Employer Elder Care Nutrition Toolkit – Benefits for Employees

Therapeutic Nutrition Benefits for Caregivers and Mature Employees

Click on the headers below to expand the sections.


Therapeutic Nutrition Benefits Employees and Their Care Recipients

Caregiving as a Second Full Time Job

If you are providing caregiving help to a loved one or friend, you are not alone. In the U.S. today, families are the primary providers of long-term care in their own homes and communities. Caring for older family members has become a way of life for millions of American—1 of every 4 U.S. households is involved in eldercare, and nearly half (42%) of all employed people have provided elder care in the past five years.1

Most family caregivers, an estimated 2/3rds, also work.2 Caregiving itself is a full-time job. Add to this the responsibilities of a full or part-time job, and it is easy to understand why 29% of employed caregivers report needing help balancing their work and family responsibilities.2


Good Nutrition

Good Nutrition is important for YOU as a caregiver and for your care recipients—your parents, other older family members, your spouse, or a friend. You may need therapeutic nutrition to keep yourself healthy physically and mentally, and to help your care recipients speed their recovery from illness or after hospitalizations, avoid re-admission to a hospital, and forestall the need for residential care in a nursing home. Ask your supervisor for more information about how you can get support through the Therapeutic Nutrition Program for Caregivers and Mature Workers initiative.


Therapeutic Nutrition and Successful Caregiving and Recovery

Nutrition is one of the most basic needs. When you are sick, your body needs extra nutrition as fuel. If a loved one or you yourself do not have enough fuel, your body may break down the protein in your muscles and use that as fuel. This can leave you feeling weak and lead to weight loss, which can:

  • Make it harder to recover from surgery and disease;
  • Make it more difficult to heal wounds;
  • Increase risk for infection;
  • Increase risk for falls;
  • Decrease strength needed to take care of yourself.
  • In fact, good nutrition can lead to an up to 50% reduction in avoidable readmissions.3

If a loved one or you yourself are recovering from a hospitalization or illness consider the potential need for therapeutic nutrition. Therapeutic nutrition provides fuel to help keep muscles strong and help speed recovery. It is a good way for you to care for your own health or that of a loved one. Therapeutic nutrition cannot prevent health problems, but it may help reduce medical care, complications, and hospital stays.


References

  1. Kempthorne D: A Message from the Chairman. National Governors Association. A Lifetime of Health and Dignity Confronting Long-term Care Challenges in America Initiative, 2004. http://www.subnet.nga.org/ci/message.html
  2. National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP: Caregiving in the U.S. 2004. http://www.caregiving.org/data/04execsumm.pdf
  3. Norman K et al. Three month interventions with protein and energy rich supplements improve muscle function and quality of life in malnourished patients with non-neoplastic gastrointestinal disease-a randomized controlled trial. Clin Nutr, 2008;27(1):48-56

Benefits for Working Families

Workplace Support for Caregivers and Mature Workers


Tools and Resources

Click on the headings below to expand them. Learn more about the Federal Medical Leave Act and how to access tools and resources to help you as a caregiver or older worker benefit from therapeutic nutrition.

How Do I Learn More About the Federal Medical Leave Act?


Where Do I Find Information on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Guidance?


What EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES AND TOOLS are available for employees through this initiative?


Where can I find reliable nutrition information about specific diseases?

(Click on the following links for more information.)

Cancer:

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease:

Diabetes:

Heart Disease:

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension):

HIV/AIDS:

Kidney Disease:

Lung Disease and COPD:

Osteoporosis:

Overweight:

Pressure Ulcers and Bedsores:

Sarcopenia:


Since therapeutic nutrition is so important, where can I find a registered dietitian (RD) to help me with my nutrition or the care recipient’s nutrition?

  • The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. At http://www.eatright.org/, click on “FIND A REGISTERED DIETITIAN” on the upper right. Then enter your zip code or other location information. Or ask your physician or other health professional for a referral to an RD. They provide individualized nutrition guidance for you and your loved one. Nutrition services are often covered by health insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Nutrition services are often covered by health insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid.

