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Promoting Nutrition for a Senior Loved One during a Hospital Stay

By Cherie Coe, 7:19 pm on

Malnutrition in the hospital setting is a risk for elderly patients, and the consequences can be costly. From suppressing the immune system and delaying healing to increasing both the length of stay and cost of a hospital course, poor dietary intake should be monitored. As your loved one stays in the hospital, Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of senior home care in Jefferson County, encourages families to stay abreast of aging loved one’s eating habits.

Malnutrition comes in two forms – either under or overeating. In the hospital this condition typically presents itself as the former. When sick, patients often eat less despite the fact that their bodies need more nutrients to heal. A proper diet includes carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals. While the recommended amount of each type of nutrient varies depending on an individual’s medical condition, it’s important that all of these are consumed.

One way to help promote nutrition is by keeping a food journal for your loved one. Marking what kinds of and how much food a patient eats provides an easy-to-reference document detailing how he or she is doing. A second helpful tip involves monitoring weight. Weight can fluctuate for a variety of reasons such as fluid retention. However, nutritional needs that aren’t adequately met can be one of the major reasons for weight loss or gain. If you are unable to monitor these things on a regular basis, see if friends, family or Jefferson County hourly caregivers can check-in on your loved one on a regular basis.

If your aging parent or loved one does not seem to be eating well, several activities can also help. Sometimes dining with them encourages food consumption. Eating for many people is a social activity, and taking time to sit with them may encourage their appetite. Another issue might be your loved one’s tastes. If he or she is receiving a standard hospital tray, the cafeteria may not be serving something he or she enjoys. Often multiple other options are available, and by speaking to either the nurse or a dietitian, this can be remedied. Finally, if your loved one still isn’t eating enough food, it may be a good idea to provide him or her with high-calorie snacks. If he or she is eating only a few bites a meal, making the meals of nutrient rich food can off-set the effects of inadequate consumption.

As always, it’s important to advocate for your loved one by communicating concerns to the staff and physicians in the hospital. Sometimes further interventions may be needed, and they can certainly address these if warranted. If you are concerned about your loved one’s eating habits during their hospital stay, but are unable to be with them for every meal, consider help from Home Care Assistance of Jefferson County. Our highly trained and compassionate caregivers are available for part-time care, and also provide Jefferson County 24 hour care, allowing you to enjoy peace of mind knowing someone is always by your loved one’s side to monitor meals, ensure safety and provide companionship.

To learn more about care for a senior at the hospital, reach out to Home Care Assistance of Jefferson County at 303-987-5992. A friendly Care Manager would be more than happy to answer any of your questions and can also help you schedule a complimentary, no-obligation consultation.