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Senior Diet Solutions: Addressing Multiple Health Conditions

CindyJ 7,756 comments

Seniors often have multiple conditions resulting in a thorny diet problem. A good example is the combination of heart problems, diabetes, and renal failure. Heart problems and diabetes call for a for a heart-healthy diet low in saturated fat, loaded with vegetables, fruits and whole grains. But when diabetes leads to renal failure, the patient must keep phosphorous, sodium, and potassium to a minimum. Many meats that are high in protein, fruits, veggies and grains are loaded with potassium, a nutrient healthy for most people…but not those in renal failure. How can you make a healthy diet from what’s left?

 The Contradictions

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) the diet goals of a patient with chronic kidney disease are to limit fluids, eat a low protein diet, and restrict salt, potassium, phosphorous and other electrolytes. Since it’s difficult to get enough calories on a low-protein diet, kidney patients are encouraged to eat lots of high-volume carbs, including breads, cake, honey, hard candy, and pie…foods diabetics should avoid like the plague.

Diabetics are encouraged to drink plenty of water, eat a lot of vegetables, and eat a diet higher in protein and low in processed carbs, basically the same diet recommended for heart patients.

The irony is that diabetes often leads to heart disease and kidney disease, and the only area where the conditions agree is in restricting sodium. The convergence of all these diverse issues is most common in the elderly, because it takes years for diabetes and other conditions to wreak this level of havoc on the body.

Part of the Problem: Confusing Information from So-Called Experts

While researching, I found a page that seemed authoritative called Nephrology Physicians, LLC, and I’d like to use it as an example of how information gathered on the web can be dangerous. The page contains food lists for Kidney and Renal failure. Sounds good, right? But it’s misleading. It’s broken down by nutrient. Consider this sentence from the low phosphorous section, All Vegetables are Low in Phosphorus. Wow, so kidney patients can eat all the vegetables they want, right? I was suspicious. I chose a few random vegetables and checked them in the nutrition data tracker at self.com. Sweet potatoes, for example, had a whopping 950 mg of potassium. That would be disastrous addition to his diet. To add to the confusion, the carbohydrate count might make a diabetic nervous as well, unless he knew that sweet potatoes are high in fiber and low on the glycemic index.

The lesson here is this: Before following any advice found on the web, make sure it comes from an authoritative source. The American Association of Kidney Patients is a great resource, loaded with information.

 Finding a Solution

To solve this problem, I researched low phosphorous foods and then eliminated foods high in saturated fats, sodium, refined carbs, and sugar. Here’s the result:

Veggies: cabbage, cauliflower, beets, carrots, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce, bell peppers, onions, garlic, cucumber, eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, turnips, radishes, and watercress.

Fruits: blueberries, raspberries, apples, cranberries, strawberries, cherries, peaches, pears, plums, watermelon, and red grapes.

Proteins: Turkey breast (not processed cooked at home to control sodium and preservatives), egg whites, and fatty, fish like salmon, albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, and rainbow trout. Limit protein intake to 1 or 2 ounces per serving.

Fats: Omega-3 and omega-6 oils, like olive, canola, sunflower, and flaxseed oil.

Grains: White bread products are on the kidney patient diet, including crackers, white bread, pasta, cake, and cookies. Unfortunately, these things are contraindicated for diabetes patients. Address this problem by incorporating small amounts (for example, one slice of bread per meal or a slice of angel cake with berries for dessert). Whole grain products should be avoided.

Dairy: Dairy products should be limited, especially for pre-dialysis kidney patients. Choose low-fat options, like skim milk, no-sugar-added ice cream, plain, low-fat yogurt, and sugar-free pudding. Limit dairy to two 1/2 cup servings per day.

Sample Meal: While researching this topic, I came across a post on a food site that addressed the potential lack of flavor in such a limited diet. Here’s a tasty recipe for Caribbean chicken and veggie kabobs that meets the restrictions for both diabetics and kidney patients.

Loss of Appetite

Loss of appetite, and resulting weight loss, are common in kidney patients. Here are a few tips to help keep your patient or loved one’s weight up:

  • Small meals, eaten frequently all day. Big meals can be too much for a sick senior, but tiny plates with just a few appetizing bites are less intimidating and easier to swallow.
  • Cold finger foods. Cooking smells often make sick patients feel sicker. Try cold dishes, like a scoop of egg or tuna salad with brightly colored veggies to use as scoops.
  • Add egg white powder or protein powder to cooked foods or drinks to add nutrition.

