Why breakfast is important for older people | Care UK

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Why breakfast is important for older people

January 22nd 2016

A chef who specialises in nutrition for people living in care homes is using National Breakfast Week to remind older people of the importance to the first meal in the day for promoting wellbeing and health.

National Breakfast Week (24-30 January) has been set up nationally to promote the many advantages of eating breakfast. Andrew Mussett, Care UK’s expert on nutrition and catering, explained: “During the night your glucose levels have plummeted. The brain needs glucose to function and low levels affect our cognitive abilities. In other words, you’re not at your sharpest which can lead to falls and mistakes.

The other issue for many older people is that their appetites diminish and keeping up sufficient calorie intake to keep them healthy and well-nourished is difficult. Many people with dementia have little interest in food and can find themselves losing weight. In this situation, Andrew has some suggestions.

He said: “Breakfast can be staggered and take some time. Use it as a chance to reconnect with your loved one as well as an opportunity to give them vital glucose, fibre and vitamins.”

Here are Andrew’s top hints and tips for breakfast from Care UK homes for people who are worried about a family member who might be losing weight or who shows little interest in food:

  1. Use fortified milk in cereal, porridge and drinks to help boost calories without causing bloating. It includes milk, dried milk and cream and is very easy to incorporate into people’s daily intake.
  2. Keep a supply of smoothies in the fridge. They’re bright in colour, nutrient-packed, easy to drink and contain fibre to keep things moving.
  3. While butter may be the enemy of the dieter or those needing to watch their cholesterol intake, it is the friend of the slim older person. Packed with nutrients and calories it makes sandwiches easy to swallow and – let’s face it – really yummy to eat.
  4. Hand food is great for those with co-ordination problems, shakes or for those with dementia who are always on the go. Muesli bars with chocolate are widely available, as are flapjacks and protein bars.
  5. Don’t be afraid to try new types of food or ingredients. As our taste buds diminish our love of stronger tastes increases. Croissants may not have been part of their daily routine but they’re light, fluffy and can be enhanced with more butter and jam for a calorie-packed boost. At other times of the day, we find curry nights are hugely popular in our homes. Just work with your loved one to see what they like these days – you might be surprised.
  6. Keep talking. Mealtimes are a great time to be sociable and reminisce. You can help by putting brands on the table that they will recognise from the past such as Kellogg’s and Quaker. Get out the newspapers and chat about the day’s events and talk to them about the day ahead.
  7. Get a loved one to help setting up the table or clearing away. People feel more engaged and valued when they feel they contribute in some way to a meal.
  8. Don’t see breakfast as a one-shot opportunity to get your friend or relative to eat. We may grab toast and race off to work but they may well have all morning to graze towards lunch!

Read more about Care UK’s philosophy of activity based care, which is used to support people living in its care homes or attending day clubs to continue living meaningful and fulfilled lives.

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