As a family caregiver you know how important it is for you to encourage your elderly loved one to eat a balanced diet in order for them to live a healthy lifestyle as they age in place. One thing that you may be wondering, however, is how you can determine if your elder parent is getting enough to eat for their needs.
More than half of the population of elderly adults throughout the United States is considered at risk for malnutrition and one study showed that more than 3 percent of elderly people discharged from hospital settings are malnourished. Likewise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that at least 30 percent of the elderly population of the country is obese.
While more goes into malnourishment and obesity than just how much an elder adult eats, this is a major component of both, making it important for you as their family caregiver to understand how much your parent should be eating. This can help them achieve that goal each day, whether you are hoping to encourage weight gain, weight loss, or just healthy maintenance.
One thing that is very important to keep in mind is that caloric needs change throughout a person’s lifespan. This means that your elder loved one may not need as many calories as they once did, or as many as you do.
The National Policy and Resource Center on Nutrition and Aging notes that males between the ages of 50 and 70 require approximately 2,200 calories per day to maintain their bodyweight and functioning. Women of the same age require slightly less, coming in at 1,980 calories. After that age, however, calorie needs drop due to decreased metabolism and decreased need for energy in normal daily life. After the age of 70, men need around 2,050 calories per day and women need approximately 1,870.
When considering calorie needs, it is vital to understand that every person’s needs are different and that these guidelines are just that, guidelines. Depending on a person’s height, weight, build, lifestyle, and health conditions and complications, your aging parent’s calorie needs may be more or less than these guidelines.
If you are concerned that your elder parent is not getting enough to eat or that their weight is too high, make an appointment to talk with their doctor about this topic. They can evaluate your loved one and give you recommendations for how many calories your parent should aim to eat each day.
In addition to making sure that your parent gets the right amount of calories each day, you should also focus on making sure that they get the right calories from the right types of foods. Bumping up their calories with junk food is rarely advisable, as is eating a low number of calories from supplements or “diet” foods. Work with their doctor to come up with an eating approach that will help your parent maintain not just a healthy weight, but an overall healthy body.