Caring to Notice part 2

January 4, 2024
Caring to Notice part 2

In the second installment of this two-part series, we will focus on the key abilities to assess a senior’s physical, environmental, and social surroundings.

Nutrition and Weight Loss

Weight loss in seniors can be a sign of decreased ability to complete activities of daily living, including making meals; it also can be a sign of an underlying health condition.

There may be signs your loved one is losing weight:  Do everyday clothes look baggy?  Does your loved one’s face look thinner and gaunt? Does the food in the refrigerator and freezer look fresh, or is it old and expired?  Is there evidence of dirty dishes in the sink?  Are there foods other than soups, cereals, and microwave meals?  Does a casual glance inside their kitchen trash show evidence of regular foods eaten?

A loss of appetite is common in seniors for a variety of reasons.  As we age. It’s harder to taste foods, and appetite often decreases because we’re not as active as we once were; medications and underlying conditions can worsen these changes.

For many seniors, it can be physically challenging, overwhelming, and burdensome to cook and serve meals.

If you are concerned about a senior’s weight loss, you might consider looking into a local Senior Nutrition Program such as Meals on Wheels. This is a nutritious option with the added benefit of some socialization. Typically, a meal is delivered daily or weekly by a volunteer who forms a friendship with the senior adult participating in the program.  The Aging and Disability Resource Center of Racine County offers nutrition programs to help seniors access nutritious foods they need.

May seniors find adding Carnation Instant Breakfast to milk, or powdered milk to foods provides extra calories and protein to stay healthy. Supplements, like Ensure or Boost, can provide additional vitamins and minerals to enhance daily life. It’s important to let the doctor know if your loved one is taking a nutrition supplement to be sure it’s the right one for them.

An Assisted Living community like Oak Park Place provides three restaurant-style meals per day for residents with snacks and water offered between meals. We provide healthy, chef-inspired meals with a menu curated by dietary specialists and accommodate some special dietary needs as well. Residents love being able to eat a variety of meals without having to worry about cooking or driving to the grocery store.

The other aspect of nutrition is hydration: getting enough fluids. There are some telltale signs of dehydration that are fairly easy to spot. If a senior is not getting enough water the urine might be darker in color or have a strong odor. Another symptom of dehydration is sunken eyes.

Many senior care professionals use a technique called “skin tenting” as another test for dehydration. Gently pull the skin together on the top of their hand, taking care not to pinch and cause pain. If it sticks together and tents, they may be dehydrated. Of course, all of these markers need to be confirmed by a medical professional. Drinking more water is key. Vitamin Water or Gatorade offer additional electrolytes (sodium and potassium) to help rehydrate the body.

On the flip side, a senior may appear to be gaining weight or look like they are retaining water. Check the appearance of their ankles. Are they swollen? Healthcare professionals assess this by gently pressing their finger into the swollen ankle. The issue may be that the person has forgotten to take their water pill (diuretic) or needs a medical examination to get a diuretic prescription.

Another medical reason for weight gain may be fluid retention with congestive heart failure (CHF). It is important for the senior to be weighed daily if they have CHF. Weight gain can be the fastest indicator of any CHF concerns.

Social Safety Check-in

Researchers have identified three important needs for our aging population: people, plants, and animals. One of these things you can do is offer at least one daily phone call, so they can feel a sense of human connection. Consider a calendar of friends calling on set days of the week. What a simple and enjoyable connection! Many seniors find a sense of purpose with a plant to water and tend to daily. Even during winter, many plants can flourish indoors.

The Complete Safety Picture

Assessing a senior’s safety and wellness includes many dimensions. If you have questions, please contact us. We’re here to help! Thank you for reading this two-part series on senior health!