Choosing Snacks Seniors Will Eat and That Meet Their Nutrition Needs

Family caregivers visiting their senior loved ones enjoy bringing them something to eat, not only to show their love but also to encourage them to eat.

Many seniors begin to have diminished appetites — whether from boredom, lack of activity, or changes in their sensation of taste — making all foods taste unfamiliar.

When they are left to eat the food someone else makes for them, whether a family or paid caregiver or in a facility, they tend to eat less and less.

It doesn’t matter if they are home getting delivered meals from an organization, living in a facility that supplies their meals in a congregate dining area, or in their room, or trying to prepare their own convenience items at home. They aren’t getting all the nutrition they need.

For many that is a real problem that can affect their nutritional health, physical health, and even their mood.

Caregivers can help fill the gap!

When Aging Changes Nutritional Needs

Seniors nutritional needs change as they age and caregivers can help them meet their needs with a few interventions.

While aging often means fewer calories may be needed, all the nutrients are still in demand by their bodies and some are more essential than ever for bone health, heart health and brain health.

Here are some things that happen which can change what and how much your senior loved one eats:

  1. As they age, chronic diseases can impact their health and how and what they eat. They may be restricting their food intake based on what they have been told years ago about a particular disease, such as heart disease or diabetes, to the point that they are limiting the nutrients they include — many are over-restricting what they eat.
  2. Difficulty with their teeth and gums can affect what food choices they make. Meats are usually the first foods to go when chewing becomes a problem. Whether it is because of poor dentition, poorly fitting dentures, gum disease, mouth sores, dry mouth or missing teeth or due to cognitive loss, chewing nutrient rich foods can be difficult.
  3. Medications can result in increased nutritional needs or a change in eating. Some medications can inhibit their appetite or increase their appetite to the point of poor food choices out of convenience and speed. Some medications cause dry mouth. Some can cause whole groups of foods, such as leafy green vegetables, from being cut out of the diet.
  4. Intake of the nutrients of concern as people age are often under consumed (or poorly absorbed) including calcium, B vitamins, and protein.
  5. Aging skin is not as productive at producing Vitamin D to help keep bones strong. Added to a decrease in dairy intake, for those worried about lactose intolerance, a weakening of bones that lead to fractures can occur.
  6. Decreased ability to absorb specific nutrients like B12 due to gastric acid secretion and the effects of drugs, such as antacids and proton pump inhibitors (PPI), used to control stomach acid.
  7. Excessive alcohol intake can cause nutrients that are eaten not to be absorbed properly or the person to eat less, putting them at risk for malnutrition.
  8. Finances can also change what your senior feels comfortable buying when they grocery shop. Cheaper, less nutritious, foods may become staples instead of often more expensive fresh foods.
  9. Functional status can impact what seniors eat as they are less able to shop, prepare and even eat the meals they need for health. Fatigue can limit their ability to cook for themselves. Grief or depression can also impact their desire to make their own meals or eat alone.
  10. Lack of desire for the meals served in the facility or by home delivery. Some seniors are often uninterested in the foods they are given or just want to choose their meals. When this is not the case, they often refuse to eat. Many seniors just want foods they remember or grew up eating which may not be what’s on the menu where they live. They may even have lost some of their sense of taste or smell, which could make meals less than satisfying. Some may want to cook their own food as they once did.

Snacks for Seniors

Family caregivers can supplement the meals their senior’s choose to eat with nutrient dense snacks.

It is important to remember that some snacks should be tailored to their individual needs if they have a medical condition such as diabetes or trouble chewing, so be aware of any chronic condition they may have.

Snacks that are high in salt, sugar, fat or excess calories without nutrition should be avoided.

