Family Caregiver Food Safety Tips from Detective Foodsafe™

September is National Food Safety Education Month. We have an expert who will share how to keep family caregivers and your loved ones safe from food poisoning (and everyone who wants to avoid becoming the victim of food borne illness).

Detective Foodsafe™ explores the mysteries of food contamination and food handling mishaps that can happen when you least expect it. Her mission is to keep everyone safe from the dangers of foodborne illness.

Detective Foodsafe will help family caregivers not only ensure that seniors are eating right, but also avoid becoming victims of food poisoning (foodborne illness).

We are all concerned about eating foods that are healthy and provide nourishment for our bodies. As we age, we definitely want to eat foods that will keep us well and manage our chronic medical conditions.

Seniors are already at increased risk from contracting foodborne illness due to suppressed immune systems, medications and chronic diseases. How their food is handled can add to the danger.

Why Are Seniors at Risk?

It is important to understand the full effect of foodborne illness on our senior population so family caregivers know how vital it is to prevent it.

For younger adults, they may suffer a gastrointestinal illness (albeit a terrible experience), but for older adults, hospitalization and even death could be the outcome when they contract food poisoning. Seniors are more susceptible to complications resulting from foodborne illness.

When seniors eat foods that may contain harmful bacteria, it takes their gastrointestinal system longer to expel it. Excretion of food through the stomach and intestines takes longer as we age. This allows more time for harmful pathogens to infect seniors.

In addition to the timing of the GI tract, a seniors’ liver and kidneys may not be functioning as efficiently as in the past resulting in a reduced ability to clear the body of toxins which cause food poisoning.

Older adults’ bodies are more susceptible to the effects of microorganisms and have a more difficult time fighting illness. Because immune systems are also aging, they may be weakened therefore less able to mount a strong defense.

Seniors with multiple chronic diseases including diabetes, kidney and heart disease have more trouble responding to food pathogens.

Multiple medications, especially those designed to reduce stomach acid (which can reduce the amount of harmful bacteria in the GI tract), can make matters worse for seniors.

When seniors do contract foodborne illness, not only do they get sicker, they also take longer to recover than a younger person.

Even though food that is contaminated with harmful bacteria does not taste, smell or look different, seniors often have a decreased sense of taste and smell which can impact their ability to distinguish when a food may be spoiled and potentially unfit to eat.

Foods Seniors Should Avoid

“There are several foods that can make seniors ill and it is best to avoid them” says Detective Foodsafe.

Foods that are more prone to microorganism contamination are:

  • Sprouts
  • Unwashed raw fruits and vegetables
  • Soft cheese, made from unpasteurized milk like brie, Camembert, feta, queso fresco
  • Raw or unpasteurized milk and juice
  • Raw or under cooked meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs
  • Luncheon meat and deli salads
  • Unpasteurized pates and meat spreads

What Caregivers Can Do

Family caregivers can take action to prevent food poisoning occurring in their senior loved ones.

Detective Foodsafe recommends you do these things:

  1. Look in the kitchen pantry and refrigerator to see if there is any spoiled or expired food that needs to be tossed out every time you visit. Sometimes the print is too small for seniors to read and they don’t realize it is expired or that it is important to throw out foods that have passed the Use By date.
  2. Encourage frequent handwashing; launder kitchen cloths and towels in hot water regularly
  3. Monitor their ability to prepare foods safely. Can they wash all fruits and vegetables before eating or keep the equipment/surfaces disinfected? A functional decline in some seniors may mean that they aren’t physically able to handle food and meal preparation safely anymore.
  4. Purchase ergonomic kitchen gadgets that can make it easier to work in the kitchen to handle food safely. Vegetable brushes or knives that can be held onto with stiff fingers, foods within reach so that they aren’t left to spoil, magnifying glass to read labels for expiration dates and other products that might make working in the kitchen easier and safer.
  5. Encourage them to abandon lifelong habits of keeping butter and cheese (and other perishable foods) out on the counter.
  6. Be sure the microwave is working correctly heating thoroughly so that they can reheat leftovers and fully cook food to a safe internal temperature to kill bacteria. Do they have a food thermometer they can read easily to check for doneness? A digital thermometer may be easier to read than a dial version.
  7. Foods they bring home from restaurants in a doggy bag should be refrigerated promptly (within 2 hours) and heated thoroughly before eating.
  8. When using home delivered meals, be sure all food is stored promptly at the proper temperature so that it won’t reach the temperature danger zone where bacteria grows rapidly. Always reheat any delivered meals to 165 degrees F to be sure bacteria is destroyed.
  9. Check the functioning of the refrigerator and freezer to be sure they are chilling food to the proper temperature. Repair or replace any units that are not keeping food safe. Keep a thermometer inside both the refrigerator and freezer to be sure it is working properly.

