The Surprising Reality of What It Means To Be a Senior Living With Food Insecurity | Avalon Memory Care

The Surprising Reality of What It Means To Be a Senior Living With Food Insecurity

By Jeff Kauffman, Community Liaison

As a community liaison here at Avalon Memory Care, I visit our community members regularly, but one visit, in particular, stands out among so many. As I entered the Allencrest Lane community, the smell of delicious food transported me back to childhood. Like a kid coming home from school to a special treat, I made a beeline for the kitchen to find the chefs making lunch and baking cookies for dessert. There was baked chicken, vegetables, and—one of my grandmother’s specialties—mashed potatoes with the skins for lunch. It looked so good I asked if I could join the residents for a meal. “When will the cookies be done?” I asked. Nurse Olivia laughed and said, “Save room for dessert!”

I met Gary and Linda in the dining room, visiting Louise (Gary’s mother). “My dad died about five years ago,” Gary told me, “so Mom lived alone for a while. We thought everything was fine, but my dad hid my mom’s dementia from us.”

Gary’s mom was home alone most of the time, and with no one to cook for, she stopped cooking altogether. Because she stopped eating well-balanced meals, her dementia worsened, and some days she forgot to eat. “She was wasting away, and you can see mom is not a very big person,” Gary said. “Her skin was pale,” Linda interjects. “And she was tired all the time. Her health took a rapid downturn.”

“The turning point for us,” said Gary, “is when we visited her, and the gas burner was on…for how long, we don’t know. 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 teared up and dabbed at her eyes with a napkin. “Here we were, only an hour away, and she was suffering 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 said. “We were so lucky to find this place. Avalon was just what she needed.”

Hearing stories like this warms my heart when there’s a happy ending like this one. Unfortunately, they don’t all end happily. Widowed people, seniors experiencing memory loss, and those over 75 years old are the people most likely to be living with food scarcity.

Difficulties driving to the store or walking around make shopping difficult. Deteriorating fine motor skills can lead seniors to avoid cooking. Isolation can lead to depression, reducing a senior’s appetite and motivation to cook.

Issues like hunger and inadequate housing are linked to poor health, especially as we age. We often think of low-income seniors when we hear ‘food insecurity.’ But it’s not just a lack of food that creates food insecurity, a lack of nutritious food can cause health problems for seniors. A senior with a processed or fast food diet is just as likely to develop 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 came over to our table carrying a tray of cookies warm from the oven. Gary broke off a piece and fed it to Louise. “Mmmm. That’s so good!” Louise said, and I couldn’t help but smile. “We know how much you love chocolate chip cookies,” Olivia teased.

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

At Avalon, our staff creates a customized healthcare plan for each resident. Our chefs prepare nutritious, home-cooked meals. “They know what Mom likes to eat,” Gary said, “and those things frequently appear on her plate. And they’re healthy foods that I know she needs. Right, Mom?” Louise smiled and giggled 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 nutritious meals to keep them healthy and happy.

Good nutrition that appeals to our residents is only part of our holistic approach to memory care at Avalon. We work closely with families to design a care plan that addresses the whole person, not just their disease.

If you’re interested in learning more about Avalon on Allencrest Lane in Dallas or any other Avalon Memory Care location, please reach out to Holly Bagwell, outreach coordinator, at (469) 693-9543. We would love to learn about your loved one’s journey and help you navigate this challenging time.

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