Think Twice About Giving Elders Nutrition Drinks or Shakes

By Kathy Green

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The elderly often loose interest in eating or are unable to eat as they always did. Should they be given a nutrition supplement drink to replace the meals they should be eating?

Think Twice About Giving Elders Nutrition Drinks or Shakes

Specialists in treating the elderly, take weight loss among the elderly very seriously and caregivers should, too. However, some caregivers feel that feeding their elder a nutrition supplement drink, instead of a meal, ensures that their loved one is getting the nutrition they need. This just is not the case! Merely giving them a supplement for dinner isn't enough. It is always better to try to use regular food to maintain a person's weight.

There are several steps to take if nutrition and weight loss are a problem for the elder in your care:

  1. Work with a doctor to determine your elder's nutritional needs.
  2. Evaluate any physical and psychological obstacles the elder has to eating (swallowing, chewing etc…)
  3. Buy a blender and/or juicer. Any liquid supplements needed can be made with these appliances. These liquid meals are healthier, cheaper and more nutritious. For instance, your elder is missing their egg and toast breakfast as they are having trouble with their swallowing. Soft boil eggs, lightly toast bread, add butter salt and pepper and blend to the consistency required. It may not look appetizing but it tastes terrific. It contains complete protein, fibre, fat, carbohydrates and iodine. Sure it takes a little longer than opening a can, but you know that the elder in your care is receiving a tasty meal that is very nutritious.

Some Important Facts for Caregivers

  • Weight loss is a marker of frailty-- it is not a normal part of aging. It needs to be addressed seriously and efficiently. Remember that the frail elderly have different nutrition requirements than the general population. They should not be on low-fat, low-calorie diets. The opposite is true. A 94-year-old person who is losing weight would be best to eat a bowl of ice cream, for the caloric intake!
  • Elders often can't (or don't want to) eat three large meals a day. Rather, encourage them to have smaller, more frequent meals, including snacks, even before bed.
  • Nutrition drinks and supplements can interact with medications the same way prescription drugs do. Always check with the doctor if you intend to give nutrition drinks to your elder.

The bottom line is that nutrition drinks are a not a magic fix for lack of eating or under-nutrition. With a bit of effort, nutritional and tasty shakes can be made in the blender.

Do not be duped by the quick fix!!