Out of desperation (mostly), I’ve had to research healthy eating for senior citizens as my elderly Mom, Gertie, recovered from a broken hip.
While Mom was in acute pain during the first 3 days after the hip fracture, I had little luck getting any food into her at all – that was normal. But, after the surgery and her subsequent time in a nursing home rehabilitation unit, I’ve become very creative at finding and cooking a healthy diet for my much-cherished mother.
Mom lost 11 pounds, dropping from a healthy 130 to a low 119, in the 5 weeks we were in the hospital and then rehab. The last week of rehab, I was successful in getting her weight back up 3 lbs – gaining weight is sort of my specialty. I do it like a pro….ugh.
So, we left the nursing home rehab unit with her weighing in at a less-than-hefty 122 lbs (about the size of my right thigh – give or take…).
One of the normal side effects of aging is loss of appetite – everything slows down, including digestion. Someone who used to eat 3 pancakes, 2 eggs, and 2 slices of bacon for their filling breakfast may only eat 1 pancake in their golden years. The trick is to make that 1 pancake count and that’s about what I’m going to show you (hint: add in some flax seed to the pancake batter for some added protein. They’ll never know it’s in there).
If there is a loss of appetite in your elderly friend, try to determine the cause. Ask your senior citizen if they’re having discomfort chewing. Are they having heartburn after eating certain foods? Talk to his or her doctor and bring a list of all medications they take with you. Check with the doctor about interactions between the meds or side effects affecting appetite. Check to make sure that, physically, your senior loved one is in good shape. It could be as easy as an adjustment of their dentures that gets them back on the path to eating a healthy diet.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor do I have any medical training. The opinions on this website page are mine, all mine. Take ’em for what they’re worth.
Eating well and taking in enough calories is the first line of defense in keeping a senior citizen healthy and happy. Adding enough protein, vitamins and nutrients will boost the immune system so that it’s easier to fight off infections, speed wound healing, and add to muscle strength to hopefully prevent falls and fractures.
As we age, our senses of smell and taste may diminish, and those 2 things combined can make ones appetite go on hiatus. Getting a senior citizen’s appetite whetted is very important. There’s a few ways to do that can increase appetite, including adding a prescription drug, such as Megace.
Megace is a drug used to treat those suffering from breast cancer and also to treat loss of appetite, like a patient with AIDs. It’s also given as a supplement to the elderly to increase appetite and that’s why my Mom took it.
My Mom took 2 tsp of Megace every morning (I made sure not to even lick my fingers…) and the medication really worked for her. But, I’ve heard from a few nurses while we were in nursing home rehab that Megace doesn’t work for everyone. It’s also pretty expensive so there are a few more natural ways to increase one’s appetite. Keep reading.
Another way to rev up a senior citizen’s appetite is to try fixing your their favorite foods from days of old. There’s a reason they’re called ‘comfort foods.’ My mom loved potato latkes, and even though they were a bit of a pain to make, she got them every time she asked. I also made her favorite soup, beet borscht, (I topped it with sour cream and served it with a large slice of pumpernickel bread for added calories), mondel bread (Jewish almond cookies similar to biscotti), and other dishes she used to love as a child.
Natural appetite enhancers may help keep weight on your senior citizen friend
There are some natural ways to enhance the appetite, including medical marijuana. Now, not every senior citizen is up to toking a pipe but, there’s also vaporizers that vaporize the marijuana so there’s no smoke to inhale, just a vapor. The Marijuana Volcano is one of the top vaporizers on the market. It’s not sold on Amazon.com or I’d put a link here to it. Just google ‘Marijuana Volcano.’
The items listed below are rumored to increase appetite naturally:
- Cayenne pepper or red pepper. I’d suggest adding a bit more heat to chili or atop eggs if your senior citizen will tolerate it. I love putting red pepper on popcorn but I have a palate that appreciates HOT foods.
