Taking care of the elderly
We hear many heart breaking stories of lack of money, and food, during the times of the COVID pandemic. This is all the more true for the underprivileged elderly folk. One has to understand that well-being of the elderly involves paying careful attention to their social, emotional and physical needs.
Giving Proper Care and Attention
Though it is a tough job most of the times, caregivers need to be patient when helping the elderly eat, bathe, dress, use the restroom and avoid any falls. The elderly are prone to falls as their sense of balance is not perfect, and quick turn of the head also might trigger vertigo or confusion. There are many cases of the elderly persons walking straight into a wall, mistaking it for the door, or falling down in the bathroom due to a wet floor. It is a good idea to install railings or grab rails along the walls, and avoid having sharp edged furniture in the home, to protect the precious elders.
Encouraging and Praising Independence
If a person is immobile, then a caregiver is necessary, but it is important to encourage independence. Some caretaker treat the elderly as a piece of furniture, to be cleaned and maintained; they think that such persons are not capable of decision making. This strips patients of their dignity or their self esteem. We should think that our role is to support what the infirm elderly can do, and allow them to lead a good life in their declining years.
One should encourage their autonomy and independence , unless there is a risk to life and limb. Encourage healthy behavior, without limiting the patient’s decision-making abilities. When we praise effort and progress in small infants, why not think that adults in such situations need the same?
Responding Compassionately to Needs
There are people who think that the elderly do not need three square meals a day, and should manage with less, as they are ‘old’. Even old, or infirm persons desire certain foods or favorite treats.
How to Feed the Elderly
While an elderly person will need lesser calories than an active adult, they still need a full meal with all nutrients. A patient’s dietary needs must be taken into consideration, such as a low-salt diet or foods to avoid due to diabetes. But, by no means should they be given the same monotonous food like plain curd rice or khichdi, day in and day out. If they are bedridden, and do not sit up to eat, then one has to be extra careful about the consistency, temperature and texture of the food, as they might have dentures and might be unable to chew some food. In such cases, there is a danger of choking.
What should they eat?
Eating right and staying active are important at any age. As we get older our bodies have different needs, so certain nutrients become especially important for good health.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Adults older than 70 need more calcium and vitamin D to help maintain bone health
Some adults older than 50 may not be able to absorb enough vitamin B12.
Eat fiber-rich foods to stay regular. Dietary fiber also may help lower risk for heart disease and reduce the risk for Type 2 diabetes. One needs to include whole-grain breads and cereals, and more beans peas and lentils— along with whole fruits and vegetables which also provide dietary fiber.
Consuming adequate potassium, along with limiting sodium (salt) intake, may lower the risk of high blood pressure. Fruits, vegetables, beans and low-fat or fat-free dairy products are all sources of potassium.
The growing crisis of elders calls for urgent intervention, but the government with its limited resources, can make only meager provisions. There is an urgent need for the private sector and NGOs to help feed destitute elders.
SERUDS is one of the leading NGOs which has been feeding them. We need your support to extend the reach of our mid day meals project for Destitute Elderly Women in Kurnool.