Family caregivers can be Detective Foodsafe germ fighters helping reduce the likelihood that their seniors will become victims of foodborne illness.

You can check out more Detective Foodsafe tips and resources here.

Seniorization of Your Home – Caregivers Make Home Safe for Aging

Our population is aging quickly!

According to The Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, the older population in 2030 is projected to grow from 35 million to 74 million and represent 21% of the total U.S. population.

Today’s seniors are healthier than ever in our history. Aging, however, presents our robust seniors with challenges to remaining independent in their homes as they age. Home safety is a major concern for family caregivers.

Many people want to stay in their homes as long as possible as they age, whether for financial reasons or because they simply love their current home and neighborhood.

Going to live in any type of congregate living situation such as a retirement home, assisted living facility or nursing home is not a dream for most seniors. Most of the time, transitioning to a care facility occurs because seniors and their family caregivers are unable to overcome the physical or medical challenges of aging.

Until that time comes, remaining at home is the goal for most who are currently aging in place.

Staying Safe Aging in Place

Aging in place especially when the home is older can present safety concerns for seniors and their family caregivers.

Unfortunately, the same homes that seniors have enjoyed and in which they have found comfort for years may not be suited to the needs of a senior adult. These homes are not always maintained in the safest condition for those whose need to reach for objects or have diminished movement and balance from aging. Functional decline may require home modifications, whether small or large, to improve home safety for seniors once again.

Family caregivers need to intervene for their seniors to be sure that every part of their living situation is as safe as can be for them. Overcoming and adapting to changes brought on by aging can be done to make their home as safe and livable as possible.

But what can family caregivers do?

On what areas of the house should you focus and where do you start?

Starting now even before you see gaps that need filling will make your senior loved one’s aging in place journey more successful.

Home Seniorization Checklist

Senior Care Corner has created a checklist to help you “seniorize” your loved one’s home.

It will help you consider small and large changes in the home environment that can be done by you and/or home repair and renovation experts before the need for modifications becomes a crisis.

You can download this valuable tool here.

Being proactive to improve aspects of home safety is important for family caregivers to keep seniors safe and living in the home of their dreams as long as possible.

Trying to Reach Family Caregivers? Senior Care Corner® is For Sale!

Yes, that’s right, Senior Care Corner® is for sale.

And, yes, this is a very difficult article to write.

We’ve spent ten years raising this child (it feels like part of our family), which makes Senior Care Corner a senior itself in Internet years.

We’ve realized it’s time to move on – – and for Senior Care Corner to do so as well.

It has been a very demanding labor of love, much like serving as a family caregiver to a loved one.

We want to see it grow beyond where we can take it.

The time has come to find out if someone else can take it to the next level, either because it compliments other business activities or as an independent revenue generator.

Senior Care Corner Background

Along our journey we’ve had conversations with many entrepreneurs who’ve developed products and services for seniors and family caregivers and learned most had a personal story motivating their efforts, typically a loved one with a need that was unmet or which could be better met.

The same is true with the founding of Senior Care Corner.

Information and resources for family caregivers were sparse when Kathy and I suddenly found ourselves providing care to senior loved ones a number of years ago.

We wanted so much to provide what our senior loved ones needed but found little to help us understand their needs, let alone how to meet them.

Our best is what we gave them, in hopes it was what they needed.

Our loved ones let us know our efforts and caring were appreciated, but still we wished there was somewhere to turn online for practical pointers. With an active family of our own and full time jobs, we needed a convenient and trustworthy information source but just couldn’t find one.

Once the need for our care passed (unfortunately so, as it was with the passing of our senior loved ones) we decided to provide an information source to which other family caregivers of older adults could turn, an effort we realized would also prepare us when other loved ones of our own would need care.

Thus our ten year journey that has been Senior Care Corner.

What Senior Care Corner Provides

Visitors to Senior Care Corner, of whom there have been hundreds of thousands over the years, find articles, podcasts (internet radio shows), and videos covering a broad range of topics and practical insights. These are some of popular topics.