What PUBLIC RESOURCES are available to help me as a caregiver and for my care recipients?

The Association on Living (ACL): The mission of The Association For Community Living is to create opportunities, build relationships and improve lives for children and adults with developmental disabilities and for others who will benefit from our services.

U.S. Administration on Aging: The government’s primary agency focusing on older adults. Its mission is to develop a comprehensive, coordinated and cost-effective system of home and community-based services that helps elderly individuals maintain their health and independence in their homes and communities.

    • Eldercare Locator: connects you to local services including home-delivered meals, transportation, community centers, etc., for older adults and their families. 1-800-677-1116 (toll-free) or http://eldercare.gov/.
    • Older Americans Act Nutrition Program (commonly called meals-on-wheels): its purpose is to (1.) Reduce hunger and food insecurity; (2.) Promote socialization of older individuals; (3.) Promote the health and well-being of older individuals; and (4.) Delay adverse health conditions through access to nutrition and other disease prevention and health promotion services.
    • National Family Caregiver Support Program Resource Guide Resource Guide

.

National Library of Medicine MedlinePlus

  • Nutrition for Seniors: includes important links to food and nutrition, health topics, drugs and supplements, along with definitions for nutrients including protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals;
  • Caregivers: includes information and links on needed services such as food shopping and cooking, house cleaning, paying bills, giving medicine, eating, toileting, bathing and dressing, providing company and emotional support.

National Council on Aging: NCOA, a nonprofit service and advocacy organization in Washington, DC, is a national voice for older Americans-especially those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged-and the community organizations that serve them. It brings together nonprofit organizations, businesses, and government to help seniors find jobs and benefits, improve health, live independently, and remain active in their communities.

The DASH Diet: flexible and balanced eating plan; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

What other nutrition resources are available to me as a caregiver and for my care recipients?


Where can I find general nutrition information for everyone no matter their age?

Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 –

Authoritative advice about eating fewer calories, making informed food choices, and being physically active to attain and maintain a healthy weight, reduce risk of chronic disease, and promote overall health; updated every 5 years.

Includes special recommendations for older adults for healthy weight, sodium (salt) intake, vitamin B12; other recommendations for those at high risk of chronic diseases such as overweight or underweight, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and others.

MyPlate Food Guide

Based on 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to help consumers make better food choices, it reminds Americans to eat healthfully; illustrates the five food groups using a familiar mealtime place setting.

Other Federal Government Nutrition Websites:


Resources for Caregivers and Mature Employees

Where to Find Information and Resources

Federal and State Family Medical Leave Laws

The Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period for employees who have family care issues, including the need to:

  • Care for a family member (spouse, son, daughter, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
  • Care for one’s own serious health condition.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Fact Sheet #38 outlines the federal employer requirements under FMLA: www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs28.pdf

Additional information on the federal law is available at the U.S. Department to Labor’s Wage and Hour Division website: www.wagehour.dol.gov and from the toll-free information and helpline, available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in your time zone: 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243).

The National Conference of State Legislatures website includes information that summarizes current federal and state laws on family medical leave: www.ncsl.org/issues-research/labor/state-family-and-medical-leave-laws.aspx. The FMLA allows states to set their own standards that are more expansive than the federal law. Many states have chosen to do so and both California and New Jersey offer paid, or partially paid, family and medical leave.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Guidance

In 2007, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance “explaining the circumstances under which discrimination against workers with caregiving responsibilities might constitute discrimination based on sex, disability, or other characteristics protected by federal employment discrimination laws.”

In 2009, they issued a document to supplement the guidance, “providing suggestions for best practices that employers may adopt to reduce the chance of EOE violations against caregivers and to remove barriers to equal employment opportunity.” www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/caregiver-best-practices.html


Since therapeutic nutrition is so important, where can I find a registered dietitian (RD) to help me with my nutrition or the care recipient’s nutrition?

  • The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. At www.eatright.org/, click on “FIND A REGISTERED DIETITIAN” on the upper right. Then enter your zip code or other location information. Or ask your physician or other health professional for a referral to an RD. RDs provide individualized nutrition guidance for you and your loved one.
  • Nutrition services are often covered by health insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid.

