Nutrition, Hydration & Exercise
In Caregiving School we are taught that Nutrition, along with Hydration & exercise comprise what is called the “Big 3” or “Key 3” Often times it is malnutrition that prompts a family member to start looking for a care-home to place their loved one in. This is generally because most elderly people do not cook nutritional meals for themselves. Frequently when a person enters a care home or starts to get care at home in an under nourished state , generally their health will improve simply because of more nutritious meals that are prepared in the home.
These are the keys relating to nutrition:
The First Key: Nutrition
- Use variety: Everyone gets tired of the same old food day after day or week after week. One explanation for malnutrition residents stems from the fact that many elderly residents opt for a few of their favorite foods, which limits their intake of vital nutrients.
- Moderation: Do not overload a residents plate with food. Not only is this generally wasteful but it is unnecessary & expensive to them.
- Temperature & Texture: Food w/ different texture & colors can make for an interesting menu. Depending on the time of year, it may be more or less appropriate to serve a hot or cold meal.
The Second Key: Hydration
One of the changes that occur as we get older is our inability to recognize that we are thirsty. This is commonly referred to as our thirst mechanism. With this in mind, without adequate fluids your residents are predisposed to the following:
- Dry Skin
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
- Bad Breath
To prevent such ailments ensure that residents are taking in at least 64 ounces of water each day. This is equal to about eight 8-ounce glasses of water.
Important things to remember…
Keep in mind that some conditions such as congestive heart failure (CHF) require that you restrict intake of water for a resident with this condition. The specific amount of water for a resident should be annotated in the resident’s care plan as outlined by the resident’s doctor.
This is because a resident’s thirst mechanism decreases with age, always ensure that residents are offered appetizing drinks. Also, keep in mind that you may have to persuade or even coax a resident to drink. If this is necessary ensure that ‘how’ you persuade is always done is an ethical and respectful manner.
The Second Key: Exercise
The final of the ‘Key 3’ requires that you do your diligent best to assist residents with some degree of exercise depending on the resident’s ability and level of care. Every resident should try to get regular exercise to help maintain there level of health and prevent such things as congestive heart failure, constipation, diabetes and other health problems. Some of the things that you can do to assist a resident with exercise include the following:
- Planned Exercise: Some assisted living facilities have scheduled exercise time for residents or hire a professional from outside of the home. If you opt to conduct your own scheduled exercise routine consider playing familiar music that will help the residents to get motivated. Don’t forget that you may have to persuade some residents to exercise.
- Exercise to Prevent Contracture’s: When a muscle is not used it contracts. A stroke victim whose arm is drawn up against his or her chest makes it difficult for the resident to keep this area clean. If a resident enters a home with such a condition it is too late to try to prevent it. The key is to try and promote exercise for those residents who do not have this condition by regular exercise.
- Exercise helps keep Residents Ambulatory: If a resident enters a home unable to ambulate, often times with a little patience and some hard work you can get your resident walking again by promoting a regular exercise routine.
P.S. Being in the role of caregiver for one’s own family member is one of the hardest Jobs, because a family member feels obligated to their loved one and it is a 24/7 J.O.B. Whereas a hired caregiver can go home after to relax and decompress. Considering this it should be noted that it is very important for any caregiver (hired, or taken on by a family member) to take time for theirselves, and to follow these Big 3 rules as part of their own self-care. Otherwise they put themselves at risk of running themselves down, which not only harms them, but also reduces the level of care that they are trying to provide. Every caregiver needs time off, and time for themselves. This is why professional licensed caregivers exist, so your loved receives the best care, while family members do not experience caregiver burnout!