According to Age and Aging, approximately 1 billion people worldwide are experiencing vitamin D deficiency and the elderly are particularly at risk. This deficiency can have a tremendous impact upon seniors. As a caregiver, it is important to know what to look out for and how you can help your loved one obtain the amount they need of this important nutrient.
What Vitamin D Does For the Human Body
Vitamin D is involved in a number of physiological functions. This includes the maintenance of skeletal health as well as the nervous and endocrine systems. Deficiency in this vitamin appears to affect the cardiovascular system as well. Diseases associated with low levels of this vitamin include osteoporosis and associated fractures, decreasing muscle strength, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, stroke, depression and cognitive decline.
Issues with Vitamin D Absorption and the Elderly
Seniors have specific issues when it comes to obtaining the recommended dose of vitamin D. Much of this vitamin is derived from the sun. The National Institute of Health recommends 5 to 30 minutes of sun exposure without sun-block at least twice a week. The elderly, however, are prone to protect their skin from direct sunlight due to progressive damage and the increasing possibility of skin cancers. In addition, changes in aging skin make it more difficult to synthesize this important nutrient.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
It is difficult to detect the subtle symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. Many of the possible signs mimic other diseases or the aging process in general. A few of these include: fatigue, high blood pressure, headaches, muscle pain and weakness, restless sleep, weight gain and joint pain.
Sources of Vitamin D
To make up for the diminishing ability to synthesize vitamin D from the sun, consider adding food sources into your parent’s diet. These include salmon, tuna, beef liver, cod liver oil, cheese, egg yolks and fortified food such as milk and cereal. It is difficult to obtain all the necessary vitamin D from diet alone. Recommended supplementation for individuals up to 70 years of age is 600 IU per day. This recommended dose rises to 800 IU per day for those people who are age 71 or older.
Home Care Provider
If your parent is suffering from any of the effects of low vitamin D intake or is unable to perform the necessary everyday tasks of living, consider obtaining the services of a home care provider. These professionals can do the grocery shopping and prepare healthy foods with the elderly in mind. They can accompany your parent on daily walks and provide that all-important aspect of a healthy and happy lifestyle—companionship.