Here are some examples of nutritious snacks your senior may like:

  • Greek yogurt with fruit
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Sandwiches made with deli meat like chicken breast or salads like chicken salad
  • Granola bars especially softer varieties such as Nutrigrain or KIND nut butter bars or breakfast bars
  • Fruit or fruit/vegetable juice blend beverages
  • Nuts or trail mix
  • Vegetables (parboil the veggies if they have trouble chewing raw) and dip
  • Smoothie or milkshake with fruit/vegetables
  • Pudding or gelatin snack cups
  • Fruit cups packed in their own juice
  • String cheese sticks
  • Raisins, yogurt covered raisins, craisins, dates, or figs
  • Real fruit snacks
  • Peanut butter and crackers
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Stewed prunes, dried fruit such as apricots
  • Fig newtons
  • Hummus and pita
  • Homemade leftover dinner (small portion)
  • Custard
  • Ice cream or fruit juice bar
  • Cottage cheese and fruit
  • Sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • Wheat or fruit muffins
  • Glass of chocolate milk or buttermilk
  • Oatmeal cookies
  • Bowl of cereal or oatmeal with berries
  • Avocado on toast
  • Pate on crackers
  • Nutritional supplement including fortified fruit juice or clear supplement for a change

If you are bringing snacks to a facility, check ahead to be sure any perishable food can have refrigeration if they don’t eat it quickly.

Tips for Improved Nutrition In a Care Facility

When your senior loved one is living in a care facility and you are worried they may not be eating enough of the most nutritious foods, bringing some of these snacks with you whenever you visit will greatly increase their intake.

  1. The foods that are perishable should be eaten while you are there and disposed of by you to prevent food poisoning. Be sure the snacks you bring are healthy and will not spoil if left on the counter or bedside table until your next visit.
  2. Sit with your senior while they snack. Many seniors don’t eat as much because they are often eating by themselves and need someone with whom to socialize while they eat.
  3. Take the opportunity to observe them eating. Are they having a problem with the teeth or swallowing that might need an evaluation? Is the food consistency still appropriate or would soft, even chopped food be better tolerated?
  4. Are they drinking enough fluids? Offer them a beverage or simply a glass of water while you visit.
  5. Do they need a multivitamin or supplement to help them get all the nutrition they need or perhaps a short term appetite stimulant to get them back on the right track?
  6. It might be a good time to discuss their medical diet with the staff. Determine if it is still needed so that you can advocate for your senior to reducing their restrictive diet which might be inhibiting a good appetite. You can also discuss with the healthcare team if a possible drug review is appropriate to see if there are any changes that can be made to improve their appetite, eating or reduce any food-drug interactions.
  7. If your senior is not eating the facility food, perhaps it is time to talk with the staff to see what can be done to offer alternates at meals or find ways to increase the seasoning in the food to make it more palatable. Maybe the food isn’t as hot as they prefer and a change in meal time or location (in main dining room versus their room) would help. Perhaps they would eat better if their food could be prepared for them to pick up instead of using a utensil, this is known as finger foods.

Poor nutrition can lead to functional decline, increased falls, loss of muscle, weakened bones and a reduced quality of life for our seniors.

It couldn’t hurt to include bringing healthy snacks every visit to encourage your senior’s appetite and can potentially improve their well-being.

 

 




Easter Baskets for Seniors Full of Special Treats & Memories

Springtime again! Many trees are sporting flowers and others have leaves busting out.

It’s time to gather together our woven baskets and multi-colored plastic straw hay!

For many seniors it means the grandkids are coming to search for goodies to celebrate spring on Easter Sunday, whether it’s celebrated as a religious holiday or simply happiness that the seasons are changing (and maybe a few days off from school).

We love to hide brightly colored eggs with hidden surprises inside for the children. The love to find a coin, a chocolate treat, a marshmallow peep, or the golden ticket!

Memories of Easters Past

Even adults enjoy treats, surprises, and special goodies from time to time – particularly on days that hold fond memories, such as Easter. Special treats can bring back cherished memories of childhood, some adulthood holidays, and the special people with whom they shared the day.

They might remember getting all dressed up in their finest bib and tucker or getting a new outfit – or special hat – for the special day.

Many will never forget the white patent leather Mary Jane shoes they would wear for the day and then not again until summer, at least until after Memorial Day!

Senior Easter Basket Wishes

What do you get for your senior loved ones’ Easter basket? You know them best, of course, but here are some ideas to get you thinking.

