Articles and Information from GA Foods

Can Home-Delivered Meals Improve Your HCAHPS Score?

Posted by Mary O'Hara on Feb 15, 2017 12:00:00 PM

Hospital-Post-Discharge-Meals.jpgThe Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) is the survey used to measure patients’ perceptions of their hospital experience. The survey asks discharged patients 32 questions about their recent hospital stay. Patient perceptions and experiences directly impact your facility’s Medicare reimbursement

Patient satisfaction is a top priority. You can no longer focus only on patient procedures, diagnoses, and outcomes. You must consider how pleasant and comfortable the patients’ hospital stay is.

A positive hospital-patient relationship can instill trust and loyalty, which results in higher HCAHPS scores. A hospital’s reputation in the community may influence consumers, who have choices in their healthcare. It’s estimated that 67 percent of patients select where they want to go for medical care. 

Shifting Priorities

 “The patient experience in healthcare is ultimately the human experience," states Jason Wolf, PhD., president of the Beryl Institute. Research from the Beryl Institute shows: 

  • Patient experience remains a top priority around the world and throughout the continuum of care. 
  • Organizations are investing in providing a great experience for patients.  Currently, 42 percent of healthcare institutions have a chief experience officer role. In 2013, that number was only 22 percent, and the trend is growing. 

In 2013, one of the main goals of hospitals was to reduce noise. The focus has shifted now to making the following top priorities:

  • Service
  • Communication
  • Patient voice
  • Compassion
Hospital employee engagement programs are growing. Engaged employees are a key factor in driving a positive patient experience.  Every interaction with a patient matters. 

Care Transitions

Your transitional care plan can add to the positive experience for your discharged patients. The HCAHPS survey includes questions relating to care transitions:

During my hospital stay, staff took my preferences and those of my family or caregiver into account in deciding what my health care needs would be when I left.

Some things to consider before your patients return home: 

Will your patients have access to nutritious meals at their home? Weight loss and poor nutrition intake can delay the healing and recovery process. This could result in longer, more challenging recoveries, and in many cases, relapse and readmission.

Do patients have family members to assist with grocery shopping and preparing hot meals? Preparing meals can be difficult for those recovering from a hospitalization, surgery, or illness.

When I left the hospital, I had a good understanding of the things I was responsible for in managing my health.

Patients will have a more positive experience of their stay if they feel the hospital still cares about them after they are discharged.

Are they aware of any dietary restrictions they may have?

Does their health plan include a post-discharge home-delivered meal benefit? If it doesn't, many hospitals are now providing meals post hospital discharge. This benefit is another way to boost the patient experience. Post-hospitalization programs that include the management of nutritional status and depression may reduce hospital readmissions. 

Nutrition care is a key component to improving patient outcomes. Malnutrition is one of the greatest contributors to hospitalizations and readmissions. 

Home-delivered meals can help extend a positive experience beyond your facility. Patients who receive home-delivered meals after hospitalization regain their strength and energy faster. Well-nourished post-discharge patients are less likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge.

Providing post-discharge meals can help ensure a smooth transition from hospital to home. 

Download White Paper: Transitional Care: Is Your Model Missing a Key Component?  

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Topics: Home Delivered Meals, Senior Health, Healthcare Cost Reduction, Healthy Home Delivered Meals, Post Discharge

Beyond the Sneaker - Home-Delivered Meals

Posted by Mary O'Hara on Feb 8, 2017 11:00:00 AM


Silver Sneaker.pngSeniors have many choices when selecting Medicare Advantage health plans. Many plans include supplemental benefits like vision, dental, and fitness plans.

But, what do seniors really want from their health plans? They want benefits that help them maintain their independence and stay in their own homes. For many seniors, preparing meals after a hospitalization may be difficult. Many don’t have families who are nearby.

What do Members Look for in Supplemental Benefits?

In today’s market you need to ensure you’re providing the best member experience – while keeping an eye on the bottom line.

