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How to Plan a Nutritious Menu Your Elderly Residents Will Love

As people age, their nutritional needs remain the same, but a healthier diet has been shown to reduce the risks of many conditions common to older people, such as diabetes, bone loss and stroke. Eating well can help patients with existing conditions manage chronic conditions by keeping blood sugar steady, and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.

Caloric needs change from person to person depending on age, sex, level of physical activity, and other factors. Finding the right balance of activity, nutrients, and calories can result in a longer life with more energy and fewer complications.

Great food choices have a remarkable effect on how the body works. The right amount of fiber and fluid can make digestion easy and comfortable, which will reduce bloating and lessen chances of constipation, gas, or other uncomfortable issues.

Small Changes Make a Big Difference

Aging means increased risk of heart disease, dementia, and chronic disease. It’s more difficult to recover from injury and falls are common. Healthy changes include reducing sodium and saturated fats, and adding antioxidant-rich foods, calcium, and fiber.

Herbs are surprisingly nutritious. Substitute fresh parsley, oregano, cilantro, basil, and other varieties for salt add flavor and nutritional value.

Organization and Planning / Public domain

Meticulous planning can be tedious, but it’s a great way to keep costs down while taking advantage of seasonal produce and readily available supplies. Meals should be based on quality and nutrition, considering feedback from patients and insight from team members involved in all aspects of food service. Consult with your team’s dietitian during the planning stage to ensure the meals meet the health and regulatory needs of the patients and the facility.

One of the main goals of healthcare menu planning is cutting waste. In the past, few choices were offered and a lot of food landed in the trash, leaving diners undernourished, underfed. and unhappy. By eliminating foods your charges dislike and offering an array of choices, you allow people to make healthy choices they really want to eat.

Respecting their choices shows elderly residents they have a voice, and that the people charged with their care do care. Build in flexibility to tweak the menu as you go, adding more popular choices and cutting down on dishes that add nothing to the experience.

Addressing Multiple Dietary Issues

One of the most challenging aspects to menu planning for elderly residents is addressing dietary restrictions for people with multiple health conditions. An alarming percentage of elderly patients in long-term care facilities have nutritional deficiencies.

Get creative with the food by adding combination vegetable and fruit smoothies for picky eaters, offering tasty low-sugar cream pies made with yogurt or ricotta cheese and dressed up with colorful berries loaded with fiber and antioxidants. People who have trouble chewing or swallowing will appreciate the thought that goes into delicious soft treats and you’ll have the satisfaction of making sure they get the rainbow of vegetables and fruits they need to stay healthy.

Some residents will have delicate digestion issues. Nausea or other side effects from medications can be difficult to address. The patient may not want to eat at all, or may only agree to something inappropriate like banana pudding or chocolate milkshakes. Be ready with down-home favorites updated with nutrition supplements and healthier ingredients.

Cultural Uptake

We live in such a richly diverse culture today that restricting your menu to one type of cuisine may prove a boring mistake. Consider the regional cuisines popular in the area where the facility is located and the age and various ethnicities of your residents. You may need to create healthier versions of old favorites, but nothing is more appealing than food you grew up with. Don’t underestimate the power of cooking smells. Stimulating the senses with memories of home of youth will also stimulate your diners’ appetites.

A Feast for the Eyes

Once you’ve detailed your new menu, consider presentation. A colorful display with an array of healthy choices, fresh fruit and vegetables, and aromatic hot foods will help your residents react positively to mealtime. Even unappetizing pureed meals can be presented in an attractive way. Butternut squash soup swirled with just a bit of creme fraiche and garnished with a sprig of fresh basil looks less like something an invalid is forced to eat and more like a gourmet entree.

Making the Change

Offering more choices, creative menus, and fresher foods may require an overhaul of your entire healthcare food service process from the way you order to the way you serve. It will be worth it. Excellent food and response to patient wants and needs makes everybody happy, including staff, patients, and patient families.

The VA Nutrition and Food Services made the switch, and the results have been dramatic and impressive. One of the most successful implementations of the new VA attitude towards food service can be found at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center. The staff reports that less food is being discarded and patients are making far more healthy choices on their own when given choices they actually want to eat. The hospital has invested in new carts with cold and hot compartments and a serving station. Foodservice workers take the patient’s order and plate right on the spot, giving restaurant quality meals in a bedside setting as opposed to the old method of plating in a central kitchen far from patient floors and then delivering dozens of lukewarm, no-choice meals to an entire ward at once.

