The senior population is the fastest growing in the United States. We have posted before on the challenges facing the healthcare system as a result of that growth. But the challenges in caring for the largest generation of seniors in our countries history go far beyond the obvious infrastructure improvements. Access to Senior Care and basic human needs like food and health care are also at risk.
Healthcare is addressed in the news media cycle everyday but hardly a mention of hunger. There is a growing population of seniors who face hunger everyday but the reasons vary. For some, physical limitations prevent seniors from getting food into the house. For others the challenge is the ability to prepare the food they need each day. Still there are those who lack the financial resources to buy the food they need to stay healthy.
Malnutrition is a major cause of illness among seniors. A malnourished senior can become weak and is at increased risk for falls. Malnutrition can also make seniors more susceptible to dehydration, and flu as well as exacerbating illness like Dementia and Multiple Sclerosis
So how do you know a senior may be going hungry? Let’s outline some warning signs that should signal the need for help.
Senior Shut In
Everyone knows a senior, who because of age, doesn’t get out of the house much anymore. What we don’t see is that senior’s inability to get food into the house. As a result the senior may have just a couple days supply of food which can be quickly depleted if the situation is complicated by weather or illness.
Further, if the senior can only make short trips to a local convenience store the selection and freshness may be limited. There are options available to seniors who can’t properly shop for food. Local agencies and home care companies have shopping services for those who need it.
Expired Food In the Fridge
Expired canned and dry goods, perishables like milk and eggs are signs that a senior may be having trouble preparing food. It could be that the senior has a disease process like dementia or physical limitations that make the process of preparing food extremely difficult. The layout of the kitchen could also be a factor. A kitchen that served the senior well 10 years ago may not be as efficient now for a handicapped senior.
There are services offered through local agencies that can provide prepared meals or prepared them for the senior. Check with your cities senior service department for more information.
Extreme Weight Loss
If a senior you know has lost an inordinate amount of weight they could be suffering from hunger. There are a couple of reasons for weight loss some of those have been outlined above. But there are other factors. Illness, medications and dehydration can all cause a loss of appetite that can lead to weight loss.
If a senior you know has had an extreme weight loss, contact their primary care physician and schedule and appointment immediately.
If you think a senior you know is struggling with hunger reach out to them. Ask some questions and help where you can or connect them with a community service organization.