  • Home-delivered meals can reduce hospitalizations by 50 percent.
  • Members who receive home-delivered meals after a hospital stay regain their strength and energy faster.
  • Studies show nutrition assistance like home-delivered meals can reduce the occurrence of falls in the frail and elderly by up to 60 percent.

Members like having a home-delivered meal benefit. In fact, 92 percent of home-delivered meal recipients report this benefit gives them the independence they want.

Nutrition care, in the form of home-delivered meals after a hospitalization or as part of chronic disease management, maximize member outcomes, while reducing healthcare costs.

Nutrition care:

  • Promotes faster, more complete recoveries
  • Reduces risk of complications
  • Provides crucial support to patients with poor access to healthy foods
  • Improves overall health and quality of life
  • Decreases odds of further hospitalizations due to injury
  • Enhances management of chronic diseases

Home-delivered meals can help improve patient outcomes after an acute stay. Members with chronic illnesses will appreciate the ease and convenience that home-delivered meals provide.

Home-Delivered Meals Can Improve Star Ratings

Offering home-delivered meals as a benefit may lead to more satisfied members. This benefit may mean better star ratings for your plan. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will use 2017 star ratings to determine the bonuses it will pay to insurers in 2018.

McKinsey & Co. determined the top three domains that influenced scores. Take a look at how home-delivered meals can help boost your ratings:

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Health plans that added post-discharge meals and chronic disease management meals to their supplemental benefits saw a 3:1 return on investment.

Offer your members a benefit that will make your plan standout from the rest!

  Download White Paper - Reduce Healthcare Costs and Improve Patient Outcomes with Post Discharge Meals


    

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Topics: Home Delivered Meals, Senior Health, Medicare, Medicaid, Healthy Meals for Seniors, Senior health plans

Can Home-Delivered Meals Attract Members to Your Health Plan?

Posted by Mary O'Hara on Jan 6, 2017 9:59:35 AM

Baby Boomers.jpgNo one does their homework before buying better than a baby boomer. Just like buying a car or shopping online, when faced with the decision to select their health plans, research is a top priority.

Before choosing a Medicare Advantage plan, today's seniors are exploring all of their options. They take their time to compare healthcare plans and ask their friends and neighbors for recommendations. 

Today's Seniors Want More
Health plans with dental, vision, and gym membership benefits are more attractive to baby boomers. Boomers know that eating healthy and staying active are ways to prevent chronic health conditions. They are a generation of optimism, exploration, and achievement. Health and wellness, community involvement, and individual choice are key values. And they know eating well can help them to stay active. 

Baby boomers understand the importance of good nutrition. Home-delivered meals can make a benefit package more desirable. Sixty-five percent of boomers say they are living in the best homes of their lives and plan to stay. Their goal is to remain independent in their homes. Ninety-two percent of home-delivered meal recipients report this benefit gives them the independence they want.

Why Home-Delivered Meals?

Up to 60 percent of older adults may become malnourished during their hospitalization, which can lead to increased readmissions.  Preparing meals can be difficult for those recovering from a hospitalization, surgery, or illness.

  • Adequate nutrient intake through meals help seniors regain their strength faster.
  • Studies show nutrition assistance like home-delivered meals can reduce the occurrence of falls of the frail and elderly by up to 60 percent.
  • Weight loss can result in a 26 percent increase of the risk for hospital readmissions.   

Meals as a Benefit

Adding a home-delivered meal benefit to your plan will help you attract more members. And healthier members leads to reduced healthcare costs. Check back next week for an article on improving your star ratings! 

Download our eBook for more information.

Download 9 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Home-Delivered Meals Provider

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Topics: Home Delivered Meals, Senior Health, Medicare, Medicaid, Healthy Meals for Seniors, Senior health plans

5 New Year's Resolutions Caregivers Should Not Make

Posted by Mary O'Hara on Dec 29, 2016 2:00:00 PM

 

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  1. The New Year provides an opportunity for new beginnings! The secret of making resolutions is to keep them reasonable. Don't place unreachable goals on yourself. Think of things you can do to change for the better and to make your life easier.