Even with a limited budget and a program mired in tradition, the VA foodservice has broken from the past to address a new, more savvy generation of baby boomer vets who are accustomed to a different lifestyle and a fresher outlook on institutional meals.

Bio: Sherry Gray is a freelance writer from Key West, FL. She writes about medical, science, college and business topics. Connect with Sherry on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Caring for an Elder with Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial Fibrillation (also known as A-fib) can be difficult to understand and plan a life caring for another around. Understanding A-fib and the dangers involved with the disease can help you center your care on an elder’s needs. / CC BY-SA

A-fib is an irregular heart rate that usually causes the rest of the body to receive reduced blood flow. The upper chambers in the heart tend to beat out of time with the lower chambers. A person can have occasional or chronic A-fib. Occasional or paroxysmal A-fib is marked by symptoms lasting from a minute long or an hour long before returning to normal. On the other hand, chronic A-fib means that the person’s heart chambers are always out of sync with each other and symptoms may last much longer if left untreated. This can lead to serious complications, even though A-fib is not deadly in itself. Here’s what you need to know as a caretaker.

Many things can cause Atrial Fibrillation

There are several conditions associated with A-fib. The following things may cause A-fib:

  • viral infections

  • stimulant use

  • overactive Thyroid

  • stress

  • chronic lung diseases

  • sleep apnea

  • high blood pressure

  • heart attack

  • congenital heart defects

  • unusual heart valves

  • prior surgery on the heart

The symptoms

Although some sufferers of A-fib may not experience any symptoms at all, people with A-fib will experience chest pain, heart palpitations, decreased blood pressure, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, confusion and weakness.  If you ever hear a patient discussing how they feel a fluttering or pounding feeling in their chest accompanied by dizziness they need to get checked for A-fib. It is more common in senior citizens as the likelihood of developing A-fib increases with age. Too many cases go undiagnosed which is dangerous.

Deadly Complications

Stroke is a serious complication that can arise from A-fib due to the blood pooling in the upper chambers of the heart. Pools of blood can easily form clots that then travel through the bloodstream, and into the brain where they do serious damage. An ischemic stroke happens when the blood flow to the brain is cut off because of a clot. Without oxygen, the nerve cells in the brain will die with no chance of restoration. 75% of strokes are due to blood clots which makes ischemic strokes the most common type. About 20% of strokes in the U.S. are caused by A-fib. Approximately 70% of sufferers of A-fib who also suffer a stroke die because of it.

If anybody is showing signs of stroke call 911 right away and seek medical attention as soon as possible. Even just one symptom is reason to be concerned. Note the time that symptoms began so you can give this information to healthcare providers. Every second counts to be able to prevent permanent brain damage and disability.

Heart failure can also be a result of A-fib. As time passes, untreated A-fib will weaken the heart to the point of exhaustion.

Medication to prevent stroke

Coumadin (Warfarin) is an anticoagulant (blood thinner) that has dangerous side effects including internal bleeding. If a patient is taking Warfarin it is important to have regular blood monitoring performed by a doctor. While it is dangerous because it may cause internal bleeding, there is a reversal agent for Warfarin, so the risk is a bit lower than some others.

Pradaxa (Dabigatran) doesn’t require a doctor monitor your blood, and is as successful as Warfarin in preventing blood clots but this medication is not for those with an artificial heart valve. Many find it quite unsettling that Pradaxa lacks a reversal agent and therefore has a much higher risk for fatal internal bleeding, which has triggered many lawsuits.

Knowing about treatment options

It’s possible to fully relieve the irregular heart rhythm by taking care of underlying conditions, but each case is different and a doctor may need to reset the heart rhythm.  A doctor can reset the rhythm using a procedure called cardioversion which can be done either an electrical shock to the heart or with medication.

Surgery might be necessary if cardioversion doesn’t work. There are two main surgical procedures that control A-fib including Radio Frequency Catheter Ablation and Surgical Maze Procedure. Both stop the atria from sending irregular electrical impulses to the ventricles either by using a pacemaker or simply altering the pathways of electrical current by creating scar tissue.

Consult a doctor

Advise an elder with any symptoms of atrial fibrillation to see a doctor. It can be diagnosed by an electrocardiogram worn by the patient monitoring the heart. The symptoms may be another heart arrhythmia or A-fib, but it’s always important to listen to the body and get help when needed.

I’m Madeline Ferdinand. Two years ago my mother had a stroke, and I became fascinated with cardiovascular health. I care for my mom at my home where we constantly snack on almonds and drink tea.

