Memory Loss, Food Scarcity, and How Senior Living Communities Can Help | Avalon Memory Care

Memory Loss, Food Scarcity, and How Senior Living Communities Can Help

By Jeff Kauffman, Community Liaison at Avalon Memory Care

During one of my recent visits to our Allencrest Lane community in Dallas, the first thing that hits me when I walk through the doors is the smell of cookies baking. For a moment, I am transported back to my childhood coming home from school when my mom would have baked a special snack just for me. I walk down the hallway and beeline for the kitchen. I am so excited to see the chefs not only baking cookies but also preparing lunch for the residents. Each plate has baked chicken, vegetables, and—one of my personal favorites—mashed potatoes with the skins, just like Grandma used to make. It looks so good I ask if I can join the residents for a meal. “When will the cookies be done?” I ask. Nurse Olivia laughs and says, “Save room for dessert!”

I sit down in a comfy red chair in the dining room next to a lovely couple eating with one of the residents. I introduce myself, and learn they are Gary and Linda, visiting Louise (Gary’s mother). Gary spoons potatoes into Louise’s mouth, and her eyes light up. “My dad died about five years ago,” Gary tells me, “so Mom lived alone for a while. We thought everything was fine, and that my mom was fine, but it turns out my dad was hiding my mom’s dementia from us.”

Gary says that with his dad gone, his mom was home alone most of the time, and with no one to cook for, she stopped cooking altogether. Because she stopped making fresh meals, her dementia worsened, and some days she would forget to eat. “She was wasting away, and you can see mom is not a very big person to begin with,” Gary says. “Her skin was pale,” Linda interjects. “And she was tired all the time. It’s like her health took a rapid downturn.”

“The turning point for us,” says Gary, “is when we visited her, and the gas burner was on…for who knows how long. And there was very little in her fridge, plus her milk was expired and she typically drinks milk every day.  I was like, ‘Mom, when’s the last time you went shopping?’ but she seemed confused. It was heartbreaking and terrifying!”

Linda dabs her eyes with a napkin. “I mean here we were, only an hour away, and she was suffering all alone. We thought everything was okay. We didn’t know.”

“We didn’t know where to move her and started looking into assisted living facilities,” Gary says. “We were so lucky to find this place. Avalon was just what she needed.”

Hearing stories like this actually warms my heart, when there’s a happy ending like this one. Unfortunately, they don’t all end happily. People like Louise, who are widowed, experiencing memory loss, and over 75 years old are three of the most common attributes of seniors living with food scarcity.

Issues like hunger and inadequate housing are linked to poor health, especially as we age.  When we hear ‘food insecurity’ we often think of low-income when seniors are also at risk. It’s a serious problem for many older adults. Lack of nutritious food sources can lead to health issues like short term memory loss, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. Food insecurity can be even worse if you already have other health issues.

Nurse Olivia comes over to our table carrying a red tray. “Cookie?” she offers, and we all gladly take one. Gary breaks off a piece and feeds it to Louise. “Mmmm. That’s so good!” Louise says and I can’t help but smile. “We know how much you love chocolate chip cookies,” Olivia teases.

It’s hard not to get emotional in these moments, seeing how well Louise is doing now, and how healthy she looks. If her family hadn’t noticed her lack of food or decided to take action and move her in to our senior living community, I’d hate to think about how her health could’ve spiraled even more. Our residents are like family to us, and we want the very best for them.

At Avalon, our staff create a customized healthcare plan for each resident. Our chefs prepare nutritious, home-cooked meals. “They know what Mom likes to eat,” Gary says, “and those things frequently show up on her plate. And they’re healthy foods that I know she needs. Right, Mom?” Louise smiles, and even giggles a little. I know she’s feeling happy, secure, and well-fed.  Meeting residents like Louise validates that we are doing our jobs right–making our residents feel at home by providing them with nutritious meals to keep them stay healthy and happy.

If you’re interested in learning more about Avalon on Allencrest Lane in Dallas or any Avalon Memory Care location, please reach out to me. I would love to learn about your loved one’s journey and help you navigate this challenging time. To learn more about all that Avalon has to offer call me at 214-668-3758.

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Granddaughter | Arlington, TX

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