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Nutrition for Active and Healthy Aging

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One more meal a day could save lives

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Feb 14, 2019 in Aged Care, Malnutrition, Nutrition

Many older adults don’t eat enough to meet their nutritional needs, and this can impact their healing and recovery from injury.


In support of this, a 2-year pilot study has shown that giving one extra meal a day to older adults who were hospitalised with hip fractures halved their risk of dying.


The study, conducted by the NHS in the UK, was instigated after staff noticed that patients with hip fractures struggled to get enough nutrients. In the program, nutrition advisors across six sites brought food from the hospital’s canteen and sat with patients as they ate their extra meal.


As a result, mortality rates fell from 11 to 5.5 percent, and medical authorities are considering whether it should be introduced countrywide.


Often, busy staff overlook patients’ food intake, noted chief orthopaedic surgeon Dominic Inman. Commenting on the findings to The Telegraph, he said, “If you look upon food as a very, very cheap drug, that’s extremely powerful.”



A downward spiral


Hip fractures are the most common, and most serious type of fracture in Australia, with new fractures resulting in 50,900 hospitalisations and 579,000 bed days throughout 2015-16.


The health of adults over 50 often rapidly declines after a hip fracture, exacerbating poor outcomes. For three months after fracturing a hip, older adults are at five to eight times greater risk of dying, and one in three adults over 50 dies within 12 months.


Aside from that, a hip fracture can sorely impact mobility, independence and quality of life, and many patients are transferred to another facility for ongoing care.



On the bright side


Falls can be prevented by maintaining good muscle mass and strength. Failing that, patient outcomes after a fall can be improved with rehabilitation aimed at getting them moving as soon as possible, and with good nutrition.


Malnutrition, although widespread, is often overlooked, so it is important to be aware of the signs.


Addressing this, Queensland researchers have tested a patient-centred food service model in a public hospital setting and showed that it increased patients’ energy and protein intake – key requirements for healing and preventing malnourishment.


The model has been used in private acute care settings for 15 years. It revolves around providing room service to patients on demand – so they get to choose what they eat and when. (Who wants dinner at 5pm if you’re not ready for it?)


This food revolution was led by Sally McCray, who says, “This innovate model demonstrates the importance of patients being able to order flexibly, both in terms of the type of food items that patients feel like eating, as well as ordering food at a time of day that they feel like eating.”


The researchers showed that, not only can it improve nutrition intake, it also results in happier patients and reduced food waste.





Four-legged therapists

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Nov 1, 2018 in Aged Care


In 2017 Nikki took her mini foxie Daphne for regular visits to Bupa Aged Care. They were “pet therapy” volunteers.


Every week, Nikki would have to reintroduce herself and Daphne as many of the residents didn’t remember who they were.


But after a few months some residents started recognising them…well not so much Nikki – they would remember Daphne.


Residents would join them in the living room for cuddles, pats and doggy licks. Or if they preferred to stay in their rooms, Nikki and Daphne would pay them individual visits.


Lucy was a huge dog lover with dog stuffed toys and ornaments in her room. She would always thank Nikki for remembering to visit her.


Many residents would share stories about their dogs and cats, usually from childhood.


One resident didn’t know that it was her birthday the next day. But seeing Daphne reminded her all about her beloved childhood dog – a mini foxie called Kimmy – and how her dad taught Kimmy to do tricks like sit up and shake hands.


Another lady who was confined to bed asked if Daphne could sit on her lap. “Daphne curled up and the lady started crying tears of joy because she just loves dogs so much and missed her dogs,” said Nikki.


“The pure gratitude and love that I witnessed between Daphne and the residents brought me to tears a few times,” she says. “I can’t even put it into words how it made me feel, it was just so special for everyone involved.”



A multitude of benefits


Pets can boost emotional and physical wellbeing. As well as being social catalysts, they offer social support and unconditional love, reducing loneliness and feelings of isolation.


Owning pets has been linked to lower risk factors for heart disease, like reduced blood pressure. Pets can reduce stress levels, and cancer patients have reported that their pets helped them during treatment.


They can also make people laugh, says Janette Young, pet researcher at the University of South Australia, which has known health benefits. “You can’t be depressed when you’re laughing.”


Furry companions can help older adults make the transition to aged care. “We know that people’s depression increases when they go into care, because there’s all these losses,” says Young.


As well as providing comfort, pets can give people “a reason to wake up in the morning,” Young says. The sense of purpose, “that something in the world would miss you,” she adds, “that’s actually protective.”


In interviews with older adults, Young surprisingly uncovered a strong theme of suicide prevention, with people suggesting that without their pets, “they wouldn’t be here”.



Taking pets seriously


“Not taking pets seriously in how we consider and support ageing means we may be condemning some older people to isolation and loneliness,” Young wrote for The Conversation.


She argues that we need to find ways to support older adults to keep their pets when they go into full time care.


Some aged care centres – like Bupa – are welcoming pets because of their demonstrated health benefits. Weighing up the challenges, evidence suggests that the benefits are well and truly worthwhile.


Perhaps pet therapy should be included in new standards for aged care?


Young points out, though, that it’s important to consider the pets’ welfare. Research shows that dogs can be stressed, for instance, but people are unaware of the signs – like looking away, lip licking and yawning.


Some breeds are more anxiety-prone than others. “So we just need to be conscious of the animals as well.”