Where can I find reliable nutrition information about specific diseases? (Click on the following links for more information.)

Cancer:

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease:

Diabetes:

Heart Disease:

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension):

HIV/AIDS:

Kidney Disease:

Lung Disease and COPD:

Osteoporosis:

Overweight:

Pressure Ulcers and Bedsores:

Sarcopenia (Muscle Wasting):

USDA ARS, Low Protein + Low Exercise = Sarcopenia


What PUBLIC RESOURCES are available to help me as a caregiver and for my care recipients?

The Association on Living (ACL): The mission of The Association For Community Living is to create opportunities, build relationships and improve lives for children and adults with developmental disabilities and for others who will benefit from our services.

U.S. Administration on Aging: The government’s primary agency focusing on older adults. Its mission is to develop a comprehensive, coordinated and cost-effective system of home and community-based services that helps elderly individuals maintain their health and independence in their homes and communities.

National Library of Medicine MedlinePlus

  • Nutrition for Seniors: includes important links to food and nutrition, health topics, drugs and supplements, along with definitions for nutrients including protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals;
  • Caregivers: includes information and links on needed services such as food shopping and cooking, house cleaning, paying bills, giving medicine, eating, toileting, bathing and dressing, providing company and emotional support.

National Council on Aging: NCOA, a nonprofit service and advocacy organization in Washington, DC, is a national voice for older Americans-especially those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged-and the community organizations that serve them. It brings together nonprofit organizations, businesses, and government to help seniors find jobs and benefits, improve health, live independently, and remain active in their communities.

The DASH Diet: flexible and balanced eating plan; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute


What other NUTRITION RESOURCES are available to me as a caregiver and for my care recipients?


Where can I find general nutrition information for everyone no matter their age?

Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 —

Authoritative advice about eating fewer calories, making informed food choices, and being physically active to attain and maintain a healthy weight, reduce risk of chronic disease, and promote overall health; updated every 5 years.

Includes special recommendations for older adults for healthy weight, sodium (salt) intake, vitamin B12; other recommendations for those at high risk of chronic diseases such as overweight or underweight, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and others.

MyPlate Food Guide
Based on 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to help consumers make better food choices, it reminds Americans to eat healthfully; illustrates the five food groups using a familiar mealtime place setting.

Other Federal Government Nutrition Websites:


Talking to Others About Your Need for Caregiving Support

If you are providing caregiving help to a loved one or a friend, you are not alone. In the U.S. today, families are the primary providers of long-term care in their own homes and communities.

  • For every one person living in a nursing home in the U.S., there are two people with similar levels of disability still living in the community.1
  • Family members still provide over 80% of all in-home care to the frail elderly.1
  • The average married couple spends more years caring for elderly, dependent adults than they will children under the age of 18.1
  • Caring for older family members has become a way of life for millions of Americans. Thus it is not surprising that 1 of every 4 U.S. households is involved in eldercare.2

Most family caregivers—an estimated two of every three—also work.3 Caregiving itself is often a full-time job. Add to this the responsibilities of a full- or part-time job, and it is easy to understand why 29% of employed caregivers report needing help balancing their work and family responsibilities.3

Taking care of a loved one is a very personal commitment; it is up to you as to how and when to share with your boss and co-workers what help you need to manage caregiving and work. Some people find it uncomfortable talking about caregiving with their supervisor. However, waiting until there is a scheduling crisis makes it much more difficult to find a solution that works best for everyone.

The unexpected emotional and practical strains of caregiving combined with your job responsibilities can be overwhelming. Your caregiving role is likely already causing you stress and that can impact both your health and your work performance. So be proactive in tackling the challenges and seeking resources and solutions now, before the issues become bigger.

Decide to Have a Conversation

Set up a meeting with your boss as soon as you realize that you are having a hard time managing both your caregiving responsibilities and work. Even if you are not sure exactly the kind of help you need, it is a good idea to start talking to your boss about your role as a caregiver. You need the support of your manager and colleagues-they may have to pitch in to help if there is a caregiving crisis. Talking about caregiving with your boss shows that you want to continue to be a productive employee and help support your team.


