I read an article in McKnight's Long Term Care News in regards to the effectiveness of dietary restrictions in people over the age of 75 and I'd like to share some thoughts on it. Based on a study conducted by Penn State & Geisinger Healthcare, the conclusion was that after a person reaches 75 years old, changes to diet are not likely to be effective. The damage has already been done and trying to eat "healthy" is not going to change the likelihood of acquiring Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, and Hypertension. Eating healthy throughout your early lifetime is the first line of defense, keeping yourself happy, in my opinion, is the second.
Our residents health and nutrition is very important to us, that is why we spend quite a bit of time with families at our round table meetings when a new resident is joining us asking about preferences, allergies & special dietary needs. Hearing what our new resident has been eating since a diagnosis of dementia is just as important as hearing about what they grew up eating and allowing our residents to have a choice in what they eat. I am in no way suggesting cotton candy as a steady diet for a diabetic, I am simply re-applying the age old saying "you are what you eat." By allowing our residents to be happy with the quality and presentation of the food they are served, we are giving them additional moments of happiness.
While some foods may have a higher value than others, nutritional value can be found in almost all foods. We strive to encourage the foods that do the most good, however, as taste buds change and diminish the list of those foods will also change. A resident who once ate only bland oatmeal throughout most of his life for breakfast now prefers brown sugar and cinnamon added in or will now only eat french toast with strawberries and bananas on top. It is not our intention to over-sugar or super saturate foods with salt, but if that simple addition keeps your loved one consistently taking in some nutrition that in itself is far better than not receiving any nutrition at all. At the end of the day what it all comes down to is a variation of the age old saying "Let them eat cake" - which in our setting means that when bread is refused, it may be better to let your loved one eat cake rather than eat nothing at all.
About the Author:
Stephanie Muhlbach is the Activity Director at Pacifica Senior Living Paradise Valley in Phoenix, AZ.