Retirement Communities in Boca Raton

A Down Payment on Your Parents’ Future

My father is incredibly important to me. He’s been a valuable part of my life at every stage – from childhood to adulthood. So, after my father went into the hospital this last time, we both realized that it was only going to be a matter of time before he couldn’t live on his own anymore. My mother passed away a few years ago, and my dad always said that he didn’t want to move in with my wife and I and put extra pressure on us. We talked about our options, and we all agreed that a senior living community that would still allow him to be active and involved was the best way to go.  Even though we had concerns that he would not totally be on board with this idea, we all knew deep down that this was the right thing to do, not only for dad but also for us.  We were concerned for his safety and we only wanted what was best for him.

Fouquier ॐ / / CC BY-NC

We visited several senior living communities in Boca Raton, but when we heard about Sinai Residences, we knew that it was the one for us. Opening in 2015, it’s shaping up to be a world-class community, and since we enrolled early as Charter Club members, we got early bird prices that are unbeatable. Plus, the timing works out perfectly. Dad is still pretty independent for the time being, but the doctors say that in a couple of years he’ll definitely need some on-site assistance.  We were not looking for your stereotypical nursing home.  Dad wasn’t going to be in bed all day, and he wanted to be able to socialize with people his own age in a comfortable environment.  Even though we knew the day was quickly approaching that he would need more assistance, we wanted him to enjoy the final years of his life and not be locked up in a lonely home all by himself.

One of the things that I liked best about this senior living facility is that they offer personalized attention at all different levels of care. At first, I know that my dad will just need a little help here and there, but as time goes on he’ll need different levels of care, and different services, and with this facility offering them all in one location, I know that he won’t have to uproot himself and head to some other community or housing at a later date. I sleep a little better, knowing that he’ll have a home that he can stay at for as long as he needs, and where he’ll get the best care possible, all tailored personally to him.  In the past, we’ve had family members that have started living at one facility only to be moved to more of a nursing home environment as their health declined.  We made it a point to find a senior care facility that could change with his needs, and allow him to stay there as long as he needed.

Their Assisted Living Center is in a beautiful residential setting, and has private and spacious apartments available that can be furnished to his tastes. Plus, their team will work specifically with my father’s needs, rather than trying to pigeonhole him into some pre-arranged plan. And they keep my wife and I in the loop, with regularly scheduled meetings with him and us to help ensure that we’re all on the same page. They’ve even got Memory Care Assisted Living Residences that are designed to complement and enhance cognitive abilities.  The more we learned about the different programs available to us, the more we liked what we were hearing.  This seemed to be a place dad could not only safely live but also thrive and enjoy life.

They also offer all the usual amenities that we’ve come to expect, in a resort-style community on 22-acres of lushly landscaped grounds, which my dad really appreciates. But I think what we both appreciate most is the peace of mind and security that we feel, knowing that we’ve put a down payment on his future by reserving him an address at quality facility that he liked today.  Placing your loved one in other people’s hands is a decision we did not take lightly.  We wanted to feel comfortable with our decision, but mostly importantly we wanted dad to agree with us and support the move.

The author of this article, a writer living in Fort Lauderdale, showed his aging father the Sinai Residences of Boca Raton retirement community because of their personalized attention, on-site assistance, and their private and spacious apartments.

CPR & Comfort Care: Which is Best for Your Elderly Loved One?

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, commonly known as CPR, is a classic element of first aid. This method combines rescue breathing, chest compressions, and oftentimes electric shock delivered using a defibrillator. The aim of CPR is to start a heart that has stopped beating and to restore breathing (which in turn allows oxygen to reach the brain). CPR saves livesthere’s no doubt about thatbut it does not come without a certain degree of risk.

Originally developed during the Korean War as an emergency procedure for soldiers injured on the battlefield, CPR may not be the most appropriate choice for every patient. CPR often results in broken ribs and can also cause a collapsed lung or punctured spleen. Even among generally healthy adults, only 15-20% of those who receive emergency CPR will survive to be discharged from the hospital. The unfortunate truth is that those numbers are dramatically lower for the elderly, especially those who suffer from more than one ailment and those beyond the age of 75.

Physicians, patients, and the family members of elderly loved ones are oftentimes divided about whether or not to administer CPR, or to opt instead for comfort care. Comfort care focuses on relieving pain and discomfort, rather than prolonging life. There is no one right answer to this question. Instead, open dialogue is the best way to handle these difficult choices, especially when the conversation occurs before an emergency situation arises.

Below are some questions to consider when discussing whether CPR or comfort care is best for your loved one.

