When you open the medicine cabinet or kitchen cupboard of the typical senior, you’ll find a collection of daily vitamins and supplements. Over the past several years, the American vitamin and supplement industry has experienced steady growth. Much of that growth has been driven by products marketed to seniors. Manufacturers use labels like “silver” and “platinum,” while claiming that vitamins play and essential role in senior care and elderly health.
But according to medical professionals, many of these products offer marginal benefits — if any at all. Doctors say that most seniors shouldn’t be getting their micronutrients in pill form. Nonetheless, they caution that some seniors may require supplements for certain micronutrients. And while they say that most seniors shouldn’t take vitamin supplements, they emphasize that vitamin intake plays a crucial role in elderly health.
Confused? You aren’t alone. Thankfully, it doesn’t take long to learn where vitamins fit in the wider picture of senior care and elderly health. Here’s the basic information that seniors and family caregivers should know about vitamins, supplements, and their role in senior care.
Vitamins & Senior Care
There’s a common misconception that as we grow older, our bodies need more vitamins to stay healthy. Generally speaking, this isn’t the case. Our bodies require most vitamins and minerals in the same doses throughout our lives. A 79-year-old’s recommended intake of vitamin C, vitamin E, and thiamin — to name a handful of examples — will be the same as the recommended intake for someone 30, 40, or 50 years younger.
There are, however, a small number of exceptions. These are nutrients that the body has harder time absorbing, processing, or producing on its own in old age. Seniors and senior care providers may need to pay special attention to the following seven vitamins, minerals, and nutrients:
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Omega-3 acids
But should seniors be taking supplements to hit their daily recommended dosage of these nutrients? According to medical professionals and senior care experts, the answer is no for most seniors. Unless an individual is suffering from a specific condition or a severe nutritional deficiency, a healthy diet is all seniors need to maintain healthy nutrition, including vitamins and minerals. Seniors and family caregivers can, in most cases, correct nutritional deficits through small adjustments in diet.
Here’s where things get a little bit murkier. In a perfect world, all of us would live healthy lifestyles, filled with physical activity and nutritious meals. In the real world, many of us struggle to make healthy choices. Healthy eating can be especially difficult for seniors. Age-related difficulties can make it harder to shop for fresh produce, and many seniors struggle to make nutritious meals on a regular basis. Without help from family caregivers or in-home senior care services, it may be more realistic for some seniors to get those vitamins in pill form.
So how should seniors and family caregivers approach vitamins and other supplements? Here are some basic best practices for you to follow:
- Before purchasing vitamins or supplements, speak with a doctor or a nutritional specialist about whether it’s a good idea to increase the intake of these nutrients.
- In cases where nutrient intake should be increased, check whether it’s better to increase intake through supplements, or whether changes in diet would be healthier.
- Seniors who struggle with purchasing and preparing nutritious meals should consider asking family members for help with grocery shopping, meal planning, and meal preparation.
- If family members cannot provide assistance with the above tasks, consider hiring an in-home senior care service to cover these activities on part-time or full-time basis.
Do you have a loved one who could benefit from senior care assistance with nutrition, grocery shopping, and meal preparation? You’ll find the assistance you need with your local Visiting Angels®. Call 800-365-4189 today or find your local Visiting Angels office to learn more.
Note: Visiting Angels does not provide medical care. All information contained in this article should be considered advisory only. If you are concerned about a loved one’s health or that they may have vitamin deficiencies, please contact their health care professional.
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