The team at Accredited Home Care encourages family members, friends and caregivers to look closely for signs of decreased balance and increased fall risk since falls can be increasingly dangerous the older someone gets.
It takes them longer to recover, and significant damage from a fall may even require relocation to a care facility that provides advanced care and easier access to therapy. If a senior prides themselves on remaining independent in their own place, a serious fall could quickly disrupt these plans.
People are also asked to be vigilant about their loved one’s mental health, especially to watch for possible signs of dementia. This also could be something that may require different levels of home care, such as home health care.
But there’s another area that can be considered that can affect their mental and physical state: how and what they’re eating.
Good nutrition is important at every age but is especially vital for seniors. It’s also a time when there are physical or mental conditions that may alter their appetite, routine, tastes, or overall interest in food.
This month is a perfect time to learn more: September is Food Safety Education Month, an annual celebration created by the Partnership for Food Safety Education. Its goal is for families to learn everything from better nutrition to the social value of getting together for dinner. It also encourages people to be aware of the risk of food poisoning and how to avoid it.
Seniors living at home may have a higher risk of getting sick from food. This could be due to a combination of:
- Poor lighting and poor vision which could lead to not noticing expiration labels or spoiled food.
- Uncertainty on how to prepare food, either forgetting details or being distracted while cooking.
- Forgetting to throw items away.
- Going out for meals more often which may have variable quality — plus possibly spoiled leftovers.
There are a variety of ways to reduce the risk of sickness or food poisoning from unsanitary or spoiled food.
For instance, occupational therapy can help people regain confidence in the kitchen or make sure they have the proper skills to safely prepare a meal for themselves.
Physical changes, such as improved lighting in the kitchen, including changing dead bulbs in the refrigerator, can help. Some home health care providers also offer assistance in meal preparation.
Allergies on the rise?
Beyond the risk of unsanitary food, seniors need to consider that their bodies may handle food differently.
Although there hasn’t been a significant amount of research, various studies have been indicating an increase in food allergies and food sensitivities as people age. The U.S. National Institutes of Health said people over 65 represent that largest population group, and of this group, 25 percent suffer from “immediate hypersensitivity” which is a common immunological disease. This can lead to allergic reactions, even if someone hasn’t had these problems earlier in life. Various studies also have shown that 5 to 10 percent of allergies affect the elderly.
The reasons why allergies might be on the increase are unknown. It may have environmental causes, such as more irritants or allergens in the air than in the past. Lifestyle may be a factor as well – poor health and other health conditions in more people may lead to overall weaker immune systems which can increase sensitivity to allergens over time.
Or the allergy or food sensitivity may have always been there but people may not have known until they’ve modified their diet.
Talking with a provider may help about possible allergens or dietary needs, although research has also shown that the medical community may need better training in recognizing late-onset allergies in seniors. In some cases, a doctor may try to solve problems caused by allergic reactions, such as rashes, mouth sores or breathing problems, without realizing that the allergy may be the cause.
A visit to a provider or a nutritionist might be a good idea to discuss different dietary needs, including when someone transitions to palliative care. This can include options to restore nutrients that are lost as we age and it can include ways to eat better to reduce risk factors for heart disease and high cholesterol.
The USDA “Choose My Plate” program provides a variety of suggestions for senior to eat better, including looking for ways to add fruit and vegetables into your diet or add various spices if you find your new “healthier” diet particularly bland.
The program also emphasizes that eating better is good but you get even more impressive results if you add more physical activity into your daily or weekly routine. Just like with our diet, our bodies are changing so muscles make work differently or our workout routines might have to be modified.
For more suggestions on various options to eat better, visit Accredited Home Care.