Are any of the following truean answer of yes indicates a higher chance of survival with CPR:

  • patient is under the age of 75;

  • patient is generally capable of performing routine self-care;

  • patient was previously diagnosed with an abnormal heart rhythm;

  • patient is experiencing respiratory arrest only (there is still a pulse);

  • patient has no serious preexisting medical conditions?


Are any of the following truean answer of yes indicates a lower chance of survival with CPR and comfort care may be a good alternative:

  • patient is over the age of 75;
  • patient is mostly dependent on others for care;
  • patient suffers from one or more preexisting medical condition;
  • patient has a terminal illness;
  • patient has a history of bone density loss?


Of course, it is important to consult with a trusted physician when discussing how to best care for your loved ones. Many families also choose to involve a member of the clergy. This can keep anxiety levels at a minimum should your loved one require emergency attention.

If you have not discussed preferences with your loved one and you find yourself in a situation that demands quick action, do your best to survey the patient. This chart is a helpful reminder of what you should look for and what you should do based on your observations.

If there is an elderly loved one in your life, you may wish to enroll in an online Basic Life Support (BLS) course. Doing so will equip you with the knowledge and skills to administer CPR and to improve your loved one’s likelihood of having a positive outcome. I received my certification when my mother-in-law became ill and knowing that I was prepared in the event of an emergency helped me to relax and focus on providing her with the best care possible. BLS certification endorsed by the American Heart Association is available from

Shanon Raynard has worked in emergency medicine for eight years. She believes that access to better information leads to better, healthier lives.


Your Elderly Relative: When to Know If It’s Time for a Nursing Home

When you have an elderly relative in your life, you probably have a lot of amazing memories with that person. However, you might also be experiencing some sadness at seeing him or her age. One of the important parts of caring for your aging loved one is knowing when caring for them become too much. How can you tell if the time has come to have that person moving into a nursing home? The following are a few ways to know if your loved one should move to a nursing home.

Living Alone

If your relative is not living by him or herself, then the chances significantly decrease that the services of a nursing home are necessary. When another person is in the house, at least an individual is there to let in the aids, convey information to the nurses who come to the house and call 911 in case of an emergency. However, if the other person or people living there are also declining in age, then you might need to consider the option of a nursing home. In addition if your loved one is living alone, you might consider having them go to a nursing home.

Elderly people living alone could lead to a variety of problems. The classic concern is if your loved one falls and is unable to get up. Without someone at home, he or she could lay on the floor for hours or longer, unable to move. Another concern is personal care. At times, a person who is aging has trouble caring for him or herself. The person may forget to take medication, may have trouble cooking or may even have trouble bathing. If you are concerned about your loved one who is living alone, it may be time to consider a nursing home.

Family is Far Away

Even though you have a close relationship with this individual, you live quite far away. On top of that, no one else is really close-by anymore. As a result, this person cannot easily get help from a family member or friend if an emergency occurs. Even simple tasks, such as going shopping or paying bills, can be aggravated for a person suffering from disease or other forms of declining health.

Like the previous point, if your loved one lives alone while family members live far away, he or she may not be able to care for him or herself. In addition, if an emergency happens, your loved one may have trouble doing what he or she needs to do.

Lack of Social Interaction

You should also pay attention to the social interactions your loved one has. No matter how old a person is, he or she still needs to have communication with peers, according to a nursing care facility Columbus. When no one else is around, a nursing home can actually be a majorly positive experience. This person might find a whole new sense of life that once seemed to be lost.

While an elderly person living alone often becomes less social, a nursing home can help facilitate friendships among its residents. Nursing homes often have bingo and other game nights. In addition, many of the residents eat their meals together, allowing them to interact with one another.

Request to Go

In many cases, people do take a lot of convincing before they will go to a nursing home. However, in other scenarios, a person will realize what is happening and actually request to go. Do your best to meet the wishes of your elderly relative. Make sure you talk with your loved one about the decision. If he or she does not want to make the move to the nursing home, find out why. Sometimes, adjusting to a new environment can seem daunting. If you show your love and concern for them and explain the reasons you think it is the time to make the move, your loved one will understand where you are coming from. Even if your loved one does not agree with you, he or she will know your opinion is coming from love rather than not wanting to take care of him or her anymore.

Having to place someone in a nursing home can be difficult, but the decision is often the best one. Nursing homes offer an available staff 24 hours a day seven days a week. Nursing homes also offer medical helps that can be hard to gave at home. Nursing home staff can be sure to give your loved one the proper medications. If your loved one has a habit of wandering, the staff can keep a close eye so he or she does not get lost. As you look into various nursing home options, make sure you do proper research to find the right fit for your loved one.