  • Understanding what seniors are experiencing as they age, to help caregivers relate to and comprehend their needs (walk a mile in their shoes, at least through the written word)
  • Health issues of seniors, especially Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias as well as other diagnoses that primarily affect older adults
  • Technology, both that available today and expected in the future, that can improve the quality of seniors’ lives and make the work of family caregivers more effective (maybe a bit less difficult and time-consuming, too); part of this focus has been our annual visit to CES and discussions with tech innovators
  • Caring for the family caregiver, an area we found was almost totally overlooked until recently but essential to giving older loved ones the best care we can
  • Interviews with a number of topic experts and solution developers who helped us pass along firsthand knowledge to our audience

Check us out to learn more. Many have told us they found the site search to be a valuable tool.

What ‘For Sale’ Means

Putting Senior Care Corner up for sale means just that.

Yes, we will entertain offers from parties who wish to purchase the name (Senior Care Corner and our logo are both trademarked in the US), and our website, including all content. Many have told us they found our articles, audio recordings, and video valuable to them in their roles as family caregivers.

For more information or if you are considering a proposal, please email us at Info(at)SeniorCareCorner.com.

Inquiries from principals only, please.

Celebrating Older Americans Month 2019: Connect, Create, Contribute

Each year, more and more older adults are making a positive impact in and around their community. Usually this contribution involves the encouragement and even logistics of a family caregiver.

Many older Americans who are family caregivers are themselves contributing to their community simply by caring for their own senior loved ones.

In addition, they act as volunteers, employees, employers, educators, mentors, advocates, and more which offers insight and experience that benefit the entire community.

That’s why Older Americans Month (OAM) has been recognizing the contributions of this growing population for 56 years when President John F. Kennedy designated May Older Americans Month.

At that time, the President felt it was time to begin to take the needs of the growing older American population. The goal was to recognize their many contributions to our country especially in defending it.

From then until now, led by the Administration for Community Living (ACL) each May, OAM provides resources to help older Americans stay healthy and independent as a way to thank them for their gifts to society. They help communities support and celebrate their diversity.

Theme for OAM 2019

This year’s OAM theme, Connect, Create, Contribute, encourages older adults and their communities to:

  • Connect with friends, family, and local services and resources.
  • Create through activities that promote learning, health, and personal enrichment.
  • Contribute time, talent, and life experience to benefit others.

Family caregivers can celebrate OAM by promoting ways that community members of all ages can take part in helping older adults in their community as well as their own senior loved one thrive.

Things to Do In Your Community

There will be many events going on in your senior’s community that will help family caregivers connect, create and contribute.

Here are a few you may want to join:

  1. Participate in your local senior center activities by attending classes on crafts, cooking, lines dancing, yoga, or educational topic.
  2. Volunteer for an organization you support such as the library, animal shelter, school mentorship, litter cleanup or church group.
  3. Attend a health fair and take charge of your health.
  4. Share your skills with others in your community who may need help.
  5. Help a meal delivery program deliver meals to people in your local area.
  6. Join a fall prevention program to build your own strength and balance while meeting new people.
  7. Attend a Senior Day event in your city.
  8. Find a class on technology to help your senior learn about ways to use technology to benefit them as they age in place. Attend the class together.

We encourage you to:

Connect: Encourage older adults and other storytellers to share their experiences

Create: Inspire older adults to express themselves through art, dance, exercise, gardening or other personal enrichment activities.

Contribute: Connect older adults with resources and each other

Things to Do At Home

Family caregivers can take action with their senior loved ones to celebrate OAM with them and other family and friends.

Here are some fun things you can do together:

  • Have a family game night and play their favorites. Have lots of healthy snacks to keep the fun rolling!
  • Take a nature walk with the grandkids. Explore plants and animals in nature, go on a scavenger hunt, share a picnic and watch the birds fly together. Sharing this with kids will benefit all generations.
  • Look through family photo albums together and reminisce about family members who came before you. Discuss their jobs, their military service, where they lived and funny stories of shared hijinks! Maybe this could lead to a family reunion to meet new members and enjoy old members of the family.
  • Store the photos and memories for the future, journal the family stories and create a family tree.
  • Attend an event together. It could simply be the local Farmer’s Market or a fundraising event like a Fashion Show.

This is just a small start to all the places you could go and fun you can share with your senior loved one.

Time spent together is not only enriching for your relationship but also good for your senior’s health.

Physical activity and social engagement can make a positive impact on their quality of life.

These are all great reasons to find ways to celebrate OAM and your senior loved one today!

Additional Resources

Here are some additional articles that you might find helpful when deciding how to share time with our senior loved during OAM and every day.