Outline Your Request

Think about what you may need day to day to cope with caregiving and then develop a specific proposal that explains your requests. It may be difficult to predict exactly what lies ahead, but begin to identify what you need now and what you may need in the future. If you are asking for more flexibility, think about how you could best help your supervisor and coworkers in return. You are not asking for a favor, but rather an arrangement that will benefit both you and your employer. Remember, your boss may not have much experience in working with a caregiving employee and may not really know what you need. You are seeking an arrangement that helps you remain as a healthy and productive employee. Suggest to your employer to hold employee “brown bag lunch” session four times a year, especially for the resources session. They can call ADRC or AAA’s “caregiver supervisor” to talk about it. Other sections of this toolkit provide employers with resources to support employees and can be a good reference for them as well.

Download this toolkit for additional tips on how to request workplace flexibility.


Consider How Others May View Your Request

Think about how your boss and co-workers may react. Be specific, identify what changes in your work routine will best help you continue to be a valuable employee and member of the team. Identify what you can do to assure your boss that you will stay productive-do you need to schedule regular check-ins by phone or e-mail? When should you schedule follow-up meetings to discuss your plan, its implementation, and how to keep the conversation going? Think about how you can show appreciation to your co-workers for any support they give. Showing that you are mindful of your proposed plan’s impact on both your boss and coworkers increases the likelihood that they will support it.


Educate Yourself

Today, more businesses are offering information and support services for caregivers—like this therapeutic nutrition for caregivers and mature workers toolkit. Sometimes, employers offer such programs, but caregivers may not use them because they are not aware of them.

So, take the step to educate yourself. Find out the specific services your employer may offer, including employee assistance programs, and workplace flexibility programs like telecommuting. Ask about the Family Medical Leave act that can allow you to take time off to care for parents, other relatives, or yourself if you are ill.

Online resources can offer a wealth of information and sometimes employers can help you find support groups too (both on-line and face-to-face). These resources can also be helpful as you develop your proposal to discuss with your boss. Do not be reluctant to ask for the kind of help you need. Families and Work Institute offers a free, online tool kit for employees to help them determine the kinds of work arrangements that will work for them, their employers and coworkers.


References


Identifying Nutrition Problems and Finding Solutions

Poor nutrition is a common problem in older adults and those with chronic diseases. Poor nutrition can happen because of poor eating habits or loss of appetite. It can happen because someone cannot buy, shop for or prepare nutritious food or someone eats alone most of the time.

Poor nutrition can also result from an ongoing illness or medical treatment. It is important to prevent and treat poor nutrition because it can lead to more medical complications and hospital readmissions. This is not good for you or your loved one because greater health problems can make it more difficult to balance your role as a caregiver with your work.

Step 1: Alert the doctor to nutrition problems

As a caregiver, you can help determine when your loved one’s limited interest in food and eating is a more serious problem that needs attention. The two biggest warning signs of poor nutrition are:

  • Eating poorly
  • Unplanned weight loss (recent weight loss without trying).

These warning signs should be talked about every time someone is admitted to a hospital or other healthcare facility. Make sure the doctor or nurse knows right away if your loved one has been eating poorly and/or has lost weight recently.

Other things that can alert you to a possible nutrition problem are:

  • Chewing and swallowing difficulties
  • Taking multiple medicines (often affect appetite)

Again, talk to the doctor or nurse if your loved one has these problems.


Step 2: Ask for a nutrition assessment

In the hospital or other healthcare setting, patients who are identified as having a nutrition risk sign (because of problems like those listed above) should be seen by right away by a registered dietitian for a comprehensive nutrition assessment and development of a nutrition care plan. If this does not happen, ask the doctor for a consult with a registered dietitian.

A comprehensive nutrition assessment looks at the patient’s diseases and medical history, including changes in weight, diet, and potential digestive issues. The nutrition assessment also looks for physical signs of nutrition problems, like loss of muscle or more limited ability to move about and take care of oneself.


