When a senior is sick or recovering from an injury, it's important for them to eat a healthy diet. Getting enough calories from nutritious foods can help their recovery. It will help their bodies heal and give them the mental and physical energy they need.
"The most important thing is to ensure that their immune system is working at its best," says Madeleine Glick, MS, RD, a dietitian at Greenwich Woods, a long-term care facility in Greenwich, Conn.
6 Tips to Help Your Senior as She Heals
1. Don’t assume she’ll eat when hungry. Even when they're feeling well, many seniors don't have a great appetite. As we get older, we lose taste buds, making some foods taste blander. Sometimes dental problems can also limit what we can chew.
When sick or recovering, many seniors are even less likely to eat. Many illnesses cause our bodies to lose appetite, says Mary Fennell Lyles, MD. She teaches gerontology and geriatric medicine at the Wake Forest School of Medicine.
Some prescription medications can further squash the urge to eat.
2. Count her calories. How many calories should she be eating? Dietitians figure out how many calories an older adult needs by converting her weight in pounds to kilograms (divide weight in pounds by 2.2), then planning on 25 to 35 calories per kilogram.
For example, a 130-pound person recovering from a broken hip might need about 2,068 calories a day. (Divide 130 by 2.2 to get their weight in kilograms. Then multiply that by 35 calories to get the calories in a day.)
A person who is overweight or has diabetes needs closer to 25 calories per kilogram. For seniors who are ill or recovering, dietitians commonly recommend 35 calories per kilogram. Getting too few calories can slow healing and leave an ill senior without the energy to work on physical therapy or get moving.
Talk to your senior’s doctor or dietitian for guidance on how many calories your senior needs.
3. Work with her favorites. Glick finds out which foods the people she works with like best so she can tailor meals to their tastes. You’re more likely to get your senior to eat by serving their favorites, she says.