    Resolve for 2017 to take better care of you! To keep more balance in your life, here are five things you shouldn’t do:

    1. Over Schedule Your Time. 

  2. It’s important to not let others take advantage of your time and kindness. Schedule time to enjoy hobbies and pursue your interests. Consider finding a reliable person a few hours a week to provide respite care, giving you some free time. Professional respite care is also available for longer periods of time. Providing companionship for your loved one will give you a break, making you a better caregiver.

    2. Neglect Your Friends.

  3. Caregivers need to maintain a network of support and friendship. Friends can offer words of encouragement, and provide a sympathetic ear. They may also gain wisdom from your caregiver experiences. Activities with friends such as taking a walk, meeting for coffee, or just talking can provide a fresh perspective.

    3. View Everything As A Chore. 

  4. Caregiving will become less of a burden and more about spending time together if you connect with your loved one. Ask them about their life experiences, including the joys and the struggles. Sharing memories and family history will strengthen your connection and enrich your life.

    4. Do Everything Yourself. 

  5. Review what tasks you can outsource or delegate. Hire a cleaning or yard service to provide more free time. If you spend a lot of time preparing meals for your care recipient, consider home-delivered meals. There are local agencies (check Eldercare.gov) that offer home-delivered meals targeted for seniors. Many Medicaid and Medicare health plans cover the expense of home-delivered meals.

    5. Forget to Reward Yourself.  

  6. Being a devoted caregiver doesn't mean forgetting about your needs. Eating well and getting enough sleep aren’t luxuries! Besides staying healthy, it’s necessary to feel good about yourself. Visit your hair stylist, manicurist, or spa to look and feel your best. A well-deserved treat makes for a happier you!

    Congratulate yourself on all the things you do each day! 

  7. Wishing you a Happy New Year from the GA Foods family.

    Want to learn more about caregivers? Download our free infographic.

Profile of a Caregiver

 

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Topics: Home Delivered Meals, Senior Health, Caregivers, Healthy Meals for Seniors

The Causes of Malnutrition in Older Adults

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Apr 27, 2016 11:00:00 AM

While we often hear about children in our society not having access to a proper diet and measures being taken to try to improve their condition, we do not hear as much about the issues facing our older adult population. The fact is, as many as 50-percent of seniors are at risk for shortcomings in their daily food nutrient requirements. Evidence-based research has produced some startling facts that build a case for working to overcome malnutrition in seniors.

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The Staggering Costs of Undernourished Older Adults

You are likely aware that malnutrition in seniors will impact their health and well-being, however, it may surprise you to learn that in the United States alone, over 50 billion dollars is attributed to the cost of disease-associated undernourishment in the aging population annually. While chronic health conditions can cause a nutrient deficiency, malnutrition also leads to more health complications, falls and hospital admissions in older adults. It is a dangerous cycle that must be stopped. Some more statistics that may astonish you include:

  • One of every two seniors are at risk of malnutrition
  • A 300-percent increase in healthcare costs is linked to undernourishment in older adults
  • Up to 60-percent of seniors hospitalized suffer from the result of malnutrition 
  • Malnutrition can increase a hospital stay for a senior by as many as four to six days

Considering the relatively low cost of ensuring adequate nourishment, it is vital that we do what we can to prevent malnutrition in seniors.

Adequate Income not the Only Way to Defeat Malnutrition in Seniors

Malnutrition in seniors is not relegated only to those with low incomes. There are several underlying causes of undernourishment in the aging population.  Most can be categorized as physiological, sociological, psychological or pathological.

Physiological Causes

During the aging process, many changes occur in the body that contribute to decreased appetite and a lack of interest in food:

  • A decrease in both the senses of taste and smell lower the desire for meals
  • Diminishes in taste and smell may lead to increased salt and sugar intake and lower the desire for adequate variety of food choices
  • Slower gastric function and decreased acid production delays emptying the system
  • Lean body mass decreases, further slowing metabolism and hunger 

While these changes are a natural progression, being aware of them and watching for signs is critical in preventing malnutrition in seniors.