  • A new hat (maybe one you pick together) or perhaps take an older hat and add embellishments onto together as a multi-generational project)
  • A new piece of jewelry, such as a beaded necklace or brooch (something they could wear to church or family gatherings and show off)
  • A new floral perfume (reminiscent of a bygone scent or a favorite flower in the garden would be especially nice)
  • A family photo (perhaps a recent one of the grandkids or an older version with those no longer with us)
  • Chocolate bunny candy or cream filled eggs (my family loved maple candy that was a special and rare treat)
  • An Easter lily (this is a tradition I remember from my earliest childhood, we never went to grandma’s house without a lily!)
  • A handmade card (one made by the kids with messages of endearment or glued on macaroni)
  • Jelly beans (the quintessential Easter treat — who could forget or resist!)
  • Coupons (ones from their favorite restaurant, local business, grocery item or handmade for unique gifts like washing the windows or polishing the silver)
  • Personal items they might find useful, like hearing aid batteries, glass cleaning cloth, denture paste, a favorite skin lotion, new nail polish or lipstick, lip balm, aftershave, a backscratcher, nail file, sunscreen or any item that shows you are paying attention to what they need and those things they like.

Make the Basket Personal

The key running through the ideas above is that the contents of the basket for your senior should have personal meaning to them rather than being one of the ready-made packages we see all over the stores.

We are sure you can think of other things that might make special gifts, such as a new sweater or lightweight jacket, a book, slippers, or other items.

Think how much fun it would be to put these smaller items into a pretty new wicker basket with a big pastel bow and remind your senior of how it felt to be young waiting for the Easter bunny!

Enjoy your family moments and reminiscing about fun times in years past. After all, those memories can be the most special treats of all!

 

 




Essential Safety & Warning Devices for Seniors’ Homes

An overwhelming majority of seniors wish to age in place — live in the home of their choice — whether that be in their current home, a smaller living space, with relatives, or in a senior living facility.

The same is true for those of us who are not yet seniors. We often hear statistics that put the number at close to 100% of us who wish to age in place.

But are their homes ready to keep them safe, healthy, and comfortable?

There are many things that we can do to make that a reality, including keeping our bodies as healthy and functional as possible, preventing chronic diseases or managing those diseases that we have while keeping our minds active.

Once you are in the home of your dreams, there are things that can be done to help make the home safe and secure.

Because we know how important these products are to seniors in their homes, we included a selection of each in The Shop at Senior Care Corner®, our convenient store tailored to the needs of family caregivers of older adults.

Smoke Detectors

A smoke detector/alarm will sense smoke in the area and alert when danger is present either audible, visually or both 24 hours a day.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes without working smoke alarms.

Smoke alarms can be installed in your home, using batteries for power or being wired into your house’s electrical system. If they have batteries, they need to be checked for proper functioning regularly. Even those wired in will have a battery backup system that will need to be checked.

If it is powered by a 9 volt battery, it is recommended to check it every month, replacing the battery yearly and the entire unit every 8-10 years. The same schedule is true for wired alarms. Your senior may hear a characteristic chirp when the battery needs changing.

We are often reminded to change the battery in the smoke alarm. For many a good reminder is to do it each time we change our clocks for daylight saving time.

Smoke detectors/alarms are not expensive and can be installed relatively easily by many do-it-yourselfers. They should be placed in particular areas of your home, including every floor and the basement, near the bedrooms (in each bedroom if practical), and in the kitchen. Fire officials prefer smoke alarms be placed both inside and outside the sleeping area.

Smoke rises so be sure to install the alarms at the proper height according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Some fire departments will install home smoke alarms at no cost to your senior so contact your local department to see if they have such a program.

Fire officials warn that we should never disable a smoke alarm in the kitchen but instead ventilate the area to clear the smoke putting the alarm on ‘hush,’ not off.