Tech Talk for Seniors, Family Caregivers & Others Not “Born Digital”

Sometimes even the English language can seem like someone is speaking in a foreign tongue.

Older adults, who lived much of their lives without today’s technology, can feel that tech speak is unintelligible and the whole world is trying to tell them something they don’t understand.

It can be like talking about a new medical condition or the effects of medication with a doctor when they use terms we never heard before.

It would be so nice to learn the words to describe a variety of technology solutions that could benefit them or simply make their life a little easier.

Helping seniors (and their family caregivers) learn at the least the most frequently used tech terminology could be very helpful in getting them comfortable using technology and gaining the benefits it can bring to their lives.

Defining Tech Speak

Here are some of the more common words used by those familiar with technology that many seniors — and family caregivers — may not yet have mastered.

Android – mobile operating system developed by Google and used in almost all non-Apple smartphones and tablet devices.

Apps – app is an abbreviation for the word application, it usually refers to a software program that performs a specific function. The term app refers to mobile devices and a user must download them to use. They open up in the operating system. Examples of apps include mobile banking, games, maps, GPS, business links, health links, etc.

Artificial Intelligence or AI — intelligence demonstrated by a machine that is normally associated with humans, such as the ability to observe a situation and make a decision regarding how to proceed based on the information observed.

Blockchain — a list of records, linked using secure code, that grows with each new record added, with none being deleted. Each record is accessible only to those who have the appropriate key code. A blockchain allows secure records, such as medical records, banking information, contracts, and more to be securely maintained without the need of entities in the middle of the transaction, giving parties much greater security potential than is achieved with current systems.

Bluetooth – short (such as within a room or home) distance wireless interconnection between mobile phones, computers, and other electronic devices. Data is sent over radio waves instead of through wires/cords. Devices that are able to connect have a Bluetooth chip in them.

Broadband Connection — often called just ‘broadband,’ refers to a high speed connection to the internet, whether using DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), Cable modem, or high speed cellular connection.

Data – pieces of information, such as names, phone numbers, medical device readings, whether a light switch is on or off, and much MUCH more.

Download – receiving information or data from one computer or electronic device into the memory of another usually over the internet.

Flash drive – a small portable device for the purpose of storing files or data and can transfer that data to another device as well as be used to back up data. This data storage device is also known as thumb drive, flash stick, memory stick, jump drive, or USB memory.

HDMI cable – a cable that transmits high definition digital audio/visual (compressed or uncompressed) from a source device to another compatible device. For example, connects a computer to a projector to present a video.

HTML – fundamental language used to create webpages; stands for hypertext markup language.

Hub – center of a network. For technology, a hub can be the center of a specific network, such as smart home devices, or the center of USB system that connects peripheral devices. A network hub allows multiple devices the ability to communicate with each other. A USB hub allows multiple devices to be connected to or interface with one computer.

iOS – an operating system for mobile devices manufactured and used by Apple devices such as iPads and iPhones.

IoT – Internet of Things; refers to a system of interrelated electronic and mechanical devices that are connected so that no human contact is required for operation (human to human or human to computer). They connect wirelessly using a hub as point of connectivity. They transmit data amongst devices.

Link – it is an HTML object that allows users to jump to a different web location by clicking it. Links are often attached to images, words, or titles. They can be displayed using blue letters or underlined but this is no longer the default. Term is short for hyperlink.

Operating system – a system that allows software to communicate with hardware in computing to allow programs to run. Examples include Microsoft Windows, iOS, and Android.

Phishing — scam that uses email to fraudulently obtain personal data such as credit card numbers, passwords, and social security numbers by tricking recipients into thinking they are opening and responding to an email from a known or reputable source.

Platforms – refers to a computers operating system or group of technologies that are used as a base for applications; examples for personal computing are Windows, MacIntosh and tell on which kind of computer system a particular software will work. Social media sites are often described as platforms as well (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.).

Remote access – the ability to use a computer or electronic device from a separate or remote location as well as the ability to control the device or app once the connection is made.

Streaming – transmitting or receiving data over a computer network in such a way that you can begin viewing the data before it is fully transmitted, such as when watching a video.

Strong password – passwords that are harder to hack, which will contain a variety of characters such as lower and upper case letters, numbers, and symbols and are at least 8 characters long (typically longer).

Sync – abbreviation for synchronize; connecting data between devices such as computer and smartphones, typically via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or cellular connections.