Sociological Causes

Aging is difficult for many to accept and can have a serious effect on the sociological factors involved in seniors' eating habits:

  • A reduced ability to shop for and prepare food
  • Fixed income and socioeconomic status may affect food choices
  • Impairment of life skills and activities
  • Being alone at mealtimes

Outwardly you may not realize these are all factors in undernourishment, but in this class there are attainable solutions.

Psychological Causes

Concerns in this category run deeper than the social aspect of decreased appetite and should be addressed with a medical professional as soon as they are suspected:

  • Depression and a general attitude that life is meaningless
  • Loneliness and isolation
  • Grief over the loss of a spouse or friends
  • Life events that are emotionally stressful

Armed with understanding, combating undernourishment in seniors due to psychological concerns can be improved quickly through emotional support and proper medical attention.

Pathological Causes

The final category of causes is another that requires medical intervention and if symptoms are observed, should be addressed as early as possible:

  • Problems with the teeth and jaws
  • Alcoholism
  • Difficulty with swallowing
  • Underlying disease such as cancer, diabetes and thyroid issues
  • Dementia 
  • Medications that interfere with digestion or hunger

Again, these are all causes that should be addressed by a medical professional as early as possible to mitigate the effects of malnutrition in seniors. 

How We can Overcome Malnutrition in Seniors

While we we may not be able to eradicate undernourishment in all seniors, armed with this information, you can be sure your loved ones or older adults in your care are not at risk for malnutrition. Some tips include:

  • Regular nutritional assessments and follow-up on any prescribed treatments
  • Spend time together, particularly at mealtimes whenever possible
  • Consider a prepared meal service to combat apathy or poor food choices
  • Try to help your senior loved-one stay as active as possible, both socially and physically

One senior at a time, we can all help prevent malnutrition in our older adult population by focusing on those under our care and understanding the underlying causes. 

The more a senior has access to healthy foods and all of life’s necessities, the easier it will be to age-at-home. For more information on choosing a home-delivered meals provider, download our free ebook:

Download 9 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Home-Delivered Meals Provider

 

 

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Topics: Malnutrition in Elderly, Home Delivered Meals, Senior Health, Nutrition Care

Home-Delivered Meals for Seniors: Why Use Frozen?

Posted by Frank Curto, PhD and Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Apr 6, 2016 11:00:00 AM

TV-Dinners.gifMany senior nutrition programs are moving away from the traditional model of delivering hot meals daily to
delivering frozen meals weekly. If the idea of frozen meals conjurs up images of TV dinners from the 1960's, we are talking about something entirely different. Today's meals meet strict nutritional guidelines and are actually targeted for older adults. Here are the facts:

1.  Frozen food has the same, if not better, nutritional value as fresh foods. 

Frozen produce is not harvested until fully ripened. Fresh produce is harvested before reaching peak ripeness, so it can ripen during transportation and storage. This means nutrients do not develop to full potential.  However, frozen produce is allowed to ripen before being picked. The mature fruits and vegetables contain high levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Frozen foods are flash-frozen immediately after being harvested. This process assures there is minimal nutrient loss when processing the foods. Hot and chilled meals are subjected to light and heat during transportation and storage, causing further nutrient loss. Frozen meals can be transported and stored without compromising nutrient content.

2.  Maintaining the cold chain with frozen home-delivered meals is the most reliable method of assuring food safety.

Although there are multiple causes of foodborne illness, improper temperature control is a common failure point in many segments of the food service production and distribution chain. The “cold chain” process has emerged as the most reliable method of assuring food safety. With this method, food is maintained at temperatures that prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and pathogens that are responsible for the majority of foodborne-related illnesses.  Maintaining the cold chain process from the time of production until consumed is the best way to protect seniors from foodborne illness. For more information on foodborne-illnesses in seniors, click here.

Using frozen meals also allows delivery routes, particularly in rural areas, to be extended without compromising food safety. Hot meals have a much shorter delivery window. Drivers have to ensure meals are not exposed to improper temperatures and allowed to spend time outside of the food safety "danger zone." 

