Alarming statistics relating to food and the elderly
An article in The Times newspaper this Monday from Chris Smyth, their health editor, made sad reading and gave some alarming statistics about food and the elderly in their own homes:
About 1.3 million over-65s are thought to be malnourished”
“Isolation from relatives and friends is a bigger cause of malnutrition in the elderly than poverty.”
“Social care services have said that while they will help frail elderly people eat, it is outside their scope to ensure there is food in the house”
Frank Field, chairman of the group, said: “Beneath the radar there are malnourished older people in this country spending two or three months withering away in their own homes, with some entering hospital weighing five and a half stone with an infection, or following a fall, which keeps them there for several torturous days, if not weeks.”
When many residents come to our homes they are very frail. Their care needs are not just medical, to recover from an illness or a fall, or recuperation after being in hospital. They need nourishment, to gain weight and build up both their strength and confidence. But food gives so much more than this. It is nourishment for the soul, gives comfort and contentment and brings smiles to faces.
Food for the body
Your nutritional need change as you get older. Your metabolism and activity levels slow, so you need fewer calories. However, you need to maintain protein levels and vitamins for strength and to stay healthy. As we age, our ability to absorb or process some key vitamins, such as Vitamins B12 and D, decreases. You also need to keep up calcium levels for strong bones. Milk, cheese, eggs, green vegetables and fortified breakfast cereals all provide these vitamins.
Our chefs cook wholesome homemade meals, from first principles, to ensure a balanced diet. Residents also love growing their own veggies through the summer and that also gives a sense of pride and achievement. It also adds homegrown to the menu! Who can remember Bob’s tomato plant last summer? You can see his delight in this picture.
As we age, our tastes change. This is because our sense of smell decreases and our taste buds decrease. When a resident comes to one of our homes, we complete a food questionnaire and we cater for any special dietary needs, eg. diabetics, coeliacs, reduced potassium. For residents at risk of malnutrition, we have our own fortified smoothie recipe, which has been designed by our local doctors surgery. We carefully monitor any resident who we feel is not eating or drinking well. For each resident, we follow specific guidelines (known as Must Guidelines) and complete the Must Scores in their care plans. We all work as a team to ensure our residents are given plenty of fluids and the right nutrition.
Every few weeks we ask our residents their likes and dislikes, for the menu. Two residents at The Lawns recently asked for homemade faggots with mushy peas and mashed potato. They were added to the menu for the following week. Comments included “them faggots were bloody lovely!” and “they are just like I used to have from the butcher”.
Food for the soul
Dementia, illness and medication can affect appetite and can cause a loss of interest in food.
We encourage mealtimes to be a social occasion in our dining rooms, although residents have a choice. We find that incorporating food into activities and events, can make it all the more appealing and gives increased variety.
To give you an idea:
- Theme days such as 1940s day at Astley Hall, celebrated in true Astley style with the whole home decorated, everyone dressed up in vintage clothes and a huge buffet dinner.
- Theme weeks such as The Lawns week focus on hydration, with mock-tails, fruit, umbrellas and Hawaiian hula garlands https://www.heritagemanor.co.uk/2017/07/tropical-mocktails-promoting-hydration/
- Summer BBQs with homemade kebabs the residents help to make.
- Pancake day antics – races, tossing and decorating.
- Biscuit decorating – Easter bunnies, Christmas gingerbread men.
- Film afternoons – curtains pulled, lights dimmed, a classic movie and popcorn.
- Hot chocolates (with marshmallows of course) on fireworks night (and any other night!).
- Birthdays a plenty – always an excuse for a cake.
- Afternoon teas are a regular event and a special time for residents to invite friends to visit and are often fundraisers.
- Anyone for tennis? – always strawberries and cream for Wimbledon days – plus the Pimms!
- Icecreams on the patio or indoors – anytime is icecream time!
- Fish and Chip suppers – straight from the paper with vinegar like they used to be – the delicious wafts always bring back memories.
- Burger nights – The Lawns now have their McDonalds club – with Vera eating her first McDonald’s aged 91 and Happy Meals proving to be the perfect size for any smaller apetites.
- Lunches out – trips to the pub for lunch with friends, fish and chips by the river in Stourport, lunch and a potter at the local garden centre.
Italian Day at Astley Hall
Theme days are a fantastic way to get residents involved and interested in food. Italian Day at Astley Hall was a great success this week. Everyone got stuck in, making their own pizzas. You can see from the pictures how much our residents focused on the task at hand and were delighted with their results.
Dignity Action Day is on 1st February this year and both The Lawns and Abberton are hosting events for friends and families. Residents have been asked for their favourite cakes which will be baked for the Dig-Ni-Tea party.
Reflecting on The Times article
We are shocked and saddened by the situation of many elderly people in their own homes, undernourished and lonely. We see the many benefits of living at a nursing home. Our residents nursing, care and nutritional needs are all met. Importantly too, they have companionship, laughter, happiness and contentment.