Nutrition plays a role in twelve of the top fifteen causes of death, and yet elderly nutrition it’s often overlooked despite that better nutrition equals better healing for in home care clients. Patients who are malnourished are 200 to 500 % more likely to develop pressure ulcers. Having an in home caregiver help plan and prepare nutritious meals as part of in home care services is one of the most enjoyable reasons to hire an in home care agency. Eating well promotes faster recovery.
Studies show that elderly people with inadequate refrigerator contents are re-admitted to the hospital three times sooner than those with adequate food (34 days to return to the hospital versus 100 days.) Sometimes the fridge is bare because the elderly person can’t manage activities of daily living or driving. If someone is in need of Alzheimer’s and dementia care, forgetting to eat may be an early sign.
This connection between healing and nutrition is very clear in a story about a 62 year old man who for 9 months suffered with a large diabetic wound on his foot. He was only a couple of weeks away from amputation of his leg because of the sore.
Shortly before the scheduled amputation, dietician Nancy Collins was brought in by the doctors to give her advice.
“It’s not every day you get to save a man’s leg,” she says, but that’s exactly what she did.
She didn’t turn to some expensive, fancy new medical device or experimental treatments. She simply improved his nutrition.
Collins added more protein into the man’s diet, made sure he got at least 3,000 calories a day to fuel healing, and she had him drink water mixed with a powder called “Juven”, a combination on glutamine, arginine and HMB (amino acids.) He drank two packets a day for 12 weeks, while his doctors continued the topical treatments on his foot.
Thanks to his improved nutrition, his body was able to grow tissue, something that wasn’t happening before, and his foot wound finally closed.
“Instead of losing his leg, he went on a cruise with his wife,” she said.
She explained that nutrition doesn’t just mean the amount of food someone eats or the amount of fat stores in the body; it’s the quality of food and the amount of amino acids and protein.
“With just a 10% loss of lean body mass, wound healing is impaired, “she said.
A 20% loss causes wound healing to cease and a 40% loss of lean body mass leads to death, usually from pneumonia, Collins explained.
Most patients do not take in enough calories or protein to sustain their lean body mass, which peaks for people at age 25 and then goes downhill from there.
Why are patients not eating enough or the right kinds of foods? Collins sites cognitive problems, financial problems, fatigue and a lack of feelings of hunger.
30% to 50% of patients admitted to the hospital tend to be malnourished. Then they lie in bed with little activity and lose more lean body mass. Most continue to lose lean body mass when they are discharged and return home.
What can people do? Try nutrition therapy, which involves the appropriate amount of calories, protein, fluids, vitamins and minerals to promote healing. In home care can improve nutrition. When choosing a caregiver for a client, an agency will determine the caregiver’s meal planning and cooking skills to create a good match.
Good nutrition is also an important component of fall prevention.
A 125 pound elderly woman may need a minimum of 1700 to 2,000 calories a day, 57 to 68 grams of protein and 7 to 8 cups of fluid.
Many elderly people need help getting better nutrition at home. An in home caregiver from a quality home care agency can help with grocery shopping, preparing the food or encouragement to eat it. Six small meals may be better than three larger ones. Elderly patients may benefit from taking bites of food every time a commercial break appears on TV.
In addition, oral supplements such as Ensure can help increase calories, protein and nutrients. Supplements such as the powder Juven can promote healing by adding amino acids. There is also a product called PB2, which can be purchased online and is a powdered peanut butter. It can be added to water or poured over oatmeal. Finally, nutritionist recommend eggs as a good source or protein.
In home care providers such as At Home Nursing Care can provide a nutritional assessment, including simply looking into cupboards and the refrigerator and making a shopping list and meal plan.
You can find lots of information on elderly nutritional needs by visiting Collins’ website, nutrition411.com.