It seems as though every year we get older, it gets easier to gain weight — to a point. For most of our adult lives, a decrease in physical activity and decrease in muscle mass make it easier to pack on pounds. Due to these factors, calorie needs decrease even though some vitamin and mineral needs increase.

However, as we age past our older adult years, our appetite tends to drop due to a variety of factors. For that reason, we need to encourage the older people in our lives to eat more calorie-dense foods or eat small meals more often.

All this can be a bit confusing. When do calorie needs decrease and when does appetite drop? Why do all of these changes happen? What signs should I be looking out for?

To start, calorie needs are determined based on height, weight, gender, and age. From there, calorie needs may increase based on what you spend most of your day doing and the amount of physical activity you’re participating in.

There a few equations that calculate this information including the most popular — the Harris Benedict equation. If you’re interested in calculating the numbers for yourself, a quick search on Google for “Harris Benedict equation” can provide you with an easy-to-use calculator if you know your height and weight.

As you get older, your muscle mass begins to decrease even if you don’t notice it, a condition called sarcopenia. Muscle that breaks down is replaced with fat and fibrotic scar tissue, neither of which have the same strength capabilities as muscle. Since muscle burns more calories than scar tissue and fat, our calorie needs decrease as well.

Aging also brings changes in taste, a dry mouth (a condition known as xerostomia), dental problems, and neurological conditions that can decrease appetite and interest in eating. While this may seem like a good thing given the decrease in calorie needs, it can actually cause additional health complications such as significant weight loss and malnutrition if unnoticed or untreated.

Significant weight loss, defined as a weight loss of 5 percent in one month, 7.5 percent in three months, or 10 percent in six months, can cause the loss of fat that protects our internal organs such as the kidney. This can cause infection or problems with urination and may require a surgical intervention.

Malnutrition, which is a problem with the balance of nutrients, can cause a loss of muscle, increase in frailty or fracture risk, and increased risk of pressure ulcers if a person has limited mobility.

Recognizing the early symptoms of severely decreased appetite can be difficult. Pay attention to changed eating habits or if a person is skipping meal times more often. If you do notice something or a person is frequently declining to eat because they’re just not hungry, there are a few things you can do:

— Encourage small, frequent meals;

— Focus on calorie- and nutrient-dense foods such as nuts or nut butters, avocados, and whole fat yogurt;

— Speak with your doctor about adding nutritional shakes such as Ensure or Boost to your loved one’s diet.

While calorie needs may decrease throughout our life, not consuming enough calories can pose an even bigger risk. Paying attention to your loved one’s eating habits is as important as making sure they take their medications every day.

If you’re concerned, ask your loved one if there are specific reasons why he or she may not be eating as much and voice concerns about food intake at his or her next doctor’s visit.

Editor’s note: Sarah Roger is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher and incoming second-year medical student at Albany Medical College. She is interning with Community Caregivers this summer and will be writing articles on health and wellness, which are both topics she is passionate about.

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Have you noticed someone you love adding salt to their food more often? Or perhaps adding sugar to coffee they used to always take with only cream?

Dysgeusia, altered taste sensation, and hypogeusia, decreased taste sensation, are both common conditions in older adults. However, even though scientists and the National Institute of Health estimate that up to 15 percent of adults suffer from conditions related to decreased or altered taste or smell, many people are unaware that they are experiencing any symptoms.

The cause of dysgeusia and hypogeusia can be varied according to “The Impact of Aging and Medical Status on Dysgeusia,” an article published in The American Journal of Medicine in July 2016. Many medications may cause these conditions as a direct side effect or may cause decreased saliva production (a condition called xerostomia), which can cause them as well.

As our loved ones get older, the list of medications they take tends to get longer, which is one reason why older people are at a greater risk for having these conditions.

Alternatively, the normal anatomy of the nose and mouth can be the culprit. While the tongue has three nerves that run from parts of the tongue to the brain, acting like a safety net in case one is damaged, the nose has only one set of nerves that run directly to the brain.

Since the brain slows down and ages like the rest of the body, older people are more at risk for these conditions. People with dementia, Parkinson’s, or Alzheimer’s are at even higher risk.

Due to decreased or altered taste, many older people may add extra salt or sugar to their food to help it taste better or choose foods higher in salt and sugar. While this may not seem like a problem initially, excess sodium can raise blood pressure and added sugar can contribute to weight gain or high blood sugar. If your loved one is already suffering from conditions such as hypertension or diabetes, this could be an especially big problem.

Additionally, added sugar can cause cavities, which have been linked to diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease.

On the other side of excess intake is inadequate intake or anorexia. People suffering from dysgeusia and hypogeusia may stop eating, claiming the food tastes “off.” This is seen especially in intake of proteins like red meat, fish, and seafood, which many people with hypogeusia and dysgeusia find unappetizing. While too much sugar and salt are a problem, anorexia can lead to malnutrition, wasting and numerous other health problems.

Clearly, it is important to recognize the symptoms of dysgeusia and hypogeusia in order to treat them and make dietary adjustments early on. Some tips and alternate strategies for reducing the risks linked to these diseases are:

— Educate your loved one and learn how to make adjustments to food together;

— Address the underlying issue: Is the problem due to medication? Can the medications they are on be adjusted to reduce these side effects?

— Encourage your loved one to improve flavor in foods by adding fresh herbs and spices instead of salt;

— Suggest the use of alternative sweeteners such as Stevia and Splenda instead of sugar to keep calories and blood sugar down and reduce the risk of cavities; and

— Encourage consumption of cold foods as they’re less likely to trigger odors that may be off-putting.

