Did you know that malnutrition is common in the elderly? Your mom can be at a healthy weight and still be malnourished. Malnutrition may be caused by poor diet, lack of access to fresh produce, medication side effects, or an underlying health condition.
One of the problems with malnutrition is that it can increase the risk of infection. Studies show that malnutrition affects the immune system in several ways. Here are a few things to know and how elder care can help.
What the Studies Find
In one study, a lack of vitamin A in mice led to the slowed production of antibodies after giving the mice a dose of tetanus vaccine. Cells that generate immune responses stopped functioning as well.
When mice were restricted of iron, protein, and zinc in their diets, they lost 12 percent of their body weight. Mice that were put on a low-protein diet lost 20% of their body weight and developed anemia. Their bone marrow production also decreased.
Additional studies found that malnutrition impacted T-cell function in humans, too. T-cells are the cells that help trigger immune responses. An improper diet can lead to anemia, which is an issue as it can make your mom feel tired, affect her heart rhythm, and lead to easier bruising.
Older adults often have a slowed immune response. Cells don’t heal or regenerate as quickly. The digestion system is slower, so contaminants in food are in the stomach and intestines longer. Maintaining proper nutrition is vital to prevent more common infections like foodborne illnesses, common colds, influenza, and other viruses.
What Should She Be Eating?
Your mom needs to avoid processed foods that are high in saturated fat, added sugar, and sodium. Instead, she should focus her meals and snacks on high-quality protein sources, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.
If she’s craving a chocolate chip cookie, get her to eat a small bowl of oatmeal that has cacao nibs instead. Air fryer sweet potato chips may sate her desire for salty, oily potato chips. Look for alternatives that cut the salt and fat and add fiber, vitamins, and minerals to her diet. Elder care providers can help your senior make sure they are getting proper nutrition on a regular basis.
Ask her Doctor
Ask your mom’s doctor about her dietary needs. Her doctor may recommend that she work with a nutritionist. If that’s suggested, schedule an appointment and attend that appointment with her. Get ideas for meal plans and foods that meet her nutritional needs.
Make sure she follows her new diet. If you’re not around to help her prepare the meals and snacks that her body needs, hire elder care aides for meal preparation services. Let caregivers take her shopping for the foods she needs, put things away, and cook for her.
In addition to assistance with meals, your mom could have elder care services like housekeeping, companionship, laundry, and appointment scheduling. Call to learn more.