Poor nutrition can quickly bring on discussion of moving elderly loved ones into aged care. Acting early with in-home care can safeguard independence.
© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
A lack of good nutrition and regular meals is a sure sign that our elderly loved ones may be in need of some in-home care. Unfortunately, many people with cognitive decline forget to eat or think they’ve eaten when they haven’t.
National Nutrition Week (16 to 22 October 2022) gives a timely reminder of the importance of nutrition and regular balanced meals.
One study shows that around one in 10 older Australians eligible for government in-home care services are malnourished. Another study finds that up to 44% of older Australians are at risk of undernutrition.
While gradual weight loss is an early warning sign of lack of nutrition and regular meals, the signals can be more dramatic. Take for instance my client, Elizabeth*.
After the death of her husband, Elizabeth, 78 years of age, lost interest in food and, to quote, “all the palaver around it”. It’s a common reaction and, if you see it in an elderly loved one, investigate the reasons why.
Weekly grocery shopping and the preparation of balanced midday and evening meals was, in Elizabeth’s opinion, “not worth too much effort when catering for one”.
She took to eating a decent-sized breakfast with plenty of prunes, snacking throughout the day, and a tinned soup or toast at night. Any meal out was enjoyed to the full!
While family noticed some weight loss, the situation came to a head after Elizabeth enjoyed a glass of bubbles at a charity event. Within a short time she collapsed and hit her head on a hard tiled floor. The ambulance was called.
After a night in hospital she was discharged with a few stitches to the head, some deep bruising, and a strong desire not to talk about the incident as she was embarrassed.
A few months later, Elizabeth fainted while walking into town. A member of the public came to her aid and an ambulance was called. The hospital emergency department advised that, as found on the first occasion, Elizabeth was simply not eating enough and not drinking enough water.
This time family members were determined to address the situation. Fortunately, with her falls to date, Elizabeth had suffered just cuts and bruises. Both times she was fortunate not to have broken a limb. DR Care Solutions was called in to speak with Elizabeth and work out what was needed.
DR Care Solutions took the steps of:
Meeting with Elizabeth, with a family member present, to establish her wants and wishes and draw up a Life Plan™ that respected those wishes.
Introducing to Elizabeth the benefits of having in-home support for grocery shopping and meal preparation and companionship while she ate.
Providing the choice of three quality in-home care service providers from the quality assured DR Care Solutions In-Home Care Database.
Helping Elizabeth select an in-home care provider that met her preference of having carers who did not wear uniforms or use branded cars.
Facilitating Elizabeth’s decision to join the carer for grocery shopping once or twice a week and assist the carer with the preparation of a main meal at lunchtime and a lighter meal for dinner.
Ensuring the carer is present while Elizabeth eats her main meal at lunchtime providing interesting discussion, social interaction and companionship.
Elizabeth has put on weight and is enjoying better health. Two years on, there have been no falls and hospital visits.
Grocery shopping is still not a favourite activity and so a customer account arrangement is now in place with a local grocery store so the carer can buy the groceries on Elizabeth’s behalf.
Elizabeth remains independent – living at home and feeling strong.
* Name changed to respect privacy.
If you are seeking assistance for an elderly loved one, please feel free to call me, Danielle Robertson, for an initial discussion on how to set up the right care, support and assistance at the right time and in the right place.
 Nutrition Australia: National Nutrition Week
 DR Care Solutions: Eat Well; Age Well - Nutrition & Ageing Australians
 DR Care Solutions: Loss of Appetite in Ageing