About the SeniorAdvisor.com 2014 In-Home Innovation Scholarship: We started the scholarship program to bring awareness of the unique benefits and challenges of in-home caregiving for seniors to younger generations. The questions posed by the scholarship encouraged our nation’s future caregivers to present solutions for improving home care in the United States. College-aged students were required to answer one of the three essay topics below and provide a short bio as part of their scholarship application. Read the winning essays here.
How can your major of study improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care services?
Essay response by Philip Magorry, West Chester University
Being a nutritionist will improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care services. The problem is, once the patient goes home from a hospital visit, the last thing they want to do is eat. These patients are tired, sick, weak, in pain and have no desire or appetite to eat. A nutritionist can follow up with the patient to encourage and provide the proper diet as ordered when discharged from the hospital. For example, the hospital physician orders a low salt diet to a cardiac patient before the patient goes home. As soon as he/she gets home, they may stop to get a quick bite to eat or perhaps just open up a can of soup. Whatever the choice, both meals have high amounts of salt in it making these options detrimental to a heart patient. Both meals can cause high blood pressure or edema, which is swelling in the feet. Instead, a nutritionist can meet with the patient at home to plan a healthier meal with items already in their cabinets and pantries or suggest adding vegetables or more water to dilute the canned soup.
Many of the healthier foods are a bit expensive, but teaching the elderly about foods they can purchase that will be within their budget, cost effective to their income and yet, still able to provide nutrition. A one-to-one consultation with a nutritionist is a preventative role, where the nutritionist can provide food based guidance and offer healthier options for a balanced meal.
Some balanced meals need to be prepared with different textures due to a patients needs. It can be in the form of finger foods, whether soft, chopped, or puréed. Hospitals usually provide these meals during the stay but, patients and caretakers will need to know how to prepare and cook at home, especially if the patient has a swallowing problem.
My grandfather was diagnosed two years ago with a swallowing problem known as Barrett’s esophagus syndrome. It is a regurgitation of acid from the stomach into the lower esophagus. I tell you this because my grandfather at 84 years old, does not understand why he needs to change his diet in terms of texture and taste. Spicy foods, caffeine and peppermint irritate the lining of his esophagus and as it becomes weaker, it becomes more difficult to swallow. He has been hospitalized twice thus far, due to eating the wrong foods. I feel that if my grandfather had had a consultation with a dietitian or nutritionist from the beginning of his diagnosis, it would have aided in the prevention of hospital visits.
In-home care means you get the care you need at home. Professional dietitians and/or nutritionists need to be added to the multidisciplinary team to support nourishment and well-being, as well as encourage a healthier lifestyle to all seniors and their families.
Philip is a freshman at West Chester University. He is currently working on a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics/Nutrition.