For many people, food is a source of comfort and joy. The smell of a fresh-baked pie can instantly conjure memories of baking with a beloved grandparent. The taste of an expensive cheese might harken back to a honeymoon in France. With its deep connections to memory and community, it’s no surprise that food is such an important part of human culture. But as we get older, our ability to taste our food decreases. This can take an emotional toll as beloved recipes lose their savor. Loss of appetite or difficulty eating well can also lead to a number of health problems. But seniors looking to eat healthily with taste loss don’t have to sacrifice enjoyment for nutrition. With a few tips and tricks, cooking for seniors can still be a pleasurable experience, even with taste loss.
Physical Changes Impact Appetite
The average person is born with about 10,000 taste buds. Comparatively, an older person might have only 5,000 taste buds. Damage throughout a person’s lifetime contributes to taste loss. However, much of our fading ability to distinguish flavor is a result of getting older and largely inevitable. Of course, taste buds aren’t the only thing that helps us enjoy our food. Studies suggest that up to 80 percent of what we taste actually comes from our sense of smell. Unfortunately, a person’s sense of smell also begins to decrease after age 70. This can make it even harder to keep eating right.
Working up an appetite with reduced smell and taste can be a challenge. On top of that, seniors may also find it more physically difficult to eat. Saliva production decreases with age, and a dry mouth can make chewing and swallowing harder. A frequently dry mouth can even cause cavities, which, of course, lead to even more eating difficulties. After a lifetime of use, a person’s teeth will often be more susceptible to decay. In fact, a person’s chance of needing an invasive dental procedure triples after age 65. This makes consistent dental care even more important.
Be Wary of Food Poisoning
A reduction in smell and taste may be unpleasant, but it can also be dangerous. Seniors unable to fully taste their food may not detect food that has gone bad. This is one way that a home caregiver can offer assistance. Having another nose and tongue on duty provides an extra safeguard against potential food poisoning.
Seniors on the lookout for rancid food should always check the expiration date before cooking. For leftovers, writing the date the meal was originally cooked ensures that food doesn’t sit for weeks in the fridge. In general, three to four days is the upper limit recommended for keeping leftovers. Instituting a meal plan that ensures leftovers are eaten in time helps prevent food waste and food-related illnesses. Set refrigerators at 36 to 38 degrees to keep perishables well-preserved. Overfilling a refrigerator limits air circulation, which in turn will make your fridge less efficient. A home caregiver can buy the right amount of groceries to keep a fridge stocked but not overfilled.
Salt Is Not The Only Solution
It can be deeply disappointing to realize that beloved dishes no longer taste like they used to. Many seniors compensate for this by adding more salt to their meals. However, this, too, leads to health problems. Nine out of ten Americans already consume too much salt, which contributes to higher blood pressure and heart disease.
The good news is that dramatically cutting down on salt intake might not be necessary. But managing sodium is still an important part of staying healthy. The key is finding a good balance. A home caretaker can help monitor how much salt goes into your food, but reducing sodium is only the beginning. Before resorting to excess sodium to give foods more flavor, seniors should try out some other options before reaching for the salt shaker.
Spices Can Bring Food Back To Life
Rather than adding more salt to familiar dishes, seniors should look to new flavor palates to keep food tasting delicious. Herbs and spices are an excellent way to make meals flavorful even with limited taste. Try adding garlic and parsley to mashed potatoes, or cumin to a pan of roasted vegetables. A home caregiver can help keep your spice cabinet stocked.
Aside from experimenting with spices, the simple act of trying new flavors can make eating more exciting. Try sampling different cuisines, or dig up recipes you haven’t cooked in years. Focusing on the pleasure of a meal beyond the simple act of eating can make it more meaningful. Sit down to eat with a family member, friend, or caregiver to make even the blandest meal a happy memory.
Having an in-home caregiver can make a big difference for seniors with an eye on their eating habits. Home caregivers can shop for foods with extra flavor, keep track of expiration dates, and sit down with you to put together a healthy eating plan that will keep you excited about food. With a caregiver on your side, the days of slogging through tasteless meals are in the past.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.
Our caregivers are trained in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.