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home health companies combat malnutritionThis is the third article in a series on senior malnutrition. The first article focused on factors which make seniors at risk for malnutrition, and the second article offered information on how to spot malnutrition in seniors. Below home health companies advise on what to do when malnutrition is suspected.

Depending on the reasons contributing to a senior’s malnutrition, different approaches may be necessary to combat it. Home health companies offer a number of recommendations for addressing issues of malnutrition once they are identified.

Work with health care providers: Family members or friends who accompany loved ones to health care appointments can work with doctors and dentists to address any contributing factors including adjusting medications that may interfere with appetite, easing dietary restrictions temporarily to stimulate their interest in eating or treating any mouth pain or chewing issues.  If family members cannot attend appointments, the senior can give their doctor permission to release information to family members who may be able to follow-up with them by phone or even email.  Family members can also bring issues to the doctor’s attention and request routine screenings for nutritional issues.  Health care professionals may also recommend the services of a dietician to improve nutrition and health.

Help the senior find ways to add nutrient-dense foods to food they enjoy:  Peanut butter or almond butter can be tasty and nutritious additions to crackers, breads, raw vegetables and even fruits.  Nuts, wheat germ or other nutrient dense grains can be added to yogurt, cereal and fruit.  Cheese can be included in rice and pasta dishes or added to vegetables, sandwiches or soups.

Help the senior find ways to make food more flavorful: For seniors who have to avoid salt or other flavor enhancers or who have a diminished sense of taste and smell, experiment with alternative flavors by using a variety of different spices, lemon juice and fresh herbs to find ones the senior enjoys.

Offer snacks between meals: A fruit smoothie can be a nice treat and can be loaded with nutrients and calories.  Cheese, fruit and peanut butter can offer similar benefits.

Eat together: For seniors who may have lost interest in eating because they often eat alone, find ways for them to eat together with others.  Family members and friends can drop by at meal times, invite the senior over to eat, or find programs that offer seniors meals in a social setting, such as at a senior community center or church program.

Encourage exercise: Even moderate or light physical activity can stimulate a senior’s appetite, and it offers other health benefits as well.

Help the senior find ways to save on food costs: Helping the senior learn the basics of comparison shopping, reviewing store fliers for sales, using coupons and selecting store brands instead of more expensive name brands can help.  Perhaps they have a friend or neighbor who they can buy in bulk with and split costs.  Some restaurants also offer special discounts for seniors.

Take advantage of community programs: Programs like Meals on Wheels provide meals to seniors who are home-bound.  While some programs require a senior to be low-income, others do not, so it is important to check with the specific program if that is a consideration. Local governments may also have special programs and services designed to help combat senior malnutrition.

Find professional help: For seniors who would benefit from direct care and interaction, home health companies recommend finding a home health care provider to help with preparation of meals and ongoing monitoring of senior health.

Home health companies recommend taking steps to identify and treat malnutrition early in order to promote independence, health and longevity in seniors.