Step 3: Ask for a nutrition care plan

After the nutrition assessment finds specific nutrition issues, the dietitian develops a nutrition care plan about how to improve your loved one’s nutritional health. If this does not happen, ask for it. Request specific ways to help your loved one eat better and regain their weight or prevent further weight loss.

Ask for ideas of what can be done in the hospital, as well as what you can do at home to improve their nutrition and help speed recovery.


Step 4: Consider therapeutic nutrition

Therapeutic nutrition—or the use of specific nutrients and food products in the right quantity to help manage a health problem—is a good way for you to care for the health of a loved one. Therapeutic nutrition cannot prevent health problems, but it may help reduce complications, hospital stays, and the need for more expensive medical care. It can be used by itself as recommended by a doctor or registered dietitian, or along with other medical care.


Benefits of Therapeutic Nutrition for Working Family Caregivers

Nutrition is important for people of all ages. However, older adults and loved ones who are chronically ill are especially at risk for poor nutrition. Poor nutrition can happen because of poor eating habits or loss of appetite and decreased access to good or nutritious food because of limited mobility, money, or time. It can also result from ongoing illness or medical treatments.

Poor nutrition increases your loved one’s risk for serious health problems

For older adults and those battling serious illness or chronic disease, poor nutrition or malnutrition can result in the loss of muscle and other tissue, which can:

  • Make it harder to recover from surgery and disease;
  • Make it more difficult to heal wounds;
  • Increase risk for infection;
  • Increase risk for falls; and
  • Decrease strength needed to take care of one’s self.

When these things occur, they can lead to longer stays in the hospital or rehabilitation facility and readmission back to the hospital. This is not good for you or your loved one. These increased health problems can also make it more difficult to balance your role as caregiver with your work.


Warning signs of poor nutrition are common

Unfortunately, poor nutrition is common in older adults and those with chronic disease. As a caregiver, you can help determine when your loved one’s limited interest in food and eating is a more serious problem that needs attention. Warning signs of poor nutrition include:

  • Eating poorly;
  • Chewing and swallowing difficulties;
  • Taking multiple medicines; and
  • Unplanned weight loss.

Therapeutic nutrition can help treat poor nutrition. You will find some information below, more guidance-including nutrition screening tools and tip sheets—is included in other sections in this toolkit. You can also talk to your loved one’s doctor or registered dietitian (RD) for more help.


Therapeutic nutrition helps your loved one heal

Therapeutic nutrition—or the use of specific nutrients and food products in the right quantity to help manage a health problem—is a good way for you to care for the health of a loved one. Therapeutic nutrition cannot prevent health problems, but it may help reduce complications, hospital stays and the need for more expensive medical care. It can benefit you too, because if your loved one has fewer health problems, it may be easier for you to balance your role as caregiver with your work.

Therapeutic nutrition works by making sure that the body gets the balanced mix of nutrients it needs to fight an ongoing health problem. It can be used by itself as recommended by a doctor or registered dietitian, or along with other medical care.

When someone is sick, their body needs extra nutrition as fuel. If they do not have enough fuel, their body might break down the protein in their own muscles and use that as fuel. This can leave them feeling weak and less able to fight infection. Therapeutic nutrition provides fuel to help keep their muscles strong and help them recover more quickly.

Therapeutic nutrition can help other treatments work better and may cut down on the length of hospital stays and reduce costs. Some therapeutic nutrition products are created by nutrition specialists to help in the dietary management of specific health problems like cancer, kidney and lung disease, and other conditions.


Therapeutic nutrition is an area where you can help take charge

Nutrition is a part of your loved one’s health, that you as a caregiver can help manage. What your loved one eats affects how their body responds to medical conditions, hospitalizations, and treatments. You want the best for your loved one, and that includes making sure that they are well nourished. A recent study found that eating a good diet with high amounts of fruits and vegetables and low amounts of saturated fat, as recommended for example in the DASH Eating Plan were the most common health habits of centenarians (those who live to be 100 years and more).1

A healthy diet will help their body stay stronger and this may make your role as caregiver easier. Educating yourself about the nutritional side of a health problem is the first step. The different nutrition information we hear every day can be confusing. It can be hard to separate fact from trend. Like most people, you may have questions about how therapeutic nutrition works. This program can help and gives you lots of specific information. Be sure to talk to your loved one’s doctor or registered dietitian for more information too.