Slow changes over time and encouraging healthier strategies can help keep us and our loved ones healthy for many more years. As always, if there is any concern about you or your loved one suffering from these conditions, call your doctor to discuss treatment options. Managing these conditions can improve quality of life and reduce risk of other chronic illnesses. For more information, consult the National Institute of Health online about taste disorders at: goo.gl/Ybjkee.

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Editor’s note: Sarah Roger is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher, and incoming second-year medical student at Albany Medical College. She is interning with Community Caregivers this summer and will be writing articles on health and wellness, which are both topics she is passionate about.

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— Photo by Marie Viscio
Paige Brown works on one of the “bricks,” assembling the 5 ½-inch-by-3 ½-inch fabric blocks to make a lap quilt.

Girl Scout Troop 1482 is comprised of six 15-year-old sophomores at Berne-Knox-Westerlo High School. The girls made six beautiful lap quilts they want to go to people in the Hilltowns who are care-receivers of Community Caregivers.

Scout leader Tami Hanley says the girls have been in Scouts since first grade. Tami has been their leader since the girls were in third grade.

So, Paige Brown, Caitlin Hall, Taryn Hanley, Jordan Latter, and Emily Purcell set out to make quilts. Sophia Barcomb, no longer in the group, helped make one of the quilts with Emily. Tami says, “Honestly, there was not a set purpose to the project other than doing something for others in our community.”

Marie Viscio, friend and expert quilter herself, mentioned making quilts to Tami as a project for the Scout Troop. Marie had an abundance of fabric “bricks” that her friend, Ruth Shannon, had given her years ago. Marie said she had boxes of the 5 ½-inch-by-3 ½-inch blocks that were used to make charity quilts over the years.

 

— Photo by Dan Hanley
Scouts in Troop 1481 hold the lap quilts they made for Hilltown care-receivers of Community Caregivers, from left: Tami Hanley, Scout leader; Jordan Latter; Taryn Hanley; Emily Purcell; Caitlin Hall; and Marie Viscio, the expert quilter who provided the materials and knowhow.

 

While the girls worked on the project all year, it took only three all-day meetings to complete the quilts. For their efforts, the girls will get a quilt-making badge. They also have written letters to the people who will receive the quilts.

The Scout leader said the girls love doing service projects that are for the benefit of others. Sue Griffiths, Community Caregivers Intake Coordinator, will take charge of the quilts and see that they get to the right people.

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Community Caregivers is pleased to announce its 14th annual golf tourney scheduled for Monday, June 11. It will be held at Pinehaven Country Club at 1151 Siver Rd. in Guilderland.

This new venue for the Community Caregivers’ tournament boasts a renovated clubhouse and a new food caterer, the Illium Café. Owners Marla and Brian Ortega will be offering a box lunch, cocktail hour, and buffet dinner.  

Community Caregivers extends many thanks to its major sponsors: Adirondack Environmental Services Inc., Berkshire Bank, The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Ayco Charitable Foundation, the American Association of Retired Persons, and Albany Medical Center. Hole-in-one sponsors are The Lia Auto Group, Market 32 by Price Chopper, and the Northway Golf Center.

In addition, there will be a raffle and silent auction with items donated by local businesses and individuals. Pinehaven Country Club has donated a house membership, which includes 36 holes of golf a month (excluding primary time on weekends), unlimited use of practice facilities, a full pool membership, and a $75-a-month food minimum through the end of the 2018 golf season.

Other items include a $250 gift card to Towne TV, a day at Saratoga Race Track with a clubhouse box, and a one-night weekend stay at the Renaissance Hotel in Albany.

Players will tee off at 10:30 a.m. in a scramble format with team handicaps. There will be longest-drive and closest-to-the-pin contests for both men and women.

The price per golfer is $150, with cocktails and dinner only at $60.

The deadline for registration is Wednesday, May 30.  For further information visit, www.community caregivers.org or call 518-456-2898.

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Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services including transportation and caregiver support at no charge to residents of Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New Scotland, Berne, Knox, and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors.

Our funding is derived in part from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Office for the Aging, and the United States Administration on Aging. To find out more about our services, as well as volunteer opportunities, please visit www.communitycaregivers.org or call us at 518-456-2898.

Editor’s note: Linda Miller is the Outreach and Education coordinator for Community Caregivers.

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— Photo from Linda Miller

A bountiful buffet luncheon was part of the Community Caregivers’ celebration of volunteers on April 18.

Community Caregivers celebrated its dedicated volunteers at its Annual Volunteer Recognition Program and Luncheon on April 18 at the Guilderland Public Library. The theme was “Celebrating the Deep Satisfaction of Giving.”

Teacher and author Stephen Cope offered his time and talent as he expertly facilitated the well-received program. Volunteers reflected upon and shared reflections on the satisfaction of volunteer service. The volunteers enjoyed a bountiful buffet luncheon, catered by Gershon’s Delicatessen.

Community Caregivers’ Volunteer Support Committee, chaired by board member Judy Rothstein, spent weeks planning and executing the well-attended celebration.

Judy and the entire board extends its thanks to the Volunteer Support Committee members, who are volunteers themselves: Marey Bailey, Ann Cantore, Ruth Dickinson, Nancy Murphy, Sandy Sorell, Betsy Whitlock, and Carolyn Wilson.

Community Caregivers also acknowledges and thanks NBT Bank for its sponsorship of the event. Community Caregivers’ board, staff, and volunteers also appreciate the support of the Guilderland Public Library staff who helped make the event a success!  

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Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services, including transportation and caregiver support, at no charge to residents of Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New Scotland, Berne, Knox, and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors.

Our funding is derived in part from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Office for the Aging, and the United States Administration on Aging. To find out more about our services, as well as volunteer opportunities, please visit www.communitycaregivers.org or call us at 518-456-2898.

Editor’s note: Linda Miller is the Outreach and Education coordinator for Community Caregivers.

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