Personal Support Workers (PSWs) working in home-based care perform a broad range of services to help their elderly clients continue to live comfortable, healthy and fulfilling lives in their own homes. In addition to assisting them with their medications, mobility issues, household management and hygiene, PSWs often take an important role in planning and preparing meals for their clients, ensuring that their diets are varied, balanced and nutritious.
Elderly individuals sometimes have very particular requirements and restrictions when it comes to what they eat, however, and it’s important for PSWs working in home care to be aware of the issues that might affect an elderly client’s dietary needs.
If you’re interested in training to become a personal support worker, or if you’re currently enrolled in a PSW program, here’s a quick guide to healthy meal-planning for elderly clients.
Understand the Many Factors that Can Affect Seniors’ Dietary Needs
There are a number of potential complications and challenges that have to be taken into account when planning and preparing meals for elderly clients. Decreased sensitivity, for example, is a common issue among older individuals, as our senses of smell and taste weaken over time, which can in turn cause a decrease in appetite. Dental health can be another complication, as missing teeth, jaw pain or mouth sores could affect a client’s ability to comfortably consume certain types of food. The medications that elderly patients take can also have an impact on their diet, as some medications might alter the taste of certain foods, cause nausea or reduce appetite. In any case, it’s important to consult with clients before preparing a meal-plan, so that you can take into account any factors like these that might have an impact on their dietary needs or tastes.
Make Sure Elderly Clients Stay Well Hydrated
Our bodies use thirst as a signal that we need to consume more water. With elderly individuals, however, the mechanisms responsible for this signal often begin to weaken. This means that older clients are at a heightened risk of dehydration. In order to keep elderly clients hydrated, encourage them to drink small amounts of water regularly throughout the day.
Add Extra Ingredients to Meals to Pack them with Nutrients
One way of ensuring that elderly clients are meeting their nutritional requirements after completing your personal support worker course is to pack extra nutrients into meals wherever possible. This might include, for example, blending cauliflower and mixing it with macaroni and cheese, adding flax oil to nutritional shakes or mixing nuts and seeds into yogurts, pancakes or salads. By adding healthy ingredients this way, PSWs can find creative ways to make meals that appeal to a client’s tastes, while also targeting their specific nutritional needs.
Plan Meals in Advance When You Become a Personal Support Worker
When you become a personal support worker and are responsible for an elderly client’s diet, it’s important to plan ahead to ensure that their meals are varied and that they’re receiving all of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients they need to stay healthy. Over the course of their daily and weekly meals, PSWs should ensure that elderly clients are receiving plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, iron, fiber and vitamins C and D through a variety of sources. One good way to achieve this is to regularly rotate through main dishes and different protein options like fish, chicken, lentils and beans.
Are you interested in pursuing a career as a personal support worker?
Contact KLC College for more information about our Personal Support Worker college program.