Shining the spotlight on aged care

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Oct 3, 2018 in Aged Care


Welcome news for the aged care sector – the Australian government has announced that a long sought-after royal commission will investigate an “industry in crisis” amidst harrowing reports of older adults being subjected to substandard care.


This follows revelations of horrific conditions at the Oakden facility last year, resulting in a national Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, streamlining of complaints and crackdown on departures from quality care.


Since then, the Department of Health has reportedly closed one aged-care facility nearly every month, and another 17 centres have sanctions enforced.


Complaints to the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner increased to 4,300 for residential aged care in the last financial year, while 5,780 complaints were lodged for home and community care.



People speaking out


In a time-honoured example of ordinary people spurring action, the commission was announced as courageous aged care workers spoke to Four Corners last month.


They were just some of the 1300 aged care workers and more than 4,000 family, industry and staff members who contacted the show from across Australia for its crowd-sourced initiative.


It’s not just the stories that have grabbed media attention, like the 70-year old resident who died after being assaulted by another patient or the 99-year old female patient who was sexually assaulted by a male carer.


More broadly, it’s “the everyday stories of neglect and inattention, poor quality food, lack of personal care, boredom and heart-breaking loneliness,” according to presenter Sarah Ferguson.


Stories include residents – who have complex care needs – getting a quick face wipe in lieu of a shower, being left in bed all day, overmedicated for easier management, left in a hot room with no fan, and having a commode full of faeces left next to their bed.





Not only that, but malnutrition is a pervasive issue in older adults and particularly those in aged care.


“There were people that were in bed that needed to be fully fed, they couldn’t feed themselves at all,” said one worker.


“And you’d see staff members just quickly go in, offer the resident a bit of food, and if they didn’t take it immediately, just go out and ditch the lunch. You can see these people are so hungry.”


Even if they had time and support to eat, the food quality leaves much to be desired. With a reported spend of $6 per day per resident, the food was “very ordinary,” according to a worker.


“Dinner time was like a couple of patty pies and a scoop of mashed potato,” she said.


“We would get sausage rolls, curry puffs, and marshmallows for dessert,” said another.



Moving forward


The program revealed that the growing ageing industry is currently worth more than $22 billion each year.


Glossy advertisements promote residential facilities like luxury hotels. But, a personal care assistant said, “They’re being sugar coated. They’re being fed a picture, a story that in reality is very untrue.”


“Often it’s the quality of the building, the amenity of the grounds, that’s what’s being sold,” reported an aged care consultant. Often what’s not clear is the quality of the people in the building.”


Low staff numbers are a fundamental issue. One enrolled nurse reported that between her and a registered nurse, they had to look after 72 residents.


And 70 percent of personal care attendants have had only six weeks’ training.


Hopefully, now that the heat is on, the royal commission will act quickly – not only to prevent further neglect but to enhance quality of life. That includes putting mandatory nutrition standards in place.







Bridging child care and aged care

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Sep 12, 2018 in Aged Care

What better way to breathe life into aged care than with young children. That’s what intergenerational programs are starting to do in Australia.


In an era of dissolving extended families, the new model of bridging generations is testament to their multiple psychological, social and economic benefits.





Dr Catrin Hedd Jones, from Bangor University in the UK, took part in a documentary about six nursery children who were introduced to an adult day care facility for three days.


She said she witnessed some “life affirming interactions” that benefited both the older people and the children, who flourished with the extra attention and opportunity to grow their social and emotional skills.


Increasing numbers of shared care centres have sprung up over the past 20 years in the US. They include a nursing home called ‘The Mount’ in West Seattle, which joins 125 children with 400 residents five days a week.


“We wanted to create a place for people to come to live, not a place for people to come to die,” administrator Charlene Boyd told PBS news hour. Footage shows young children dancing and interacting with the residents, whose faces light up in delight.


Staff and family members say that residents suffering dementia become engaged and lucid during their interactions with the children. They’ve seen some “incredible moments”, as well as enhanced learning for the children.


Over in Japan, a study reported that intergenerational programs with preschool children brought smiles and conversation to older adults.



Meanwhile in Australia


In New South Wales an association holds intergenerational playgroups to support families and strengthen local communities, bringing meaningful engagement and enhanced self-esteem for participants.


But programs that bring together young and old are relatively new in Australia. And they need to be more structured with consistent monitoring and evaluation of outcomes, according to Professor Anneke Fitzgerald from Griffith University.


Her team is trialling two models in older adults living with dementia and 3-5-year-old children – one with aged care and childcare in the same location and one in which the groups take trips to visit each other.


The two generations meet for an hour each week over 16 weeks and engage with each other through shared activities.


Preliminary results are positive, with the children and adults expressing “excitement and joy at being able to interact with each other,” according to Fitzgerald.



Planned programs


Fostering appropriate interactions between young and old takes careful planning and facilitation from trained care staff to help build relationships.


But the possibilities are endless, writes Hedd Jones.


They can range from reading a book to craft activities or dancing together. Musicians aged between 6 and 90 years old in New Jersey play together in an orchestra, while in Massachusetts children and older adults work together on environmental projects.



What’s not to love?


There’s no doubt about the psychological and social benefits of intergenerational connections.


Older adults feel valued with an enriched life purpose; young children benefit from increased knowledge and social interaction, and in the process develop positive perceptions of older people.


The programs could also help alleviate the burgeoning costs of an increasingly older population by lowering running costs and sharing resources.




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