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Helping Seniors Avoid Foodborne Illness

By Greg Bridges, RN, MA, 8:31 pm on

Foodborne illness is responsible for thousands of trips to the emergency room each year. Also referred to as “food poisoning”, foodborne illness can be extremely dangerous for seniors and in some cases, can lead to long-term hospitalization. Along with the potential problem of fluid and electrolyte imbalances, the weakened immune system of seniors can put them at higher risk for foodborne and bacteria-related illnesses.

To protect the health and safety of your aging loved one and avoid foodborne illness, Oklahoma City Home Care Assistance offers a few things you can do:

  • Encourage Refrigeration – Your parents lived during a time when covering leftovers and leaving them on the countertop or stove was an acceptable practice. Today, we now know that improperly stored foods can be a potential source of illness. Family caregivers should make sure that items are refrigerated if they are not consumed immediately. If your loved one is not planning on consuming the item within a few days, it may be safely frozen depending on its contents.
  • Check Expiration Dates – Your loved one may be reluctant to throw things out or may not be adamant about checking expiration dates. Sometimes, the print may be too small for them to read. If possible, regularly check the expiration dates of edible items, regardless if they require refrigeration or not. You may also want to consider the help of an in-home caregiver who can do this on a routine basis and can also help with nutritious meal preparation. Click here to learn more about home caregivers and how they can help.
  • Know Your Loved One’s Budget – It is important that you are familiar with your loved one’s budget. Seniors on a tight budget may be inclined to buy sale items in bulk while they are cheap or some goods may be purchased because of their reduced price which may indicate the product is nearing the expiration date. When this is the case, it is important that you explain why their purchasing habits may be threatening their health. To help get them on the right track, accompany them on their next grocery shopping trip and help them choose more affordable items.
  • Use a Food Thermometer – Seniors and their caregivers may not use a food thermometer. Meats, poultry and fish that are not thoroughly cooked can cause serious illness such as salmonella. If using a thermometer is not always feasible, the food should be cooked using the recommended times per pound. This can help eliminate food-borne illness as a result of under-cooking.

There are many reasons why a senior may not follow the guidelines for appropriate food storage and preparation. For instance, a senior with limited mobility or chronic pain may not be able to safely prepare meals while a senior with declining vision may no longer be able to drive to the grocery store for fresh produce. After you identify any problems, you can provide them with the support and assistance they need.

For more information about senior nutrition and safety at home, call Home Care Assistance. We provide hourly and 24 hour home care in Edmond and Oklahoma City and have a team of talented and highly trained caregivers who can help with anything from cooking and light housekeeping to medication reminders and transportation. Request free information or schedule a complimentary consultation by calling 405-285-4191 today.