Upload – the opposite of downloading, sending data from one electronic device to another. You will upload emails and photos when you send.

USB — Universal Serial Bus, short distance digital communication; USB ports allow connectivity between devices and transfer data over cables.

Wearables – electronic technology device that can be worn, such as exercise trackers, or can be imbedded in clothing or as tattoos directly on the skin. Powered by microprocessors, they are hands-free and can send or receive data via the internet.

Wireless – transmit data without cables or wires using radio waves. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are both networks that allow data to transmit without wires. A wireless card or router/modem is used for Wi-Fi and a chip is generally used to enable Bluetooth.

5G — refers to the fifth (next) generation of mobile internet connectivity, which will provide much faster connections and enable much higher volumes of data to be communicated.

Building Comfort with Tech

Seniors may be more comfortable engaging with technology when they are relieved of feeling embarrassed due to a lack of knowledge or understanding of tech and its terminology.

Simply learning some of the technology industry’s language may empower them to get more involved with tech that is beneficial to them and their ability to live independently.

Geek speak shouldn’t be keeping them from using technology.

Keep in mind the objective is building comfort, not making anyone experts in the field.

Learning a few new words shouldn’t be a barrier and it might be fun especially if a tech-savvy or tech geek grandchild is the teacher!

This is a great way for multi-generational interaction to happen that will benefit everyone.

 

 




Gardening That’s Accessible, Convenient and Fun for Seniors (and Everyone)

The arrival of Spring means we get to see daffodils popping to meet the sunshine and crocuses sticking their little heads up to say hello!

Many seniors have shared their joy of gardening with their children and grandchildren over the years.

Having learned from our elders the joy of gardening and nurturing the earth, we carry on the love they’ve given us by planting and growing our own flowers, fruits, and vegetables.

It is now our turn as caregivers to share new, accessible gardens and the fulfillment of getting our hands dirty again with our senior loved ones as they age.

Seniors often find that the effects of aging on joints, muscles, and the freedom of movement have prohibited them from tending to their beloved gardens.

Family caregivers can help change that.

Making Senior Friendly Gardens Grow

Bringing the garden to a senior is a good way to get them involved in a meaningful activity, one through which many benefits can be gained.

Here are some ideas for you to create friendly garden spaces and some tools you and your senior will need to be safe and accessible.

  • Growing vertically – plants that we grow vertically are more easily accessible for those with mobility limitations. There are different kinds of commercially available products that can grow in hanging containers, upside down, trellises or using garden towers.
  • Growing in raised beds – an advantage is that they are easy to reach, even from a wheelchair or seated position, if balance or endurance is a problem. Garden boxes can be elevated on legs or built up beds lined with materials, such as railroad timbers, that allow space for a seat for gardeners to work and rest. Two to three feet in height is typically ideal for easiest accessibility.
  • Planting container gardens – if space or mobility is limited, use a container to grow specific items, such as flowers, herbs, or vegetables, from patios or porches for accessibility.
  • Plant in found items, such as a pallet – an old wooden pallet is transformed with herbs and flowers — even vegetables — interspersed between slats and stands on its side for easy reach. This video shows how to re-purpose a discarded pallet into a thriving garden.

  • Maintenance friendly commercially available planting soil – using this specially prepared soil will reduce the need for weeding, tilling hard soil and other labor intensive preparation. They also have the ability to hold and disperse water to the plant roots more effectively.
  • Self-watering containers – some garden containers that are commercially available have a capacity to self-water so if seniors are unable to water daily the plants will still continue to grow well. You can also fashion your own self-watering containers using reservoirs, drip hoses and garden hoses. You can find directions to make your own watering system on YouTube too.
  • If going outside is not an option, try using inside plant stands with fluorescent lighting. It will provide the same benefits of physical and mental activity in a more convenient form. You can purchase specially made indoor gardens that will provide light and growing trays.
  • Don’t forget adequate shade areas, garden hats with wide brims, garden gloves to protect sensitive skin, seating, convenient portable stools, knee pads, ergonomic garden tools, and easy-to-maneuver paths so that everyone can enjoy the activity.

Benefits of Gardening for Seniors

Gardening can bring multiple benefits beyond the food they can grow that will improve their quality of life.

