Nutrition among the elderly- Working together

Apologies for not blogging of late. Thinking of reasons why I have been slack has given me a topic to blog about! -Nutrition among older adults/the elderly (I’ll use these words interchangeably).

Since completing my Masters degree I have been busy working back in my home town at a Residential Aged Care facility as a Personal Care Assistant (PCA). I have been fortunate enough to hold this employment for three years now- which has assisted me financially as well as provided me with an enormous amount of experience working with the elderly.

Whilst on clinical dietetic placement, 80% of my patient load consisted of older people (65+ years). This was quite common across the board for all students, in fact this is quite a common demographic within all hospitals. Therefore I was exposed to many clinical conditions such as malnutrition, pressure ulcers, diabetes, obesity, CVD, CVA, liver, cancer, renal- all of which required important nutritional management.

Similar to my placement I have also been exposed to these conditions in my work as a PCA. Although I haven’t been directly involved in their nutritional treatment, I believe my PCA work has been a tremendous help in consolidating my clinical dietetic skills. For example, I care for many elderly residents with varying levels of dementia. This has helped me communicate with elderly frustration, emotion and aggression, and to diffuse potentially volatile situations.

I have also been exposed to meal times and the need to assist in feeding residents as well as texture modify foods and drinks.

I can now see both sides of what is actually involved in ensuring the nutritional management for older people is carried out. It’s not just as simple as the dietitian putting the perfect nutritional plan into place. For example, It is difficult to feed residents with dementia! And I truly appreciate the catering staff, clinical staff and carers (my colleagues) for the effort and strategies they employ to ensure residents receive adequate nutrition.

I have however heard from staff in my workplace talk of the Dietitian doing this and doing that- not always agreeing with her management. This is difficult for me when this is also my area of expertise.
I believe that we as Dietitians have a role to play in eradicating this way of thinking. And I believe it’s as simple as the following:
1) Communication
2) Being friendly and making ourselves known
3) Making it easy for the clinical staff to help us
4) Educating the clinical staff just as we educate residents/patients.

It’s all about putting in effort to help those caring for the residents to ensure that we receive the help (optimal nutritional care for the older person) in return.

Nutritious food consumption is so important for the elderly. But it’s important to consider quality of life and different cultures. I have cared for many residents/patients who eat minimally and are disinterested in food. So making the experience enjoyable, with a relaxing environment and provision of favourite foods, can really improve quality of life.

I thoroughly enjoy working with the elderly. It is very rewarding and I cherish their wisdom. I’m grateful I have been given the opportunity to be involved with the elderly in different contexts- as a carer and as a dietitian.

I now embark on a new journey, having successfully secured employment as a dietitian. Whilst I will continue my aged care work, I am very excited to start my career as a dietitian.

Looking forward to sharing more stories with you all soon !

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