Resources for Family Caregivers of Older Adults
Senior Diabetics: Avoid Foodborne Illness

Senior Diabetics: Avoid Foodborne Illness

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If your senior has diabetes, it is important to know about food safety so you can help prevent him or her from contracting a foodborne illness.  Oftentimes, seniors with diabetes are more susceptible to infection since their immune systems may not be able to respond as quickly as they once did to fight bacteria.  Some diabetics also have more difficulty with their gastrointestinal tracts due to damaged cells which may mean that bacteria have sufficient time to grow.  And lastly, the kidney function of diabetics can be impaired so that the kidney is not able to remove harmful bacteria and toxins resulting in infection.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that each year nearly 76 million people get sick from contaminated food; 325,000 people get hospitalized and 5,000 die.

Tips for Avoiding Foodborne Illness

Here are some tips to avoid foodborne illness in your senior’s home:

  • Wash your hands and encourage your senior to wash his or her hands frequently whether preparing or eating food.
  • Certain foods are more likely to contain pathogens such as uncooked fruit and vegetables and animal products.  Take precautions when using these foods such as cleaning well before eating, use a food thermometer in meats to be sure thoroughly cooked, keep fish and dairy foods cold, use pasteurized eggs and milk when possible, reheat all leftovers to 165 degrees, and store leftovers within two hours.
  • When in doubt, throw it out!
  • Don’t trust your nose or your eyes—you can’t tell by looking or smelling if a food is contaminated with bacteria.
  • Wash food preparation surfaces often such as cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counters.
  • Wash your cloth towels, wash cloths and napkins in HOT water.
  • Wash lids of all cans before opening.  Do not use cans that are dented or bulging.
  • Don’t cut raw foods and cooked foods on same surface or serve cooked meat on plate used for raw meat.
  • Throw away marinades used for raw meat.
  • Put a thermometer in both the refrigerator and freezer to be sure the temperature is appropriate to kill any bacteria present.
  • Refrigerate any cold food within one hour of purchasing it; go directly home from the grocery store and store in a cooler on the trip home.
  • Never thaw foods on the counter, use the refrigerator or microwave then cook immediately.
  • Always read the sell by date and expiration dates on packages before you buy it or use it.
  • Think about which food is safe for you “on the menu” in the restaurant–avoid sushi, undercooked eggs, and cold lunch meats.  You may want to avoid buffets since foods can be held out of proper temperature for too long.  Ask the server about any food ingredients or preparation techniques.

Learn the symptoms of food borne illness so you can recognize it quickly in your senior and seek medical treatment immediately if symptoms are present.  Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever can interfere with your senior’s diabetes treatment plan causing abnormal blood sugar.

Being prepared, learning the risks, and maintaining food safety guidelines when preparing and storing foods will reduce your senior’s likelihood of contracting this preventable disease.

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