Whether seniors are in the earliest or latest stages of Parkinson’s, their nutritional needs and eating activities will be affected by the disease. As the disease progresses, seniors may have difficulty with the basic activities of eating, such as using utensils, chewing, and swallowing. Some of the condition’s symptoms can be reduced by following a nutrient-rich diet, which makes having a dietary plan crucial. Here are five tips for caregivers who want to make mealtimes easier for a senior loved one living with Parkinson’s.
1. Know the Symptoms
For seniors in the advanced stages of Parkinson’s, swallowing may be difficult. Seniors may not be able to verbalize their challenges, but caregivers can usually tell when their loved ones are having difficulty chewing and swallowing their food. The senior might cough or choke while eating or look pained while trying to control the muscles responsible for swallowing. Seniors with Parkinson’s may exhibit diminished appetites as well. When doctors assess swallowing abilities, they look at two variables: whether the senior is able to swallow enough, and whether the food is going down the right tube.
Caring for a loved one with advanced Parkinson’s can be extremely challenging, and a compassionate, professional caregiver can be a wonderful source of support. If your elderly loved one is living with a serious medical condition and needs help managing the tasks of daily living, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a Lincoln at-home care agency you can trust. Our caregivers are available 24/7, there are no hidden fees in our contracts, and we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all of our in-home care services.
2. Watch for Aspiration
When people swallow, the food or beverage is supposed to travel toward the stomach. However, sometimes it drips down into the voice box or lungs, a process known as aspiration. If your loved one experiences this problem, pay close attention to his or her mealtime posture. Food is more likely to go down smoothly when he or she is sitting up straight, with the chin tucked into the chest. You can also choose foods and beverages that decrease the chances of aspiration. Pureed foods and thickened liquids such as smoothies and milkshakes are ideal for seniors prone to aspiration.
Aspiration and other eating issues in the advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease can make caring for loved ones increasingly challenging. If you’re the primary family caregiver for a senior loved one living in Lincoln, live-in care is available if your loved one’s health has become too difficult to manage without professional expertise. At Home Care Assistance, we take measures to help seniors prevent illness and injury by assisting with exercise and mobility, preparing nutritious meals, helping with bathing and other personal hygiene tasks, and much more.
3. Add Additional Calories to the Diet
When Parkinson’s starts to affect the ability to eat, the caloric intake usually goes down. While this is a natural consequence of Parkinson’s symptoms, it means your loved one probably isn’t getting the nutrients he or she needs to maintain optimal health. To boost calorie content, give your loved one health drink supplements such as Ensure and Boost, which provide healthy doses of protein and calcium. You can also use protein powder to infuse standard smoothies with more nutritional content.
4. Try Hand-Feeding
When seniors aren’t able to feed themselves, careful hand-feeding is a common solution. In this process, caregivers feed their loved one small bites of food, one bite at a time. To make this easier, make sure your loved one is sitting upright and that there are no distractions at mealtimes.
5. Serve the Right Foods
Due to the symptoms of Parkinson’s, following a healthy diet isn’t always easy. Nonetheless, caregivers should still try to provide their loved ones with the nutrients they need. Seniors with Parkinson’s need fiber-rich foods to maintain healthy energy levels and mitigate medication-related constipation. They also need plenty of calcium and vitamin D, as seniors with Parkinson’s are more prone to osteoporosis. For nutrient-dense meals, turn to superfoods such as berries, whole grains, leafy greens, and fish, which are chock-full of vitamins and minerals.
Many seniors in the early stages of Parkinson’s are able to live on their own, but grocery shopping and preparing nutritious meals can be challenging. Aging adults who require assistance with the tasks of daily living can benefit from reliable elder care. Lincoln, CA, families trust Home Care Assistance to provide the high-quality care their elderly loved ones need and deserve. Our caregivers are trained to help seniors prevent and manage serious illnesses and encourage them to make healthier decisions as they age. Contact one of our experienced Care Managers today at 916.226.3737 to learn more about our reliable in-home care services.