The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially hard for the elderly, with a large portion of people 65 and over being greatly at risk of contracting the disease. As such, whether you are staying in a hospice in California or at home, you need to have the right nutrition to fight it off. Here is what you need to know about eating right during this pandemic.
Understanding The Effects Of COVID-19 On Older Patients
Since COVID-19 is is a new disease, its full effects on older people are still not yet fully understood. However, certain patterns are slowly emerging. Some of the common symptoms that are seen in elderly patients include:
Shortness of breath
While these symptoms are similar to those experienced by younger patients, the elderly’s weaker immune system means that these hit them harder. As such, they are more likely to be hospitalized for longer.
The Long-Term Effects
Beyond the symptoms, new studies are showing that patients will have to deal with the disease’s long-term effects. These include the following:
Memory and concentration issues
These diverse effects can result in other health issues, as well as aggravating pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes or heart ailments. To combat these long-term effects, the elderly need to maintain a well-balanced diet.
Fighting COVID With Proper Nutrition
The exact nutritional needs of an elderly person will depend on various factors like their age and existing medical conditions. However, for protection from COVID-19, there are certain nutrient groups they need to pay attention to.
Proteins are integral for boosting the body’s healing capabilities, allowing the patient to recover faster. They also play a role in building immunity and ensuring that your body can fight the infection.
The required amount of protein intake for people of all ages is around 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. However, recent studies have shown that older people can gain additional benefits from a higher protein intake. This is especially the case for those with chronic illnesses.
Some great sources of protein for older people include:
Note that the type of protein source you take in should be in line with your overall health conditions. For instance, if you have hypertension, you might want to stay away from certain meats and opt for substitutes.
Of the various vitamins that your body needs, vitamins C and D are of particular note for building protection against COVID. Vitamin C is well known as an antioxidant and will boost your immune system. Additionally, it can work as an antihistamine compound that will inhibit flu-like symptoms such as sneezing and swollen sinuses.
Meanwhile, vitamin D can reduce the risk of acute respiratory disorders, to which COVID belongs. It also improves your immune system’s response. Vitamin D can be readily taken from exposure to the sun. But for elder patients who do not regularly go outside, especially during these times, you would want to add vitamin D-rich foods like fish and mushrooms to their diets.
Other vitamins that older people need to get more of include:
All of these serve different functions for strengthening the immune system and helping your body recover from infections.
Aside from the above, elderly patients like you need the following nutrients
Zinc: Promotes the development of the cells of both the innate and adaptive immune systems.
Selenium: Another powerful antioxidant that has been shown to reduce the severity of COVID infections.
Omega-3 fatty acids: These can lower the risk of illnesses, including COVID.
These additional nutrients can be found in a variety of food items. As such, you would want to include plenty of them in your diet.
Helping The Elderly Maintain A Healthy Diet
Just having the right kind of nutrients is not enough to protect elderly patients. They also need to follow the right eating regimen to ensure the effectiveness of these nutrients. Patients staying in a hospice in California or anywhere can count on medical staff to oversee their eating habits and ensure that they follow their meal plans. However, seniors staying at home may find this harder to do.
One of the nutritional challenges older people face during the COVID pandemic is the tendency to overeat. This can be attributed to the sense of boredom that they might encounter due to the various lockdowns. On the other hand, stress because of an uncertain situation can also trigger excessive eating.
The situation is aggravated by the economic downturn brought about by the pandemic. Here, seniors might end up opting for cheaper but unhealthy food options to meet the budget. Because of this, they are losing the opportunity to eat healthily.
Facilitating Healthy Eating
One way that you can encourage your elderly loved ones to eat healthily is by having a steady stock of fruits and vegetables. The trick here is to buy only the ones that are in season. These would be a lot more affordable, letting you stock more. But do note your elderly companion’s food intake so that you can buy only the right amount.
Another useful tip is to create a healthy meal plan like this one.
Once you have this plan, use it to write your shopping list. This will help you avoid grabbing any unhealthy food items while doing the groceries. In case some of these food items are beyond your budget, look for more affordable alternatives.
Controlling Stress Eating
You also need to pay close attention to the food that your elderly loved one turns to whenever they are stressed. If you find them going for unhealthy food, act quick and replace these with better options. Note that you might want to consult their doctor to see how to do this correctly.
You can also try redirecting their attention. Find an activity that they would want to do and offer to do it with them. This not only lessens the chance that they will resort to stress eating but also keeps them from getting bored.