3.  Food quality is more appealing with frozen home-delivered meals.

Food held at hot temperatures also keeps bacteria from growing. However, hot food begins to deteriorate over time, affecting appearance, aroma, flavor, and texture. Food becomes mushy, overcooked, discolored, bitter, and dried out. Also, nutrient loss is greater with hot meals. Frozen meals are flash-frozen immediately after being cooked, locking in their great quality, taste, and nutrition. Freezing also allows seasonal foods to be available year round.

4.  Frozen home-delivered meals offer more flexibility and autonomy for the seniors. 

Home_Delivered_Meals_LR.pngFrozen meals are delivered to the homes 2 to 4 times per month, freeing up the senior's schedule. This allows them to select the meal they want to eat - when they want to eat it. Daily, hot home-delivered meals require the senior to be home every day at a specific time. There is no flexibility for scheduling doctor and therapy appointments. These meals are also selected for the senior, taking away their autonomy.  

Weekly deliveries of frozen meals allow nutrition programs to better utilize their resources and serve more seniors. In place of daily meal deliveries, many programs have their volunteers make social visits or phone calls to their recipients. This makes the seniors and their families feel more secure, knowing someone is regularly checking on them. 

If you'd like more information on selecting a home-delivered meal provider, click here.


Download 9 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Home-Delivered Meals Provider

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Topics: Fresh vs. Frozen Home Delivered Meals, Nutrition, Home Delivered Meals, Senior Health

5 Myths about Healthy Foods

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Mar 2, 2016 10:00:00 AM

If you've glanced at a magazine or online health site lately, you've probably been bombarded by the term 'superfood'. This is a term that is bandied about haphazardly, and often misunderstood, causing people to overeat (or just simply eat) the wrong foods.

There is no true scientific definition for the term 'superfood'; it is just a term that the nutrition world came up with to signify a food that is full of nutrients that keep the body healthy. While there are many foods out there that are good for you, you should never focus on just one, especially if you are focusing on it simply because it’s part of a current craze.

Here are five myths about healthy foods that you can learn from:

1) Coconut Oil: You have probably heard a great deal about coconut oil. It's been touted as a cure-all for nearly everything that ails you. Unfortunately, while coconut oil has been called a 'healthy oil', it is actually very high in saturated fat. While most people claim that it is okay to substitute this oil in everything from baking to frying to sauteing, as it is a medium-chain triglyceride (which would make it a less damaging form of saturated fat), there is no significant research to back up this claim.

Many experts still say that cooking with olive or canola oil is better, as they have the lowest amount of saturated fats.

healthy_meals.jpg2) Egg Whites: For years it seems you have heard conflicting information when it comes to eggs. One study says don't eat the yolks, the next study says eat the entire egg. Today, the science seems to have come to a consensus: eat the yolks, folks!

Once upon a time, yolks were removed because they are high in cholesterol, but not today. Today, nutritionists agree that without the yolks, you lose half the benefits of eggs. The yolk contains all of an egg's fat-soluble vitamins; vitamins A, D, E, and K. Yolks also contain a number of other nutrients, such as choline and selenium.

3) Granola: Granola may have a reputation as a healthy food, but it is actually loaded with calories, sugar and fat. If you've ever added granola to your diet and started gaining weight, it is probably the culprit. For granola lovers, don't worry, you don't have to cut it out of your meal plans entirely, just eat it (like all things) in moderation.

4) Kombucha: One of the newest buzzwords in the health and nutrition market is kombucha. Kombucha is a black tea that is fermented with yeast, bacteria and sugar. The hype is that it can detox the body, give you more energy, improve your digestion, and even enhance your immune system. The truth? There is no proof for any of this. Studies show that it does no more for you than yogurt or popping a probiotic pill.

senior_meals.jpgIt's also important to note that there have been some contamination issues with kombucha, involving bacteria and fungus, which can be very dangerous or anyone with a weakened immune system (such as older people, very young people, or pregnant and nursing mothers).

Remember, there are plenty of teas out there that are very healthy, with their health claims backed by science. Teas contain flavonoids which will help reduce your risk of heart disease.


