This article was written by former OSSMC ombudsman, Lisa Laird and shared with us by Nicki Manske, OSSMC Southern Regional Supervisor. Thank you, Lisa for this fun yet though-provoking article!
Are you tired of reading about all the leafy greens you need to eat and power drinks made with that unique vegetable of the month that increases your brain power and longevity? Just browsing through one of Dr. Oz’s magazines makes me want to go hibernate. I am a 62 year old woman and frankly, I am beginning to tire of eating- especially eating what’s good for me. I first recognized this in my aging parents who struggled with preparing their meals on a daily basis. They often resorted to cooking up a dinner of scrambled eggs and toast with a bowl of ice cream for dessert. In fact, they would often eat the ice cream first! Can you believe that? Or, maybe they would dig into a box of chocolates in the afternoon, leaving them with no appetite for the evening meal. How many years have we been eating, really? How many meals have we spent calculating all the vitamins, minerals, calcium, zinc, fish oil….etc…that we need for that day-for that week? My guess is thousands. I’m tired of thinking about eating. Now, one could immediately comment, “Aren’t you fortunate that you have food to eat because much of the world’s population is starving.” Yes, this is true and I am very grateful that I have choices and abundance in my selections of foods in this country. But, my point speaks more to eating as an older person and what that may entail, especially when that person can no longer prepare their own food.
For Instance, imagine you are now in your local nursing home or assisted care facility. Most likely you are there because you need some assistance with self care, including someone to provide healthy meals! But, now, you get to eat institutionalized food, which often translates to dried up or creamed meats, overcooked vegetables( if you can get any), fruit in syrup, cold coffee or tea and lots of pudding for dessert. What’s worse, though, is that if you should have dietary restrictions, such as a low sodium or low sugar, things can get even more dire! I’ve heard an 87 year old resident ask for a Popsicle in a nursing home, only to be told she can’t have that because she is on a restricted diet. Or, what if someone wants a potato chip or pretzel and has salt limitations? Even if he is 99 years old, the salt restricted diet prohibits that! And, forget ordering out- too much salt in Chinese food and Pizza could kill you. Now, this seems…a bit crazy! If I’m 99, can’t I have a bowl of ice cream? I think I’ve earned it.
According to some studies, 50-70% of residents in care facilities leave 25% or more of their food uneaten at most meals. And 25% of residents experience weight loss. Thankfully, liberalized diets (ones that allow some salt, sugar and fat) are becoming more frequent in facilities, enabling elders to enjoy more variety. Research suggests that a liberalized diet can enhance the quality of life and nutritional status in older adults. The current thinking suggests that a liberalized diet with more choice and variety should be the norm while restricted diets should be the exception. In other words, this makes them want to eat again!
So, please, as my cholesterol goes up and my kidneys function less, and my heart slows down, don’t take away my ice cream or my butter…and especially don’t take my French fries! At 99, I think I will be just fine!