Nutrition for the elderly is among the most important aspects of aging. But mealtime challenges such as loneliness, lack of companionship and cooking for one can threaten an older adult’s health and well-being. The Home Instead Senior Care® network has launched the Craving CompanionshipSM program to promote healthy aging through nutrition and companionship so family caregivers can rest assured that their seniors are not in jeopardy.
Family caregivers who arrive at an older loved one’s home around mealtime to find Mom or Dad eating toast for dinner shouldn’t be surprised. Seniors who live alone with lack of companionship and faced with the prospect of cooking for one, often don’t eat like they should. A recent Home Instead Senior Care® network survey discovered that the biggest mealtime challenge for older people who live alone is lack of the shared family experience, including lack of companionship. And that’s just one of the ten mealtime challenges that threaten healthy aging.
Family caregivers know how difficult it can be to ensure older adults are eating properly. Seniors may face multiple challenges when it comes to the pursuit of good nutrition. Illnesses and diseases can dampen taste buds. Seniors on multiple medications or recovering from an illness may lose interest in eating. The conditions of aging sometimes make shopping and preparing food difficult. And then there’s loneliness.
That’s why the Home Instead Senior Care network has launched the Craving CompanionshipSM public education program. The program is designed to help family caregivers make the most of mealtimes with seniors, thereby combating loneliness and the challenges that many face at mealtimes.
“Helping a senior loved one through the mealtime experience is vital to their health,” said Jeff Huber, President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Home Instead, Inc., the franchisor for the Home Instead Senior Care network. “But that support must extend beyond the meal planning and preparation tasks. There’s another important ingredient in the recipe for senior nutrition that should be part of the process from beginning to end. That is companionship.”
In the United States, approximately 40 percent of the population age 75 and older – 6.7 million people – lives alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And one in five seniors says he or she sometimes or most of the time feels lonely when eating alone, according to the Home Instead Senior Care research. The most common obstacles that prevent these seniors from sharing more meals are that family/friends don’t have enough time (28 percent), family/friends live too far away (20 percent), the senior doesn’t drive (17 percent), and that older adult is never asked to dine with anyone (13 percent).
Top on the list of 10 Senior Mealtime Challenges are lack of companionship and cooking for one. If a family caregiver can’t be there to dine with an older adult, look for alternatives such as friends and neighbors.
Check out special activities at churches and senior centers as well as the local Area Agency on Aging and Home Instead Senior Care resources. To assist seniors who are challenged by the notion of cooking for one, buy healthier low-sodium dinners for one. Freeze most any type of leftovers including sliced and seeded fruit by placing it in plastic containers or freezer bags.
“Family caregivers in tune with seniors’ needs will help ensure that a senior mealtime challenge doesn’t become a caregiving crisis,” Huber said.