Reference

  1. Vasto S, Rizzo C, Caruso C. Centenarians and diet: what they eat in the Western part of Sicily. Immun Ageing. 2012;9:10.

Benefits of Therapeutic Nutrition for Mature Employees

Nutrition is important for people of all ages. However, as you reach your older years or if you are chronically ill, you can be especially at risk for poor nutrition. Poor nutrition can happen because of poor eating habits or loss of appetite, decreased access to good or nutritious food because of limited mobility, money, or time. It can also result from ongoing illness or medical treatments.

Poor nutrition increases your own risk for serious health problems.

For mature employees and those battling serious illness or chronic disease, poor nutrition or malnutrition can result in the loss of muscle and other tissue, which can:

  • Make it harder to recover from surgery and disease;
  • Make it more difficult to heal wounds;
  • Increase risk for infection;
  • Increase risk for falls; and
  • Decrease strength needed to take care of one’s self.

When these things occur, they can lead to longer stays in the hospital or rehabilitation facility and readmission back to the hospital. These increased health problems can also make it more difficult for you to recover and return to work.

Warning signs of poor nutrition are often common.

Unfortunately, poor nutrition is often common in mature workers who have an acute illness or chronic disease. You need to take action and alert your health care professional if you have any of the warning sides of poor nutrition.

These warning signs include:

  • Eating poorly;
  • Chewing and swallowing difficulties;
  • Taking multiple medicines; and
  • Unplanned weight loss.

Therapeutic nutrition can help treat poor nutrition. You will find more guidance-including nutrition screening tools and tip sheets included in other sections in this toolkit. You can also talk to your doctor or registered dietitian (RD) for more help.


Therapeutic nutrition helps you heal.

Therapeutic nutrition—or the use of specific nutrients and food products in the right quantity to help manage a health problem—is a good way to for you to help take care of your health. Therapeutic nutrition cannot prevent health problems, but it may help reduce complications, hospital stays and the need for more expensive medical care. It can also benefit you by helping you recover and return to work.

Therapeutic nutrition works by making sure that the body gets the balanced mix of nutrients it needs to fight an ongoing health problem. It can be used by itself as recommended by a doctor or registered dietitian, or along with other medical care.

When you are sick, your body needs extra nutrition as fuel. If you do not have enough fuel, your body might break down the protein in your muscles and use that as fuel. This can leave you feeling weak and less able to fight infections. Therapeutic nutrition provides fuel to help keep your muscles strong and help you recover more quickly.

Therapeutic nutrition can also help other treatments work better and may cut down on the length of hospital stays and reduce costs. Some therapeutic nutrition products are created by nutrition specialists to help in the dietary management of specific health problems like cancer, kidney and lung disease, and other conditions.


Therapeutic nutrition is an area where you can take charge

Nutrition is an important part of your own health that you can manage. What you eat affects how your body responds to medical conditions, hospitalizations, and treatments. A healthy diet will help your body stay stronger.

Educating yourself about the nutritional side of a health problem is the first step. The different nutrition information we hear every day can be confusing. It can be hard to separate fact from trend. Like most people you may have questions about how therapeutic nutrition works. This program can help and gives you lots of specific information. Be sure to talk to your loved one’s doctor or registered dietitian for more information too.


Therapeutic Nutrition Tips for Your Loved One to Help Recovery

Nutrition is one of the most basic needs. When a loved one is sick, their body needs extra nutrition as fuel. If they do not have enough fuel, his/her body may break down the protein in muscles and use that as fuel. This can leave your loved one feeling weak and lead to weight loss, which can:

    • Make it harder to recover from surgery and disease;
    • Make it more difficult to heal wounds;
    • Increase risk for infection;
    • Increase risk for falls; and
    • Decrease strength needed to take care of yourself or your loved one.

