As a Certified Nutrition Manager, I have been dealing with seniors' nutritional issues in long-term care for over 16 years.
Year after year, the menu is about the same. At lunch, it was mostly casserole dishes (mac and cheese, lasagna), soup, and sandwiches like egg salad, chicken salad, etc. At dinner, it was mostly meat, potatoes, and vegetables. Snacks would mostly be a sweet cookie or a quarter of a sandwich. I noticed that the foods our seniors were eating in long-lerm care often lacked a lot of variety, and did not incorporate a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. Not to say we don’t offer these items at all, we do have some fresh fruits and salads on the menu, but not in large quantities. Seniors need extra vitamins and minerals to support their already deteriorating health. For example, if a senior has a pressure sore on their body would need extra nutrients, especially protein. We as a team of healthcare professionals, need to ensure we provided the right medications that promote the healing process along with proper nutrition that supports wound healing.
My grandmother lived in an Ontario long-term care facility for 1 year before she passed. She passed in October 2020 after being infected with the covid virus. I remember we were not allowed to visit her (only zoom calls were allowed). Our family was saddened by her passing. Prior to covid, during my visits with grandma, I would always compare notes with what grandma's long-term care home provided in terms of food. She lived in a home that served foods that cater to her Asian background such as congee (rice broth), rice noodles, and rice. The food served in most Canadian long-term care homes is very similar coming from the same suppliers and food companies that dominate the Canadian foodservice industry.
In the fall of 2021, I have decided to resign from my job since I was not able to commit to my profession full-time. I decided to combine my knowledge as a Certified Nutrition Manager and Registered Holistic Nutritionist™ and start my own journey to help those who want help outside of the long-term care setting.
Those who have loved ones understand that many seniors struggle with proper nutrition due to multiple reasons. Such as medical conditions including dysphagia or dementia, or the inability to cook for themselves in their own home.
Here are some easy ways to help improve nutrition for seniors:
Make mealtimes enjoyable and social
Do not fill up on empty calories INSTEAD serve food that is nutrient-dense
Make nutrient-dense soups and smoothies
Serve smaller portions so meals don't look too overwhelming
Reduce the need for utensils
Offer more meals/snacks throughout the day to help increase calories
Make meals colorful and appealing
Use nutritional supplements if needed
Hire someone to help with cooking and cleaning to prevent caregiver burnout
Try a meal delivery program, such as Meals on Wheels
As a Certified Nutrition Manager and Registered Holistic Nutritionist™, I will focus on all aspects of a person's wellbeing and life. Send me an email at BlendaRHN@gmail.com and let me know if you have any questions or comments.
Support for seniors and families to find suitable care solutions visit:
GTA Senior Care Solutions
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The entire contents of this article are based upon the opinions of Blenda Chan. Please note that Blenda Chan is not a dietitian, physician, pharmacist or other licensed healthcare professional. The information in this article is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health care professional. This content is not intended to diagnose or treat any diseases. Always consult with your primary care physician or licensed healthcare provider for all diagnosis and treatment of any diseases or conditions, for medications or medical advice as well as before changing your health care regimen.