  • Accessible and non-strenuous way to give seniors a way to share their gardening expertise, get some physical activity, spend some time outdoors, and have an improved quality of life. It is a great conversation starter and wonderful way to give seniors a way to engage with others in a meaningful way.
  • Growing a garden, whether big or small, will attract birds and butterflies to their home. They can spend time being an observer or even a participant with nature.
  • Having a new garden or being able to use their existing garden more efficiently and safely will add to their aging in place experience.
  • It can give them a purpose and feel part of the life around them, not just as an observer. It keeps them engaged!
  • Stimulate seniors’ brains by having them plan what plants they would like to grow, when to plant, when to weed, and when to harvest can keep their minds active as well as their bodies.
  • Growing some of their own fruits, vegetables, and herbs will improve their nutritional intake and encourage healthy eating.
  • Home gardens will allow them to mentor future generations. Multi-generational experiences improve the quality of life, not just for seniors but from all family members.
  • Sharing the harvest with family, friends, and neighbors will keep seniors connected with their ‘community.’

Aging shouldn’t be the reason your senior stops enjoying a lifelong activity – at least not without a fight. Helping to give your senior a way to continue to engage in gardening, either on a small or somewhat larger scale, can provide many benefits for the entire family.

We hope you are able to try some of these ideas and enjoy the harvest!

We would love to hear how you made it possible for your senior to get their hands dirty!

End of Life Decisions: Has Your Senior Loved One Made Them? Have You?

What kind of healthcare treatment would you and your senior loved ones want to be given at the end of your life — or would you want any at all?

End of life care is something about which most adults in the US have heard and maybe even considered — thanks in part to television shows — with many having also heard about living wills.

Most have not taken things past the “thinking about it” stage, however, to having serious conversations with family or actually doing something to ensure their wishes are honored.

Enter National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), an effort to educate and inspire individuals to formally express their wishes regarding healthcare and encourage healthcare providers and facilities to honor those wishes.

We thought this year’s NHDD would be a good time to revisit an episode of the Senior Care Corner® Radio Show from a few years ago, one in which we talk about NHDD and use it as a springboard to encourage family caregivers and their senior loved ones to have their own family healthcare decisions day.

Not only is it important for family caregivers to ensure senior loved ones express their wish, but the caregivers need to make their own end of live decisions.

Family Healthcare Decisions

First, I guess we should explain what we mean by the “healthcare decisions” families should discuss.

We’re talking about the type of care an individual wishes to receive — and the care she or he does not wish to receive — when potentially at the end of life, at a time when ongoing life depends on the measures performed.

Examples of these measures include receiving CPR, being placed on a ventilator, or being fed via a tube.

Why are we taking about this now?

Putting aside that we frequently talk about the need for living wills, advance directives, and the family conversations that help make those decisions, we want to get families planning to have these discussions when they gather from their scattered homes for family spring and summer events.

Listen to the feature segment in this episode for our discussion of family healthcare decision making, including reasons why it’s important and how families may approach the conversation.

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Preparing for the Family End of Life Care Discussion

Preparation can help families better face the elephant in the room and have a more successful discussion of end of life options.

  • Learn about what “advance directives” means. We don’t just mean the term but, more importantly, the implications for those making and formalizing the decisions, as well as their family members.
  • Research what is required in your state, or states for dispersed family members, and which decisions are covered.
  • Gain an understanding of various means of life support to give a better understanding of what is involved with the decisions to be made.
  • Consider consulting an elderlaw attorney or other legal reference source to determine what the necessary forms look like, what information is needed to complete them, and the steps to take to ensure they are enforceable.

Catch the full discussion in this episode of the Senior Care Corner Radio Show.

Additional Healthcare Decisions Resources

We hope you like this trip back to a prior episode of the Senior Care Corner Show and find it helpful to you and your family. We have also prepared this transcript – so you can follow along with the recording or read it at your convenience.

 




Choosing Snacks Seniors Will Eat and That Meet Their Nutrition Needs

Family caregivers visiting their senior loved ones enjoy bringing them something to eat, not only to show their love but also to encourage them to eat.

Many seniors begin to have diminished appetites — whether from boredom, lack of activity, or changes in their sensation of taste — making all foods taste unfamiliar.

When they are left to eat the food someone else makes for them, whether a family or paid caregiver or in a facility, they tend to eat less and less.

It doesn’t matter if they are home getting delivered meals from an organization, living in a facility that supplies their meals in a congregate dining area, or in their room, or trying to prepare their own convenience items at home. They aren’t getting all the nutrition they need.

For many that is a real problem that can affect their nutritional health, physical health, and even their mood.

Caregivers can help fill the gap!

When Aging Changes Nutritional Needs

Seniors nutritional needs change as they age and caregivers can help them meet their needs with a few interventions.

