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A look into how nutrition for older Australians guarantees better health in aged care and how to promote this.
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Eating right is a fundamental part of our health, and it becomes even more important so as we grow older. It takes up a large portion of our day and has a huge influence on our physical and mental health.
So, here are the ways in which food can affect the lives of older Australians and ways to promote it.
As they say – healthy body, healthy mind!
General health is becoming a critical part of tackling dementia, and that includes what people are eating as well.
Avoiding fatty or sugary foods that cause high cholesterol levels or blood pressure is very important to maintaining a healthy heart and mind and reducing the chances of strokes and heart attacks that can deteriorate brain health.
Older Australians with dementia or other diagnoses can also be at risk of becoming malnourished. It is vital to be aware of issues that may occur when looking after them. People living with dementia at home can often forget mealtimes, and what they have eaten before. They can develop problems chewing or swallowing their food and even be unable to recognise food and drinks they are given. These factors can lead to further deterioration of health and mental functioning.
However, aged care facilities are able to recognise the extra care needed to support residents with dementia.
Food (while being delicious and nutritious!) presents an opportunity to promote the dignity and independence of older Australians.
Older Australians in carer situations can suffer loss of independence during meal times with carers scheduling strict eating times, serving food that people need assistance eating or simply cooking something they do not like.
However, food provides opportunities for celebration and socialization that contributes to a lot to how we live our lives. There are plenty of ways to do this for residents in carer situations.
Use these times to ensure dignity and choice so mealtimes can become empowering for those involved.
Malnourishment can often lead to lower energy levels in older Australians, causing less engagement with daily activities and social interaction. All of this can affect overall mental health, including links to anxiety and depression.
However, the solution can be as simple as having a nice meal with friends and family.
It is very common for older Australians to lose weight when aging in a carer situation. Unfortunately, there is a cultural belief that this weight loss is normal – or even desired – for older Australians.
However, once an older person becomes malnourished it becomes more difficult for them to recover to a state of health.
Malnourishment can severally impact the everyday lives of residents. It increases the risks of falls, pressure ulcers, and even delirium. It slows down the healing process for injury recovery. And it can further degrade the lifestyle of residents already living with disabilities and dementia.
There needs to be an overall culture change when caring for the aged in order to tackle the issue.
At no point should anyone be ‘force-feed’ or pressured to eat more. It is vital that you make sure to always respect the independence of residents.
This creates a non-invasive way to approach the issue and steer behaviour towards more beneficial ones, not just tackling the issue superficially, but getting the support of family and friends for a better solution.
For those who are time-poor (or skim reading), here is a quick summary of what carers can do to promote nutrition.
If you want any more information, there are some great tips for promoting health and dignity with food from the Social Care Institute for Excellence.