Cayenne pepper comes in powdered or capsule form on Amazon.com:
- Green tea. Mom and I both loved drinking green tea in the morning and afternoon. I’d mix up a small teapot every morning and just fill it with water throughout the day. Two tsp of green tea in a small teapot will make about 8 cups of tea throughout the day. There’s some good green teas listed below – the Revolution Tea Lavender is, by far, our favorite.
- Ginseng. There’s ginseng tablets on the market that are supposed to be great in increasing appetite.
- Garlic. There’s no problem getting a lot of garlic in my Mom’s diet. We consider it an essential vegetable and add garlic and onions to about everything we eat. I even love pickled garlic in a good martini!
- Cloves. Cloves are pretty easy to incorporate into daily meals; just grind a bit on top of cottage cheese and fruit or even as a light topping for vanilla ice cream.
- Ginger. Ginger has long been known to have benefits for gastro and digestion but it’s also known to be an appetite enhancer. It’s pretty easy to slice up and mix a nice stir fry with ginger or add a bit to chicken soup for a nice spicy kick.
Ways to sneak extra calories into your elderly loved one’s diet
It’s quite possible that a senior’s waning appetite will not allow the intake of calories they need for muscle strength and energy. So, if it comes down to it, here’s some ways to sneak extra calories into a senior citizen loved one’s diet:
- My Mom loved Ensure Plus (350 calories per bottle versus regular Ensure which is 250). I gave her about 4 ounces twice a day so she was getting in extra calories. There are new formulations of these meal supplements on the market which are geared toward added protein or to build muscle strength, etc. Experiment with these to aid in healthy eating for your senior citizen.If your senior citizen flat out refuses to drink a meal supplement, beat ’em at their own game – mix in a scoop of ice cream and set it up in the blender for a smooth shake. They’ll never know if they don’t see the Ensure Plus bottle…trust me…I know.
- Serve protein at every meal. My Mom would only eat about 1 ounce of meat at a time (don’t ask me why….) so I’d sneak in protein in other ways. I’d give her a bit of peanut butter spread on a cracker, cheese and crackers, a hard boiled egg or egg salad on toast as a snack. A handful of nuts or raisins gave her a bit of a protein boost too. Finally, I’d add finely chopped nuts to yogurt or on top of cereals. My banana bread (breakfast fare) contained walnuts and wheat germ in the batter and was a favorite snack for Mom.
- Cook and bake with extra large eggs. My Mom would eat one egg so, I figured, I might as well make it the biggest egg I could find. Her one egg was probably the equivalent of 2 small eggs so she got extra calories there without knowing it. Note: There’s more protein and calories in extra large eggs so, if you’re baking with them, you may have to adjust your recipe for the additional volume. You can even add egg whites into a one egg omelet to get in a bit more protein and an extra bit of calories.
- If constipation is not an issue, try adding cheese to meals in interesting ways. Add cheese into mashed potatoes or add it into rice during the last moments of cooking. Cheese sauce is always a welcomed addition to almost any vegetable. And, I don’t know a senior citizen who doesn’t love homemade cornbread with a sprinkling of cheddar cheese on top.
- Yogurt is also a good source of protein and healthy bacteria that is so important as we age. Some antibiotics may be deadly for the elderly as they will wipe out the bad bacteria but the good too. Make sure you know the side effects of any antibiotic given to an elderly loved one and ask about adding probiotics or yogurt to their diet as prevention. Yogurt with probiotics is a good choice once a day or so although make sure you’re aware of the side effects of the added fiber in these yogurts (I wasn’t….shoot….).If you crush your senior citizen’s pills, mix them into a bit of yogurt or cottage cheese instead of applesauce.
During the 5 years Mom lived with me, until her death at 95 years of age, her weight never varied by as much as 2 lbs until she broke her hip and had to go to rehab. Once she came home though, game was on. She quickly regained 10 lbs which is exactly where her doctor wanted her.
Ensuring a healthy diet for an elderly loved one may be a challenge upon occasion, but eating well is vitally important to their health. Try the tips above or devise your own ways to keep them eating.
And, please kiss your elderly loved one for me. I dearly miss my Mom.
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