Helping Older People to Eat Well During Self-Isolation

March 18, 2020 4 min read

We are going through difficult times, and understandably, people are concerned about how best to support friends and family, especially older people, during the coronavirus pandemic. Official guidance is changing on a daily basis, so please ensure that you stay up-to-date with the latest government and NHS recommendations.

Identifying those at risk of malnutrition:

Staying adequately hydrated and eating well is important throughout the year, but even more so during this coronavirus pandemic.

Over 3 million people in the UK are malnourished, with 93% living in the community (1). Malnutrition, immunity, and infection are closely interlinked (2), so it’s important that we look out for individuals with or at risk of malnutrition.

Groups at risk of malnutrition include (3):

  • Older people
  • Those who are socially isolated, living in poverty and/or with limited mobility
  • People with chronic, long-term health conditions that affect appetite, weight or absorption of nutrients
  • People with problems swallowing (i.e. dysphagia)
  • People with higher energy (calorie) requirements (i.e. people recovering from surgery or burns)

You can read more about the signs and symptoms of malnutrition and frailty here.

Social distancing and self-isolation

At the time of writing, current government advice recommends that people aged 70 and over, those with certain chronic health conditions, and women who are pregnant should practice social distancing measures. Social distancing means taking measures to reduce social contact with other people. Please refer to government advice on social distancing for further information.

In addition, the government has issued advice on self-isolation for people with symptoms that may be caused by coronavirus and for those living in households with someone who shows symptoms that may be caused by coronavirus. Self-isolation means staying indoors and completely avoiding contact with other people. Please refer to government advice on self-isolation for further information.

Accessing food supplies at home

Whilst it’s important to avoid panic buying, as this may prevent other people from accessing food, it’s a good idea to ensure that you (and those around you) have a supply of store cupboard/freezer/fridge essentials, especially if you do need to self-isolate at home.

For those with or at risk of malnutrition, long-life foods that contain energy (calories) and/or protein are important. Some suitable suggestions include:

  • Baked beans, tinned fish
  • Dried pasta and jars of pre-made sauces
  • Long-life milk
  • Skimmed milk powder
  • Biscuits, cakes, and bars
  • Tinned soup (creamy versions have more energy)
  • Powdered desserts and custard
  • Oils such as olive and rapeseed oil
  • Milk, cheese, yoghurts

Remember that fresh, frozen, dried, juiced and tinned fruits and vegetables can all count towards your 5-a-day.

If you or your loved ones are experiencing reduced appetite, fortifying foods is a useful way to increase the nutritional density of the diet without increasing the volume of food consumed. Several foods that can be used to fortify the diet include honey/syrup/sugar, butter, cheese, milk powder or oils such as olive oil.

Food delivery services

Demand for online food shopping has increased, however, the delivery services continue to run as usual. If you or those around you do need to self-isolate for any reason, make sure you notify the supermarket of your situation in the ‘Other Information’ section when placing your order. In this section, you can specify where you’d like the order to be left – whether that’s on your doorstep or in a communal entrance.

Remember to book an online supermarket delivery slot in advance, as slots are booking up weeks ahead. Older people who are unfamiliar with online food shopping may benefit from the help of a friend, neighbour or relative when placing their order.

Doorstop drop-ins

Many local communities have set up up volunteer groups to ensure that older people don’t go without food. Have a look at local Facebook pages to see if there is a volunteer food delivery scheme in place in your area.

It’s never been a better time to reach out and connect with neighbours and local communities. If it’s safe for you to do so, why not batch-cook some meals to deliver to your elderly neighbours or offer to pick up some groceries when you’re next at the shops. Even a phone call or note through the door to check-in with those around you can go a long way in helping others.

Delivery rounds

Whilst popping to the shops for a morning newspaper or bottle of milk may not be possible during self-isolation, the good news is that many local newsagents are offering a home delivery service at a small additional fee (or sometimes free of charge).

In the longer-term, if you’d like to receive your paper delivered to your home, you can register for home delivery vouchers. You can then contact your local newsagents to see if they are able to deliver the paper direct to your home.

Meal delivery services

If your loved one needs pre-prepared meals delivered to their homes, consider using national providers such as Wiltshire Farm Foods, Oakhouse Foods, or retailers such as Cook! You could also investigate other options in your local area such as Meals on Wheels and local meal-delivery groups run by churches and charities.

Accessing nutrition supplements at home

We know that it’s a worrying time for all, however, we’d like to reassure our customers and supporters that AYMES International will continue to provide delicious and cost-effective oral nutritional supplements that support malnourished patients and those at risk of malnutrition.

AYMES Retail is a nutritionally-balanced, over-the-counter build-up shake, available to order online (delivered right to your door) or at pharmacies. It’s ideal for people who need an extra boost but don't require a prescription, providing up to 265kcal per serving when mixed with 200ml whole milk.

Presented in a powder format, based on skimmed milk powder with added carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals, it’s an ideal store cupboard essential for anyone with poor appetite. AYMES Retail is presented conveniently in individual flavour cartons (chocolate, strawberry, banana, vanilla) containing 4 x 38g sachets, with an RRP of just £3.19.