If a loved one is recovering from a hospitalization or illness, consider the potential need for therapeutic nutrition. Therapeutic nutrition is the use of specific nutrients and food products in the right quantity to help manage a health problem. It provides fuel to help keep muscles strong and help speed recovery and is a good way for you to help care for the health of a loved one. Therapeutic nutrition cannot prevent health problems, but it may help reduce medical care, complications, and hospital stays.

In the Hospital

      • Be sure to talk to the doctor, nurse, or registered dietitian (RD) about any special nutrition needs and how therapeutic nutrition can help your loved one recover. You can also request a nutrition screening and assessment to help identify specific nutrition problems.
      • Often, when your loved one is in the hospital for surgery or other medical treatments, he/she may not feel up to eating very much. But a poor appetite will not help recovery. And this is not the time to lose weight—particularly since the weight loss is often muscle, not just fat!
      • If your loved one is losing weight, talk to the doctor right away and try to identify why your loved one is losing weight.
        • Maybe medications or medical therapies are decreasing your loved one’s appetite or digestion. Ask what changes can be made to help stimulate appetite and help with digestion.
        • Can your loved one easily chew and swallow? Talk to a dentist about how to treat mouth pain or chewing problems. Ask for a referral to a speech pathologist to help with swallowing problems (often called dysphagia)
        • Special diets needed to help treat chronic disease or medical problems may be limiting the foods your loved one really likes to eat. Talk to the registered dietitian about how your loved one’s special diet can be adapted to include the foods he/she most enjoys
        • Are there therapeutic nutrition products like Ensure or Ensure Plus that can be offered between meals to help increase nutrition?
        • Therapeutic nutrition can help other treatments work better and may cut down on the length of hospital stays and reduce costs. Some therapeutic nutrition products are created by nutrition specialists to help in the dietary management of specific health problems like cancer, kidney and lung disease, and other conditions. Be sure to talk to your loved one’s doctor or registered dietitian for more information.

At Home

      • What your loved one eats often affects how his/her body responds to treatment, so it is important to plan for your loved one’s nutrition.
      • At home, your loved one will not be seeing a doctor as often; be alert for signs of nutrition problems like the following and be sure to talk to your loved one’s doctor or health care professional when they occur:
        • Eating poorly
        • Change in appetite or digestion (may occur because of taking multiple medicines);
        • Chewing and swallowing problems; and
        • Weight loss: You may first notice this when your loved one’s clothes no longer fit.
      • When your loved one first arrives home from the hospital, it may be difficult for him/her to shop for and prepare food. Also, your loved one may not have the strength or appetite to eat very much at a meal. Here are tips to help increase his/her nutrition:
        • Plan small meals and snacks (don’t forget bedtime snacks) that are packed with nutrition-make sure everything your loved one eats has plenty of calories and protein.
        • Offer favorite foods and encourage him/her to eat something, even if just a few bites at a time.
        • Prepare and offer foods that are at the right consistency and temperature and look appealing.
        • Try to not have a lot of diet restrictions, if possible (talk to your loved one’s doctor or registered dietitian).
        • If you need to offer bland foods, give them flavor with spices.
        • Encourage drinking plenty of water and other fluids.
        • Offer therapeutic nutrition products, like Ensure® or Ensure Plus®, which can help supplement meals.
        • Encourage daily activity and exercise if possible; this will help increase appetite.
        • Arrange company for meals-you or someone else can offer conversation and encouragement to eat.
        • As your loved one recovers at home, you may no longer always be there to help with meals. Here are some tips to continue to provide good nutrition:
          • Shop for foods that are easy to prepare yet still packed with nutrition.
          • Make sure packaging is easy to open.
          • Provide therapeutic nutrition products, like Ensure or Ensure Plus, which can help supplement meals.
          • Consider hiring outside help: home health aides can shop for food and prepare meals.
          • The Eldercare Locator connects you to local services including home-delivered meals, transportation, community centers, etc., for older adults and their families. 1-800-677-1116 (toll-free) or http://eldercare.gov/.

