mouth before meals can get saliva flowing for your loved one.
 
9. Make food easy to eat.

For seniors who have trouble managing silverware or with other logistics involved in eating, simple fixes or swaps can help address those issues. For example, use non-slip placemats and easy-to-grip drinkware, and serve precut foods, soups in mugs and finger foods.
 
10. Slow it down.

Encourage your loved one to slow down during mealtime. Chewing food thoroughly tends to make eating more enjoyable by allowing time to appreciate flavors and textures. And slower eating is better for digestion.

 

Keep Your Senior Loved Ones Happy and Healthy

Caring for your senior loved ones requires diligence, patience and time. You can only do so much on your own! At Interim HealthCare, we complement the love and care you provide for your loved ones, offering professional caregiver services to keep Mom or Dad happy and healthy. To learn more, contact your local Interim HealthCare office.