 Supplements

Anemia is common to kidney patients, and an iron supplement may be in order. If the patient cannot get enough protein through food sources, a protein supplement will help, but check the label very carefully and bear in mind that supplements made for the seniors, like Glucerna and Boost, or protein powders designed for weight gain, are not necessarily formulated for kidney patients and may contain high levels of potassium, sugar, or some other harmful component.

Since grain products are limited, another concern may be getting enough fiber to keep digestion regular. A limited food list is notorious for gumming up the works. Only after consulting a doctor, choose a natural fiber product that has been thoroughly researched and has no known side effects or drug interactions, like brown seaweed extract.

Before taking any supplement, diabetics, heart patients, kidney patients, or anyone with an illness that requires medications should check with a doctor or nutritionist.

Dialysis

Once kidney disease progresses to the stage where dialysis is necessary, diet restrictions ease up a bit and patients usually find their appetites returning, but a healthy diet should still be the top priority for caregivers and patients.

Senior Medical Alert Systems – A Caregiver’s Best Friend

Jess_Greenberg 3,637 comments

For a caregiver, checking on the needs of your elderly patients as well as their safety is a must. This is especially true when you are working as a private caregiver and your elderly patients are staying in their own home or perhaps in the home of one of their kids. Now, dilemma occurs when you have to go out of the house in order to buy their medicine or if you need to buy your food for lunch or dinner. Leaving an injured or sick elderly patient is a no-no, which is why a lot of people have medical alarms installed inside their homes.

Now medical alarms are good for elderly patients who are bed-ridden or are not able to walk around the house. But in my case, I have an elderly patient who loves walking around the neighbourhood during the afternoon and she does so sometimes without my permission. Of course, I’ve already gotten into trouble a couple of times because I didn’t know that she went out to buy a few things from the supermarket. My patient has a delicate heart disease and it would be unthinkable as to what would happen if something happened while I was not around.

Because her children respected their mother’s wishes to be left living on her own, I suggested that they get a medical alert system designed for elderly patients. These look like normal pendants, but in truth, they’re designed to give off an alarm or signal once the button is pushed during an emergency. When the alarm goes off, someone will call the elderly patient through the phone and will connect the patient to the nearest medical facility. The medical alert systems are not just for health emergencies. The elderly patient can also use the necklace in case of fire or any other emergencies.

If ever you are concerned with your parents or grandparents and would like to make sure that they have the means to contact the hospital, the police or fire department during emergencies, then I suggest you try checking out the Internet. There are lots of companies that offer great medical alarm systems so all you need to do is check them out!

How the Whole Thing Works:

Medical Alert systems are just like your home alarm systems but with a twist. Once the medical alarm system is installed within the phone line, the medical alarm company will give you a set of pendants which you will give to the sickly elderly. These pendants have a small button in the middle in which when the elderly presses the button, a distress signal is triggered and sent to the nearest hospital. Most medical alarm systems are designed into pendants so that the old people will just wear it around their neck while walking inside and outside the house. However, be mindful of the radius or distance covered by the pendant as being too far away from the phone line will not activate the alarm once the button on the pendant is pressed.

Checking out the Merchandise!

If you have already decided in getting a good senior medical alert system, you have to make sure that it is indeed worth your time and money. Some of these alert systems may not be for everyone, so it’s important to check the type of medical alert systems that are available for you. In the old days, it was expensive to get a medical alert system because they were complicated to develop and make. But as time went on, new technologies allowed companies to make medical alarms that were portable enough to be carried around by senior citizens.

Also, not all of these alarms are fashioned as necklaces. Some look like bracelets too. The important thing to check is whether the senior citizen will be able to press the button whenever an emergency occurs.  Of course, you might want to talk about it with your old parents or grandparents. Some elderly people do not like carrying these things around their necks or are too forgetful to remember carrying these things around.

Some companies that make these items give free panic button pendants, bracelets and necklaces if ever you choose to lease the equipment within a set period of time. If ever your parents or grandparents are not uncomfortable of wearing this kind of device around their neck or on their hands, just lovingly remind them that this is for their own safety and that you and your siblings and relatives care about their safety as well. As they all say, a crown of grey hair means wisdom, so I’m pretty sure your old parents or grandparents will understand.

About the Author:

Jessica Greenberg is a caregiver from San Diego, California. If she’s not too busy writing about the importance of medical alert systems within her blog, she spends most of her time shopping for good blinds and decors for her apartment or playing with her two cuddly pugs.

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