If your senior is hard of hearing or would otherwise benefit from a strobe alarm in addition to the high pitched frequency of the usual smoke alarm, those are also available for home use. I

f a strobe would not awaken them if there is a fire at night, there are a growing number of systems that link into a bed shaker to ensure everyone is alerted to the danger.

Fire Extinguishers

Does your senior’s home have a portable fire extinguisher?

Do they know how to use it if needed?

Has it been checked to see if it is still functioning?

A fire extinguisher should be used when the fire is contained and can be controlled. Remember to always evacuate the home and contact the fire department BEFORE trying to put out the fire yourself.

It is recommended to have a portable fire extinguisher near the exit door to ensure that you can leave safely and get help.

Check out our Family Caregiver Video Tip about safety measures and proper techniques for using a fire extinguisher.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

These are devices that can detect the presence of carbon monoxide gas in your senior’s home, if applicable (see below), to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. It is very important to install a detector because carbon monoxide (CO) is known as the silent killer because it is an odorless gas that goes undetected until the damage is done.

CO is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless gas produced when carbon-based fuels, including gasoline, natural gas, propane, coal, oil, or wood are burned without enough oxygen. CO poisoning can happen slowly over time when small amounts of gas are present in the air or quickly when an event occurs that releases a great deal of the gas.

Winter months are especially dangerous when portable gas or oil heaters and generators are used without proper ventilation.

Carbon monoxide detectors will sound an alarm when gas is found so that the area can be properly ventilated and the source of the gas repaired. These units can be battery powered or hooked to a source of electricity. If they are powered by batteries, you will need to check the charge, as battery life varies greatly.

There are detectors that are installed directly into heating systems that will contact emergency personnel when CO reaches a level that is dangerous. CO detectors can be purchased in combination with a smoke alarm.

In the home, some common sources of CO include open flames, space heaters, water heaters, blocked chimneys or running a car inside a garage without proper ventilation or insulation to the home.

Symptoms of CO poisoning include headaches, dizziness, tiredness, nausea, loss of consciousness, pains in the chest or stomach, difficulty breathing, or vision problems. Long term exposure can result in brain damage.

Radon Testing

Why is radon testing important? “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and the Surgeon General’s Office have estimated that as many as 20,000 lung cancer deaths are caused each year by radon.

We think that’s a pretty strong call to action.

Did you know that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer?

Radon is a radioactive gas. You can’t see, taste, or smell radon and it may be in the air of your senior’s home. One in three homes tested contain higher than acceptable levels of radon, it is found in every state and is estimated to be in 8 million US homes.

Radon comes from a natural breakdown of uranium found in igneous rock and soil and in some cases well water. Radon released into the groundwater, soil and building materials of your senior’s home is in the air and your senior inhales the gas unknowingly exposing themselves to health risk.

Because it takes years to realize you are exposed, the only way to be aware of radon in your senior’s home is through testing. There are radon test kits and monitors you can purchase to check your senior’s home yourself or get a professional to test. If there are unsafe levels found in the home, these can be corrected.

Other Safety Precautions to Consider

There are a number of items to consider for the safety of your senior’s home, including these.

  • Security cameras – seniors can get a good view of who is around the house and you can monitor remotely to be sure that your senior is safe at home alone.
  • Safes and cash boxes – if your senior keeps valuables and cash in the home and you are afraid they may be targets, a safe will keep their valuables secure when other people are in and out of the home to provide services.
  • Motion sensing lights – there are lights that fit into existing sockets that will go on and off with motion. They can be helpful for the front or back porch or in hallways, closets or the basement or wherever your senior may have difficulty getting the light on in the middle of the night causing a fall.
  • Peepholes – easy to add to an existing door at just the right height so your senior can see who is knocking before they open the door to a stranger.
  • Security doors – specially designed door to withstand forced entry if the neighborhood they choose to live in is not as safe as it once was.
  • Medical alerts – signalers that can alert emergency personnel in the event of a fall or medical emergency can be lifesaving. Many personal emergency response systems can be remotely monitored by family members.
  • Programmable Thermostat – once set you can be sure that your senior’s home is maintained at a comfortable and healthy temperature all throughout the year. Many newer devices allow remote setting and monitoring using a smartphone.

