After moving to a senior living community, gaining weight can come as a surprise to many seniors and their families. Most assume that the care facility will help manage their overall health, including monitoring weight. However, what families often neglect to understand is that their aging loved one is still responsible for making their own choices.
March is National Nutrition Month. Nutrition plays a key role in weight management. We all know that too many fatty foods lead to unwanted weight gain. This is exceptionally true in older age when losing weight becomes the most challenging. Let’s look at weight gain in senior living communities and why it happens. Here are a few points to help families understand why their aging loved ones may be gaining weight and what they can do about it.
Food May Be the Last Sense of Control
For many seniors, moving to a senior living community meant they had to surrender some control. Each incremental level of care in which they are placed means even more loss of control. Food may be one of the few choices they still get to make each day. Unless they are on a strict diet from their doctor, senior living communities have little say in what their residents choose to eat. The community can provide resources, education, and healthy options, but it’s up to the seniors to make their own decision.
Activities Are Often Food-Driven
One of the most significant advantages to moving to a senior living community are the wonderful activities available for seniors. However, many activities often involve food. The staff knows that seniors are more likely to participate if enticed by a sweet treat. Nutrition also plays a significant role in social activities. Similar to how you would serve food at a family event, social activities sometimes include food to encourage conversation.
Advanced Levels of Care Often Mean Less Physical Activity
When your aging loved one progresses to another level of care, it often means they are not as active as they once were. They require additional help to complete daily tasks of living. What once needed more energy on their part now requires less energy as staff step in to assist. Also, seniors with dementia often forget they ate and will munch on snacks even if they aren’t hungry.
How to Help
If you’ve noticed weight gain in your aging loved one, gently ask about their meal choices. Most communities provide a weekly menu for their resident. Review the menu and help your aging loved ones select meals that support their health goals. Allow a few indulges so they are more likely to stick to their plan.
Talk with your aging loved one about their activity participation. Suggest they participate in fitness classes in addition to playing BINGO or attending the monthly birthday celebration. Strategize with them about prizes they can choose that don’t hinder their health goals. Recommend they skip dessert at meals when they know they’ll be getting cake at an activity. Remind them that even if the foods offered during activities are healthy, the additional calories between meals can cause unwanted weight gain.
If your aging loved one is living an assisted living, memory care, or skilled nursing, work with the staff to develop a weight loss plan. Higher levels of care mean there is additional staff involved in the care of each resident. Suggest your aging loved one meet with a dietician. Sign them up for appropriate fitness classes to help add more movement to their day. Most importantly, talk with your loved one’s doctor about any concerns you have regarding unwanted weight gain to rule out underlying conditions.
If you are looking for a senior living community near you, let Senior Living Solutions assist with the process. Our mission is to relieve the stress and ease the burden of finding the best senior living options for our clients. We would be glad to help you find the right fit for your needs. Please contact us today by calling 501-650-3013.