Last Updated: September 12, 2019
This time of year, it’s more important than ever that our parents and senior loved ones stay hydrated. A Place for Mom’s senior nutrition expert, Heather Schwartz, RD, tells us how.
Learn more from these nutrition tips for hydration and protein intake in seniors.
We rely on our doctors for advice on the most important health decisions we make, yet when it comes to nutrition advice, sometimes there is a gap or misunderstanding in how we think we should put their recommendations into effect.
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“Increase your hydration,” and “consume more protein,” are some of the recommendations seniors often hear at the doctor’s office… But rarely are they given the information to understand how and why to do this.
Here are some common nutrition recommendations heard in the doctor’s office, as well as how to make it happen when you walk out of the office:
How much fluid is this, exactly?
Why is your doctor recommending this?
If you take in less fluid than your body needs, you are at risk of dehydration. Dehydration is common in seniors due to decreased feelings of thirst, as well as diseases and medications that increase fluid needs.
Dehydration can cause confusion, cold or hot sensations, dry mouth, fatigue, headache, and more symptoms.
How do you physically plan to reach this goal?
How much protein is this, exactly?
Why is your doctor recommending this?
Without enough protein, your body struggles to maintain its immune system and muscles. This increases your risk of falls, infections and pressure sores, and can make movement challenging.
Protein deficiency in seniors is a rising concern and can cause problems with bruising, dental issues, fatigue, wound healing, and more. Protein foods usually require the ability to chew and cook, and also, eating enough protein may help those trying to lose weight more successful.
Schwartz, RD, shares the following four nutrition tips for meal planning for seniors:
Cook your hot breakfast cereal with low-fat milk or soy milk instead of water (+8 grams).
Add ½ cup beans to your salad or soup (+6 grams).
Finish the protein on your plate before starting on the fruits, starches, vegetables, and finally, dessert.
Add 1/4 c of nonfat dry milk powder to your pudding or smoothie (+8 grams).
*Keep in mind that too much of anything is not always a good thing — this goes for protein too! Seek advice from your doctor about your protein needs if you have kidney issues.
Heather Schwartz is a Registered Dietitian working at Stanford Hospital and Clinics. Having worked with acutely ill, hospitalized patients and their families for many years, she transitioned into a counseling-intensive role where she works closely with seniors and their caregivers. Through group seminars, e-media, and individual nutrition counseling, Schwartz can effectively communicate nutrition messages to those striving for improvements in their health and the health of those for whom they provide care. Having worked at two of the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals in the past decade, Schwartz practices evidence-based, cutting-edge nutrition therapies to coach her clients and their caregivers to success.
Schwartz completed her undergraduate degree in Nutrition Science at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, California, her Master’s degree in Nutrition Science at San Jose State University and fulfilled her dietetic internship at the University of California, San Francisco. She has been a caregiver for her family and has used A Place for Mom’s resources in the past.
Do you have any other nutrition-related questions or summer tips for seniors you’d like to have answered? Share your questions for Heather Schwartz, RD, in the comments below.