While aging often means fewer calories may be needed, all the nutrients are still in demand by their bodies and some are more essential than ever for bone health, heart health and brain health.

Here are some things that happen which can change what and how much your senior loved one eats:

  1. As they age, chronic diseases can impact their health and how and what they eat. They may be restricting their food intake based on what they have been told years ago about a particular disease, such as heart disease or diabetes, to the point that they are limiting the nutrients they include — many are over-restricting what they eat.
  2. Difficulty with their teeth and gums can affect what food choices they make. Meats are usually the first foods to go when chewing becomes a problem. Whether it is because of poor dentition, poorly fitting dentures, gum disease, mouth sores, dry mouth or missing teeth or due to cognitive loss, chewing nutrient rich foods can be difficult.
  3. Medications can result in increased nutritional needs or a change in eating. Some medications can inhibit their appetite or increase their appetite to the point of poor food choices out of convenience and speed. Some medications cause dry mouth. Some can cause whole groups of foods, such as leafy green vegetables, from being cut out of the diet.
  4. Intake of the nutrients of concern as people age are often under consumed (or poorly absorbed) including calcium, B vitamins, and protein.
  5. Aging skin is not as productive at producing Vitamin D to help keep bones strong. Added to a decrease in dairy intake, for those worried about lactose intolerance, a weakening of bones that lead to fractures can occur.
  6. Decreased ability to absorb specific nutrients like B12 due to gastric acid secretion and the effects of drugs, such as antacids and proton pump inhibitors (PPI), used to control stomach acid.
  7. Excessive alcohol intake can cause nutrients that are eaten not to be absorbed properly or the person to eat less, putting them at risk for malnutrition.
  8. Finances can also change what your senior feels comfortable buying when they grocery shop. Cheaper, less nutritious, foods may become staples instead of often more expensive fresh foods.
  9. Functional status can impact what seniors eat as they are less able to shop, prepare and even eat the meals they need for health. Fatigue can limit their ability to cook for themselves. Grief or depression can also impact their desire to make their own meals or eat alone.
  10. Lack of desire for the meals served in the facility or by home delivery. Some seniors are often uninterested in the foods they are given or just want to choose their meals. When this is not the case, they often refuse to eat. Many seniors just want foods they remember or grew up eating which may not be what’s on the menu where they live. They may even have lost some of their sense of taste or smell, which could make meals less than satisfying. Some may want to cook their own food as they once did.

Snacks for Seniors

Family caregivers can supplement the meals their senior’s choose to eat with nutrient dense snacks.

It is important to remember that some snacks should be tailored to their individual needs if they have a medical condition such as diabetes or trouble chewing, so be aware of any chronic condition they may have.

Snacks that are high in salt, sugar, fat or excess calories without nutrition should be avoided.

Here are some examples of nutritious snacks your senior may like:

  • Greek yogurt with fruit
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Sandwiches made with deli meat like chicken breast or salads like chicken salad
  • Granola bars especially softer varieties such as Nutrigrain or KIND nut butter bars or breakfast bars
  • Fruit or fruit/vegetable juice blend beverages
  • Nuts or trail mix
  • Vegetables (parboil the veggies if they have trouble chewing raw) and dip
  • Smoothie or milkshake with fruit/vegetables
  • Pudding or gelatin snack cups
  • Fruit cups packed in their own juice
  • String cheese sticks
  • Raisins, yogurt covered raisins, craisins, dates, or figs
  • Real fruit snacks
  • Peanut butter and crackers
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Stewed prunes, dried fruit such as apricots
  • Fig newtons
  • Hummus and pita
  • Homemade leftover dinner (small portion)
  • Custard
  • Ice cream or fruit juice bar
  • Cottage cheese and fruit
  • Sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • Wheat or fruit muffins
  • Glass of chocolate milk or buttermilk
  • Oatmeal cookies
  • Bowl of cereal or oatmeal with berries
  • Avocado on toast
  • Pate on crackers
  • Nutritional supplement including fortified fruit juice or clear supplement for a change

If you are bringing snacks to a facility, check ahead to be sure any perishable food can have refrigeration if they don’t eat it quickly.

Tips for Improved Nutrition In a Care Facility

When your senior loved one is living in a care facility and you are worried they may not be eating enough of the most nutritious foods, bringing some of these snacks with you whenever you visit will greatly increase their intake.

