Be on alert
It’s crucial to get catch potential issues early, says senior caregiving and healthcare expert Sharon Roth Maguire, MS, RN, chief quality officer at BrightStar Care. Roth Maguire has helped us identify the seven major changes to watch for, and offered valuable solutions.
Unexplained weight loss
When an elderly parent begins dropping pounds, you need to act quickly. Do they have mouth or tooth pain? Challenges chewing or swallowing? Feelings of nausea or fullness? Are they simply not enjoying food—or reluctant to drive to the grocery store due to declining vision? Any issues with the physical act of eating mean the two of you should get to a doctor right away.
If they simply don’t enjoy eating as much, suggest small nutrient-dense snacks they can eat throughout the day—high-calorie options like peanut butter, cheese, Greek yogurt, or cottage cheese are good. Focus on foods your loved one likes and will eat: If oatmeal is a favorite, add butter, brown sugar, and raisins, dried cranberries, or nuts like almonds or walnuts for more calories and nutrition. Remind your parent that they’re at an age when they should not be limiting calories.
“Also consider protein drinks,” says Roth Maguire. “There are plenty on the market that offer good nutritional value in small amounts that taste great over ice or poured into coffee as a higher value creamer substitute.” Protein powders can also be added to favorite food or beverages or even to recipes like those for pancakes, dessert breads, potato dishes, and soups.
If driving or transportation is an issue, explore “Meals on Wheels” or senior centers that offer meal programs in the community. You might even find a grocer who will deliver groceries. Depending on how severe the issue is, you may want to hire a home care agency to prepare meals and assist your parent with eating; the companionship will be a nice bonus.
Here’s how to know if it’s time for your elderly parent to stop driving.