Newer technology and advances in consumer electronics mean that we can help our senior loved ones stay healthy, safe, and comfortable at home a longer than ever before.

These are just some of the items you will want to consider and get installed if your senior’s home doesn’t have them or if the existing devices are malfunctioning or you want the additional functionality of the current devices.

All of these devices can be found in most hardware stores and many department stores, as well as online. You can also find a selection in The Shop at Senior Care Corner®, our convenient store tailored to the needs of family caregivers of older adults.

Expanding Senior Care Corner’s Information Offerings with Guest Articles

Senior Care Corner was born nine years ago as a labor of love by Kathy and me to fill what we saw as an information gap for family caregivers of older adults.

More than 1,000 articles (well, 1,031, but who’s counting), 74 podcasts, and several videos later, everything you read, hear, and see at Senior Care Corner, other than resources we provide in articles for your information, was produced by us.

Nine years later, Senior Care Corner is still a labor of love for us and we are proud of the feedback we get from readers who have found our site helpful and has made a difference to them and their senior loved ones.

We are working on a redesign of our home page to one that implements our early vision and reason we chose the name Senior Care Corner.

When we started the site, we envisioned an intersection of sorts, with resources for family caregivers on all four corners. That was the basis for the road sign logo.

With our upcoming home page redesign, that intersection will be front and center, with three resource areas we have now, plus a new area:

  • Our current Senior Care Corner information site;
  • Technology Corner, our new focus area for family caregivers;
  • The Shop at Senior Care Corner, which offers shopping tailored to the needs of family caregivers; and,
  • The Guest Article Corner, offering articles of interest to family caregivers, written by other experts.

We are excited about the possibilities the third corner may bring and the information resources other voices can provide.

What to Expect in Guest Articles

We have long considered offering an outlet for other voices at Senior Care Corner, but have been hesitant to do so. We receive multiple requests each day from those wishing to submit articles, many from writers we don’t recognize as experts able to provide you greater insights.

Guest articles you see at Senior Care Corner will offer resources, insights, or perspectives to enhance what we have provided over the years. They will be from writers or organizations most of you will recognize and whose expertise we have verified.

We will accept and publish articles from businesses we feel offer information or solutions of value to seniors and/or family caregivers, but will not allow blatant commercials.

Guest articles will not be edited for content by us, but we will not publish anything we feel is inappropriate or does not provide value to family caregivers of older adults.

We are hopeful this fourth corner will be just as vibrant and valuable to you as the other three and thus will feature all four on our soon to be redesigned home page.

Information for Potential Guest Article Writers

We welcome proposals for guest articles to be published on Senior Care Corner and have some guidelines for those considering doing so in order to ensure all content provides value to family caregivers of older adults.

  • Guest article must be appropriate for and relevant to the Senior Care Corner audience. Please review the articles on our site for insight into topics and tone.
  • All articles must be unique, written specifically for Senior Care Corner, and not be published elsewhere on the web.
  • Guest articles will only be accepted from individuals and organizations who are verifiable experts bringing unique expertise, resources, or insights to family caregivers.
  • Please submit proposals before sending articles, as we are respectful of your time and efforts. We will not accept or read articles that are unsolicited or otherwise sent without prior discussions and agreement.
  • While commercial products or services may be portrayed in an article as a solution to a problem faced by seniors and/or family caregivers, articles that are perceived as commercial in nature, in the sole judgment of Senior Care Corner, will not be published.
  • Articles should be at least 500 words in length and generally no more than 1,000 words. The focus should be on effective communication of your ideas rather than length.
  • Guest articles will not be edited by Senior Care Corner. However, writers will be required to revise any language that is determined to be unacceptable, for any reason, prior to publication.

Please send requests for more information and proposals for guest articles to Info@SeniorCareCorner.com.

We are looking forward to bringing you even more knowledge and practical insights from Senior Care Corner for your caregiving journey.

 

Stay tuned for our home page redesign and publication of our initial guest articles!