Food in Residential Aged Care

Recently I was asked, along with my colleague Cherie Hugo, to present a webinar to the aged care industry on food. 

We wanted to put a case for the value of management, nursing, care and food service staff working with experienced aged care dietitians to maintain the quality of the lives of those living in residential aged care with food.

This is not only food that looks great and makes for an enjoyable meal, but also supports the nutritional needs of residents - helping them remain as independent as possible, reducing falls and pressure ulcers and keeping boy and soul together. 

Here is the link to the webinar if you would like to listen. Cherie is up first, then the CEO of an aged care home doing great work in this area and I sum all that up. 

Never too late to ward off insulin resistance and diabetes!

Type 2 diabetes can develop as people age into their later years for many reasons, but one contributor can be gradual loss of muscle. This happens with age but there is lots that can be done to minimise its effects. This study from Brazil showed that training with weights to increase muscle strength in the older adults tested reduced the effects of metabolic syndrome (one aspect of which is insulin resistance and potentially type 2 diabetes). The participants had been taking a medication (a type called  a biguanide) to help avoid the impact of metabolic syndrome and those who had done the training were able to reduce the amount of medication taken - a good sign the increased strength they had experienced was doing more than making them feel stronger and healthier.

Eating more protein and less carbohydrate helps reduce Metabolic Syndrome and Insulin Resistance

This recent study of 245 women over 60 found that those eating proportionally more protein and less carbohydrate in their diets had a reduced chance of having Metabolic Syndrome. This is a syndrome in which the combined effect of a number of health issues, including Insulin Resistance, create significant health risk to individuals, so it's a good thing to avoid.

It's worth remembering that there could be many reasons beyond just the food choices made that contributed to a reduced risk of Metabolic Syndrome: maybe people eating more protein were also more health conscious and doing more physical activity.  Another possibility is that those eating more carbohydrate were getting that from high sugar foods and drinks. In older people sugar in foods is not always a problem in itself, but the most nutrient dense carbohydrate foods are things like potatoes and other starchy vegetables, grain foods and dairy foods - all of which also offer lots of important nutrients that are lacking in high sugar convenience foods, beverages or confectionery: so that could be part of the picture also.

What is clear is that this is more support for a protein food at the centre of every meal - surround that with plenty of colour from veges, salad, fruits, nuts, seeds and grains and you cant go wrong!

Frail or not, everyone benefits from exercise!

Researchers in this paper have looked at both frail and physically stronger seniors and proven that exercise programs are of benefit to all. 

It makes sense of course, but sometimes people think that, for those who have become frail, its too late: that's just not true. That's proven in some good residential care homes where gyms and active exercise programs are encouraged for all residents (yes, there are some great initiatives out there!)  In these forward-thinking care homes, plenty of previously frail residents enjoy great benefits from gyms -  but its always excellent to have the research to back up.

People who continue to stay active into their later years, or who work to regain lost strength no matter their condition to begin with, benefit in so many ways - physically, cognitively and socially. But never forget that eating good protein food along with getting the exercise, and getting enough to assist in maintaining or regaining muscle strength, must also be part of that plan.

This research just proves again that it's never, ever too late!