What nutrients caregivers should focus on giving seniors

Regarding which nutrient is more important than the other, the answer is all of them. This is because they are all needed in order for the body to function properly. Many health trends will mention if you eat more or only a certain food group it will give you a healthier life. This is especially important for seniors since their aging bodies do not absorb and utilize many nutrients as efficiently compared to their youth. As a caretaker, make sure a senior is getting their daily recommended amount of vitamins and minerals. It is because even though they may be eating food, they could just be consuming more calories without the nutrients.

Vitamin D and Calcium

When it comes to bone health, Vitamin D and Calcium are mentioned a lot. Both nutrients work hand in hand to help prevent seniors from getting life threatening injuries due to weakness. Vitamin D is aptly named the Sunshine Vitamin because the sunlight provides the body with the energy to synthesize cholesterol to get Vitamin D. Once your body has that vitamin, it will then help your body absorb Calcium minerals.1, 2, 3  

Depending on the physical condition, just going outside may not be efficient. For that, make sure to include whole grains, liver, lean beef, egg yolk, fresh tuna, broccoli, almonds, Chinese cabbage, and fortified dairy products in their meal plan for Vitamin D and Calcium. If consuming certain foods that constrain Vitamin D is difficult for a senior, they can get it from a nutritional supplement. For example, nutritional supplements from Ensure, with over 40 years of research, have been formulated with all the essentials, including Vitamin D and Calcium for bone health.1, 2, 3  

Vitamin B6 and B12 

Both B6 and B12 are vitamins a senior is not so at risk of getting too much of. They are most likely not getting enough because their body’s absorption of it gets less efficient as they age. Vitamin B is what supports energy level, immunity, red blood cell formation, nerve health, and memory. In other words, it is the nutrient that supports the communication of cells, organs, and neurological function.1, 2 

If the senior in your care is fatigued all the time, unable to grip light objects, falls ill often, and has depression-like symptoms, they may need more Vitamin B. Luckily various types of Vitamin B can be found in your senior’s favorite food items such as citrus fruits, clams, yogurt, eggs, and chicken. If Western cereal and milk is not to their liking, the Myanmar counterpart would be rice porridge and sweet milk.1, 2 

Proteins and Fibers

Protein itself can be considered an essential nutrient for life because it is in most parts of the body. Seniors need more protein in their diet to combat age related muscle loss (Sarcopenia). Provide protein rich items like spinach, lentils, green soybeans (Edamame), any meat or fish, and nuts in their diet. Just eating protein for strong muscles is not enough. It must be combined with physical exercise. Schedule in endurance and resistance training sessions. Both combined improves muscle strength and slow down their loss.1, 2 

Where does Fiber fit in here? Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that will help things move along in a senior’s body (Insoluble Fiber). In other words, it helps support a senior’s digestion, keeps them feeling full longer, and prevents constipation. Fiber (Soluble Fiber) also functions as the bulk that slows your body’s absorption of sugars and fats by binding them to it. So with a high fiber diet, a senior can control their cholesterol level, protect against diabetes, and inflammation that high fat and sugar diets are known to cause.1, 2   

References:

  1. https://www.parentgiving.com/elder-care/necessary-nutrients-how-seniors-can-get-them/
  2. https://www.thegeriatricdietitian.com/7-key-nutrients-for-senior-nutrition/
  3. https://ensure.ca/en/get-healthy/boning-up-on-calcium-and-vitamin-d