5) Veggie Burgers:
While they may not be enjoying the heyday that they once did, veggie burgers are still around, and many people believe that they are a healthier option than fresh meat burgers. Not so. Most veggie burgers that you buy in your grocer's freezer section are heavily processed and have ingredients included that you cannot pronounce.

If you must eat a veggie burger, make sure to read the ingredient list and opt for ones with less ingredients (the more minimally processed choices). But if you were simply eating veggie burgers to save calories, opt for a fish-based burger, a turkey burger, a ground chicken burger or a lean red meat burger. Typically these will offer you more nutrition, fewer chemical additives, and fewer calories.

Variety is the Spice of Life

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans stress variety. Remember that no single food can provide every single nutrient that your body needs to function properly, so your best bet is to eat a variety of healthy foods.

If you are looking for healthy meals delivered, look to GA Foods. Download our free eBook to learn more about selecting a home-delivered meals provider. 

  Download 9 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Home-Delivered Meals Provider

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Topics: Nutrition, Home Delivered Meals, Healthy Lunch

Food as Medicine for Chronic Disease Management

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Feb 24, 2016 10:00:00 AM

chronic_disease_management.jpgMany older adults, especially those who are homebound, do not receive adequate balanced meals, which are important for managing chronic conditions such as diabetes and are vital for disease prevention. Unfortunately, proper nutrition and diet sometimes takes a backseat to other steps in disease management, but it should never be overlooked. The body needs to receive the right balance of calories, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fats, and proteins from food in order to function well. Food as medicine is not a new concept, but a good diet should be taken seriously and be a top goal to help ensure better quality of life.

Good Nutrition can Reduce Medical Costs

It is well known that diets too high in sugar, salt and saturated fats lead to poorer health. In addition, most of these diets also lack the fiber, vitamins and minerals essential for healthy physiological functions. Nutritional deficiencies can cause many types of health problems such as a weakened immune system, bone loss, muscle weakness, anemia, balance issues, fatigue and confusion. All of these health issues can influence, directly or indirectly, the number of times you end up in your doctor’s office or even the hospital.

A better food plan can prevent problems before they begin in addition to reducing symptoms of chronic ailments. Better nutrition can improve cholesterol, improve blood pressure, bone strength and joint health, and diminish other problems you might experience with age. When you eat a better, balanced diet, your physician may be able to lower your dosage of certain medications, which can save money.

Whether or not balanced meals are used as part of chronic disease management or disease prevention, there is a lot of evidence that using food as medicine in this way can reduce your healthcare costs.

Healthy home delivered meals are one convenient option for ensuring better nutrition. This takes the guesswork out of meal planning and eliminates the stress of searching for healthy, easy meals at the grocery store.

Finding Meals to Meet Special Dietary Needs

Food plays a very strong role in controlling certain diseases, such as diabetes. Eating the right foods, and the right amount of foods, helps keep blood glucose levels as stable as possible. In addition, a diet rich in nutrients and low in sugar and bad fats promotes a healthy weight and helps prevent or treat other diseases common to diabetics, such as heart disease.

For anyone who has mobility problems or difficulty cooking, having diabetic meals delivered is easier than trying to maintain a balanced diet on your own. You will be more likely to stick to the meal plan prescribed by your doctor and resist reaching for supermarket convenience foods, which are often loaded with hidden sugars.

Packaged dinners and similar foods, including canned soups, are also typically high in sodium. Restaurant food usually scores no better. If your doctor has prescribed a low sodium diet, it is very important to avoid excess salt. Sodium increases blood pressure and this affects many organs, including the heart. It makes the heart work much harder. Reducing sodium not only helps relieve some symptoms but can also help you live longer. Those who need a sodium-restricted diet should consider having low sodium meals delivered, which makes it easier to stay on track.

The Importance of Nutrition Post-Surgery

The concept of food as medicine is especially clear in light of healing after an operation. The body needs extra calories, vitamins and minerals after surgery to promote wound healing and boost the immune system. Without sufficient protein and other nutrients, your post-surgery recovery can be delayed or you might experience extra complications, such as infections.

