ST. LOUIS – Madeline Thompson was a home economist who prepared three square wholesome meals a day on her behalf family in Springfield, Ill. But as she and her hubby aged they started shedding their appetites. Denture problems managed to get hard for John Thompson to chew his food. Depression, dementia, and other health problems followed.
The couple, now 89 and 90, didn’t complain but their child noticed. “They began with a great breakfast, as your day wore on but, they’d eat very little, half of a sandwich, half a banana, a glass of milk. These were not eating healthy,” said Jan Winter, who eventually transferred her parents to a nursing home near her in St. Louis. More women opting for preventive mastectomy – but should they be?
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They are better nourished now with round-the-clock treatment, and are more thinking about eating when Winter brings these to her house for Sunday dinners or requires them out to an snow cream parlor. But proper hydration and nutrition continue to be a challenge. The Thompsons are typical of elderly people who curtail eating for reasons as varied as poor-fitting dentures to pain to loneliness.
Depression is the primary reason behind poor nutrition, experts say, and should be treated. Lack of hunger is often an early warning sign of something gone incorrect. Despite conventional wisdom, weight loss is not a normal part of aging. “They’re not supposed to wither before they expire,” said Dr. Margaret-Mary Wilson, who show and study geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University, and has a practice.
Older adults are more vulnerable to malnutrition because the stomach empties more gradually in later years, and the view, smell, and flavor which used to make eating so exciting are diminished. “The battle to keep up nutritional status is uphill,” Wilson said. Registered dietitian Ann Gallagher, a Fort Wayne, Ind., eating consultant to nursing homes, estimated that half of new admissions to long-term-care facilities are malnourished and it’s difficult to recuperate from that. “They’re living aware of no food in the refrigerator,” she said. Once weekly “They’re managing with a nephew who looks into them. People who have dementia may forget how to shop and prepare meals simply, or how to consume, chew, or pick up utensils.
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“We presume people have found food and have the ability to unwrap foods from Meals on Wheels,” said Dr. Eric Tangalos of the aging program at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “But it’s beyond their capacity. He says the principle concern gets them to eat calories from fat enough. But while calories are essential, those packed with nutrition is essential for health, stamina, the immune system, and repair of thin, less-resilient skin that reduces easily, said Sue Moores, a nutrition consultant in St. Paul, Minn. She recommends fortified, ready-to-eat cereals, and powdered instant breakfast-time drinks mixed with milk.
Liquid supplements are nutritionally comparable, she said, but often have an unpleasant therapeutic taste. Because many old adults are lacking in calcium minerals and Vitamin D, she recommends adding a tablespoon or two of nonfat dried out milk natural powder to yogurt, cottage mozzarella cheese, creamed soup, hot cereals, and one glass of milk even.