Therapeutic Nutrition Tips if You Have Been Hospitalized or are Recovering from a Medical Treatment

Nutrition is one of the most basic needs. When you are sick, your body needs extra nutrition as fuel. If you do not have enough fuel, your body may break down the protein in your muscles and use that as fuel. This can leave you feeling weak and lead to weight loss, which can:

        • Make it harder to recover from surgery and disease;
        • Make it more difficult to heal wounds;
        • Increase risk for infection;
        • Increase risk for falls; and
        • Decrease strength needed to take care of yourself or your loved one.

If you are recovering from a hospitalization or illness, consider the potential need for therapeutic nutrition. Therapeutic nutrition is the use of specific nutrients and food products in the right quantity to help manage a health problem. It provides fuel to help keep muscles strong and help speed recovery. Therapeutic nutrition cannot prevent health problems, but it may help reduce medical care, complications, and hospital stays.

In the Hospital

Be sure to talk to the doctor, nurse, or registered dietitian (RD) about any special nutrition needs you may have and how therapeutic nutrition can help recovery. You can also request a nutrition screening and assessment to help identify specific nutrition problems.

        • Often, when you are in the hospital for surgery or other medical treatments, you may not feel up to eating very much. But a poor appetite will not help your recovery. And this is not the time for you to lose weight-particularly since the weight loss is often muscle, not just fat!
        • If you are losing weight, talk to your doctor right away and try to identify why you are losing weight.
        • Therapeutic nutrition can help other treatments work better and may cut down on the length of hospital stays and reduce costs. Some therapeutic nutrition products are created by nutrition specialists to help in the dietary management of specific health problems, like cancer, kidney and lung disease, and other conditions. Be sure to talk to your doctor or registered dietitian for more information.
          • Maybe medications or medical therapies are decreasing your appetite or digestion. Ask what changes can be made to help stimulate appetite and help with digestion.
          • Can you easily chew and swallow? Talk to a dentist about how to treat mouth pain or chewing problems. Ask for a referral to a speech pathologist to help with swallowing problems (often called dysphagia)
          • Special diets needed to help treat chronic disease or medical problems may be limiting the foods you really like to eat. Talk to the registered dietitian about how your special diet can be adapted to include foods you most enjoys
          • Are there therapeutic nutrition products like Ensure or Ensure Plus that can be taken between meals to help increase nutrition?

At Home

        • What you eat often affects how your body responds to treatment, so it is important to plan for your nutrition.
          • At home, since you will not be seeing a doctor as often, be alert for signs of nutrition problems like the following and be sure to talk to your doctor or health care professional when they occur:
          • Eating poorly;
          • Change in appetite or digestion (may occur because of taking multiple medicines);
          • Chewing and swallowing problems; and
          • Weight loss: You may first notice this when your clothes no longer fit.
        • When you first arrive home from the hospital, it may be difficult for you to shop for and prepare food. Also, you may not have the strength or appetite to eat very much at a meal. Here are tips to help increase your nutrition:
          • Reach out to a loved one or friend to help you plan for small meals and snacks (don’t forget bedtime snacks) that are packed with nutrition-make sure everything you eat has plenty of calories and protein.
          • Try eating your favorite foods; eat something, even if just a few bites at a time.
          • Try not to have a lot of diet restrictions, if possible (talk to your doctor or registered dietitian).
          • If you need to eat bland foods, give them flavor with spices.
          • Drink plenty of water and other fluids.
          • Take therapeutic nutrition products, like Ensure or Ensure Plus, which can help supplement meals.
          • Try to be active every day if possible; this will help increase your appetite.
          • Ask family/friends to join you for meals-they can encourage you to eat and make mealtime pleasant by having someone to talk with.
          • As you recover at home, your family/friends may not always be there to help with meals. Here are some tips so you can continue to get good nutrition:
            • Ask them to help shop for foods that are easy to prepare yet still packed with nutrition. It may be helpful to have them stop by once a week or so with food.
            • Stock up on therapeutic nutrition products, like Ensure or Ensure Plus, which can help supplement meals
            • Consider hiring outside help: home health aides can shop for food and prepare meals.
            • The Eldercare Locator connects you to local services including home-delivered meals, transportation, community centers, etc., for older adults and their families. 1-800-677-1116 (toll-free) or http://eldercare.gov/.

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