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Is a Registered Dietitian Part of
Your Home Health Care Team?

By Rita Miller-Huey

Has a registered dietitian ever visited you in your home to talk to you and your loved one about their diet and health? Poorly nourished adults have higher sickness and death rates than those who receive optimal nutrition. There are many contributing factors to our elders possibly being at nutritional risk. Their age and disease condition are major factors. Their appetite and attitude have a huge influence on their nutritional intake, also. If you offer them the finest in healthy food, and they can't or won't eat, it can be a very frustrating situation.

However, it is worth the effort to get creative-or even devious-to ensure optimum nutritional intake. Functional status is decreased as a result of poor nutrition. Studies have shown that about 40% of older adults are not getting adequate amounts of three or more nutrients! The same people experience an increase in hospital admissions and the length of hospital stays. They have more disease complications.

Many of the diseases that folks eligible for home healthcare have, can be impacted by making small but crucial changes in nutritional intake or eating patterns. Persons with cancer, COPD, congestive heart failure, constipation, coronary heart disease, dementia, diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis and pneumonia can benefit from the able counseling and helpful information that a registered dietitian can bring as part of the home healthcare team. It has also been shown that persons who are eating well, are also probably drinking more liquids, thus more likely to avoid dehydration and the debilitation and complications which come with it.

Does your loved one have "unexplained weight loss"? As if it was a mystery that when people lose their appetite and virtually stop eating, they will most assuredly lose weight- and probably rapidly! When this is the case, it is beneficial for the registered dietitian to spend time exploring which foods are the patient's favorites, which foods they continue to eat and which ones they avoid. In this way, the recommendations are tailored specifically for your needs.

A registered dietitian working with your home healthcare team will work with you to individualize the meal plan for your loved one to meet your time and food budgets and preferences for foods. Ask your home health agency today if their dietitian can visit with you to help you do some small things that may help your loved one in a big way.

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