Treating food as medicine is one of the best things to do during the convalescence period. However, many post-surgery patients don’t get the right nutrition once they leave the hospital. This is usually because of fatigue, limited mobility, and lessened appetite. Cooking healthy meals is often the last thing on the patient’s mind. In this situation, home delivered meals are a way to fill this nutritional deficit and offer comfort and peace of mind by eliminating worry about getting a proper diet.

The elderly are more at risk for nutritional deficits than most of the population. This is due to reduced appetite, reduced mobility, reduced income and emotional factors, such as depression. Good nutrition fuels the body with the natural, necessary ingredients it needs to fight illness and increase overall well-being. A healthy diet should always be a part of an older adult’s care plan.

To learn more about the impact of nutrition on your health, download our eBook:

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Topics: Home Delivered Meals

Tips for Preventing Malnutrition in Seniors

Posted by John Siegel on Jan 27, 2016 10:48:43 AM

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John Siegel is the VP of Business Development for GA Foods.  He has extensive experiencworking with healthcare organizations to optimize benefits provided to their members. Contact John at 954-732-6886 or jsiegel@gafoods.com to learn how your organization may benefit by providing these well-received services.

It may seem unbelievable, considering the abundance of food in the U.S., but malnutrition is a very real problem among the elderly. It’s estimated that as many as one out of every four senior citizens suffers from poor nutrition. This can have a serious negative impact on health, from lowered immunity to slower wound healing and exacerbation of existing diseases. It can lead to loss of weight and muscle strength, making daily activities more difficult and increasing the likelihood of falls.

Seniors with poor nutrition make more visits to doctors, hospitals, and even emergency rooms, and their stays are almost twice as long as those of well-nourished patients. Healthcare professionals and other caregivers should be aware of the warning signs for sub-optimal nutrition as they are in an ideal position to coordinate solutions with family and other caregivers before patient discharge.

Warning signs of poor nutrition

Poor nutrition can be a result of many things, from difficulty chewing or swallowing to lack of money for buying food. Being aware of the situations that can lead to malnutrition, and the warning signs that a patient or family member is suffering from poor nutrition is an important part of senior care. If your patient or family member is experiencing any of the following issues, they may be at risk:

Decreased appetite – Reduced appetite is often part of the aging process itself. The ability to taste also declines with age, making food less palatable. Decreased appetite may be a side effect of certain medications, or a symptom of depression.

Unplanned weight loss – This is usually a loss of muscle, not fat. This may be as obvious as the numbers on the scale when the person is being weighed, or you may simply notice that clothes are too loose.

Difficulty swallowing or chewing – Loss of teeth, poorly fitting dentures, or mouth pain can all cause difficulty when eating. This may also be a symptom of cognitive issues.

Chronic illness – Those on special diets for conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, etc. may need help with managing their diet. Special diets such as these may also exclude foods the patient prefers to eat and they may need help adapting their eating patterns.

Recent hospitalization – Lack of appetite is a common aftereffect of illness or injury. While still in recovery mode, the patient may not feel like eating or have the energy to cook.

Fatigue or limited physical function – For some, going shopping for groceries is too tiring. Going to the store, picking out foods, and bringing them home may require more energy than they have to give. Likewise, cooking a meal may be too exhausting for some. Age-related loss of muscle may limit their functional capabilities, putting both these activities beyond their reach.

Minimizing malnutrition among the elderlySeniors.png

It may be difficult for those who are lacking food and most at-risk for malnutrition to ask for help, even when they have supportive friends and family; for those with no support system, the problem is even worse. They may feel that they have no options, or be ashamed of their situation. Opening a discussion and talking about the subject in a non-judgmental and unpatronizing way can be very beneficial. You can then suggest strategies for dealing with some of the more common food-related issues listed above, such as:


Eating several smaller meals per day, including snacks, and increasing activity to stimulate the appetite

Including favorite foods in meals

Using spices to flavor foods—particularly helpful for those with decreased sense of taste, or people who are restricting their salt or sugar intake

Asking family or friends to help with shopping or/and meal preparation—this may be a particular problem for those with limited support, and in some cases home health services may be available

Inviting family or friends over to eat once or twice per week—not only does this provide the opportunity to check in and keep tabs on the patient’s well-being, it also provides social interaction and helps stave off depression

Looking into home-delivered meal service—some health plans cover this type of service, and many home meal delivery services are free or charge on a sliding scale. You can use eldercare.gov to help locate services in your area. For information on how to receive home-delivered meals, click here. Providers offer varying levels of service, from one meal per day to several, and at different costs. GA Foods offers nutritionally sound “heat-and-eat” or shelf-stable senior meal options.