  1. The foods that are perishable should be eaten while you are there and disposed of by you to prevent food poisoning. Be sure the snacks you bring are healthy and will not spoil if left on the counter or bedside table until your next visit.
  2. Sit with your senior while they snack. Many seniors don’t eat as much because they are often eating by themselves and need someone with whom to socialize while they eat.
  3. Take the opportunity to observe them eating. Are they having a problem with the teeth or swallowing that might need an evaluation? Is the food consistency still appropriate or would soft, even chopped food be better tolerated?
  4. Are they drinking enough fluids? Offer them a beverage or simply a glass of water while you visit.
  5. Do they need a multivitamin or supplement to help them get all the nutrition they need or perhaps a short term appetite stimulant to get them back on the right track?
  6. It might be a good time to discuss their medical diet with the staff. Determine if it is still needed so that you can advocate for your senior to reducing their restrictive diet which might be inhibiting a good appetite. You can also discuss with the healthcare team if a possible drug review is appropriate to see if there are any changes that can be made to improve their appetite, eating or reduce any food-drug interactions.
  7. If your senior is not eating the facility food, perhaps it is time to talk with the staff to see what can be done to offer alternates at meals or find ways to increase the seasoning in the food to make it more palatable. Maybe the food isn’t as hot as they prefer and a change in meal time or location (in main dining room versus their room) would help. Perhaps they would eat better if their food could be prepared for them to pick up instead of using a utensil, this is known as finger foods.

Poor nutrition can lead to functional decline, increased falls, loss of muscle, weakened bones and a reduced quality of life for our seniors.

It couldn’t hurt to include bringing healthy snacks every visit to encourage your senior’s appetite and can potentially improve their well-being.

 

 




Easter Baskets for Seniors Full of Special Treats & Memories

Springtime again! Many trees are sporting flowers and others have leaves busting out.

It’s time to gather together our woven baskets and multi-colored plastic straw hay!

For many seniors it means the grandkids are coming to search for goodies to celebrate spring on Easter Sunday, whether it’s celebrated as a religious holiday or simply happiness that the seasons are changing (and maybe a few days off from school).

We love to hide brightly colored eggs with hidden surprises inside for the children. The love to find a coin, a chocolate treat, a marshmallow peep, or the golden ticket!

Memories of Easters Past

Even adults enjoy treats, surprises, and special goodies from time to time – particularly on days that hold fond memories, such as Easter. Special treats can bring back cherished memories of childhood, some adulthood holidays, and the special people with whom they shared the day.

They might remember getting all dressed up in their finest bib and tucker or getting a new outfit – or special hat – for the special day.

Many will never forget the white patent leather Mary Jane shoes they would wear for the day and then not again until summer, at least until after Memorial Day!

Senior Easter Basket Wishes

What do you get for your senior loved ones’ Easter basket? You know them best, of course, but here are some ideas to get you thinking.

  • A new hat (maybe one you pick together) or perhaps take an older hat and add embellishments onto together as a multi-generational project)
  • A new piece of jewelry, such as a beaded necklace or brooch (something they could wear to church or family gatherings and show off)
  • A new floral perfume (reminiscent of a bygone scent or a favorite flower in the garden would be especially nice)
  • A family photo (perhaps a recent one of the grandkids or an older version with those no longer with us)
  • Chocolate bunny candy or cream filled eggs (my family loved maple candy that was a special and rare treat)
  • An Easter lily (this is a tradition I remember from my earliest childhood, we never went to grandma’s house without a lily!)
  • A handmade card (one made by the kids with messages of endearment or glued on macaroni)
  • Jelly beans (the quintessential Easter treat — who could forget or resist!)
  • Coupons (ones from their favorite restaurant, local business, grocery item or handmade for unique gifts like washing the windows or polishing the silver)
  • Personal items they might find useful, like hearing aid batteries, glass cleaning cloth, denture paste, a favorite skin lotion, new nail polish or lipstick, lip balm, aftershave, a backscratcher, nail file, sunscreen or any item that shows you are paying attention to what they need and those things they like.

Make the Basket Personal

The key running through the ideas above is that the contents of the basket for your senior should have personal meaning to them rather than being one of the ready-made packages we see all over the stores.

We are sure you can think of other things that might make special gifts, such as a new sweater or lightweight jacket, a book, slippers, or other items.

Think how much fun it would be to put these smaller items into a pretty new wicker basket with a big pastel bow and remind your senior of how it felt to be young waiting for the Easter bunny!

Enjoy your family moments and reminiscing about fun times in years past. After all, those memories can be the most special treats of all!