Caring for the elderly is a community effort. Those in caregiving professions play an important role, not just in healthcare, but in making sure that the day-to-day needs of one of our most vulnerable populations are met—and adequate nutrition is high on the list of day-to-day needs.

 If you are a health plan or other health care organization
and want more information, click below:

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Topics: Malnutrition in Elderly, Home Delivered Meals, Chronic Disease Management, Senior Health, Food Insecurity, Food Security Impact

Aging in Place: Home-Delivered Meal Options

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Dec 2, 2015 9:00:00 AM

Aging in place allows seniors the benefit of remaining in the familiar environment of their own home and maintaining more independence. While assisted living centers and nursing homes provide security and medical care for those who need it, aging in place is a better option for many. Resources like meal delivery help seniors remain independent at home for as long as possible. Here is what you should know about meals for seniors.

prepared_meals_for_seniors_LR.pngNutrition and Senior Health

Although most seniors need fewer calories than their younger counterparts do, the nutritional quality of their diet should increase. With age, the body has more difficulty absorbing nutrients, and this means older adults are more prone to malnutrition. In addition, many health issues, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, will worsen if the diet is poor.

Prepared meals for seniors can provide balanced nutrition to facilitate better health and well-being. Many older adults who suffer from fatigue or mobility problems find it difficult to continue cooking nutritionally balanced meals on a daily basis. In the absence of wholesome delivered meals, some resort to eating processed foods that are easier to cook but are high in sodium, sugar and fat.

Decreased appetite is also common in the elderly and can make cooking a meal feel like an unwelcome chore. These seniors might be tempted to skip meals unless meals are delivered directly to the home.

Special Diets

When choosing meal delivery, consider any special dietary needs. Program options vary from location to location, even with well-known meal delivery organizations, so make sure to ask which dietary options they offer. Most can accommodate seniors with low-sodium and low-sugar dietary needs, but not all supply special diets for other health issues or for religious and ethical dietary needs. Discuss the options with many delivery services to see which service is the best fit.

Home_Delivered_Meals_LR.pngDelivery Options

The number of daily meals required influences the delivery options and providers you should choose. Seniors who only need one hot meal a day and can make their own sandwich or breakfast at other times might wish to choose a program like Meals on Wheels.

Other options include programs that periodically deliver a selection of heat-and-eat meals, like our SunMeadow® brand frozen and shelf-stable meals. These are prepared meals that can be heated in a microwave at the senior’s convenience. Unlike processed meals from the grocery stores, these specially prepared meals for seniors are nutritionally balanced.

Cost

Cost of prepared meals for seniors varies, but many programs offer the service on a sliding scale basis or for free. Free home-delivered meals are available through various agencies, including those commonly referred to as Meals On Wheels. Program participation criteria vary from state-to-state and, sometimes, between different case management offices based on their funding requirements and plan design.

To identify the agency that can determine your eligibility,
call 1-800-677-1116 or visit www.eldercare.gov. On the eldercare.gov site, interested individuals can search for services by location based on zip code or city and state. We recommend searching based on zip code, particularly in large metropolitan areas who may be served by multiple agencies. Locate agencies listed in the search results that have “Nutrition Programs” or “Home Delivered Meals” in their description. Contact those agencies directly and request home delivered meals service from GA Foods.

The more a senior has access to healthy foods and all of life’s necessities, the easier it will be to age-at-home. For more information on choosing a home-delivered meals provider, download our free ebook:

Download 9 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Home-Delivered Meals Provider

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Topics: Nutrition, Home Delivered Meals, Senior Health

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