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Loneliness Among Warning Signs of Nutritional Risk, Home Instead Senior Care Survey Reveals

Loneliness Among Warning Signs of Nutritional Risk

Loneliness –it’s one of the most serious obstacles to good nutrition for seniors. In the United States, approximately 40 percent of the population age 75 and older – 6.7 million people – lives alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. These seniors face significant socialization challenges, particularly when it comes to lack of shared mealtime experiences. The Home Instead Senior Care® network has announced the Craving CompanionshipSM program to help family caregivers focus their efforts on ensuring that older adults have mealtime companionship.

Omaha, NE August 18, 2011 --The warning signs can be easy to ignore. But for older adults living alone, nutritional risks may threaten healthy aging and put seniors in jeopardy of failing to thrive.

That’s why the Home Instead Senior Care® network has launched the Craving CompanionshipSM public education program to bring attention to the risks of mealtime loneliness, which can lead to depression if not addressed. The campaign includes a variety of resources including tips and practical advice to encourage companionship and easy healthy meals.

Two of five seniors who live alone (44 percent) have at least four warning signs of poor nutritional health such as eating alone, illness and taking multiple medications, according to research conducted for the Home Instead Senior Care network.

"Nutrition is certainly a key factor to an individual’s overall health and well-being," said Sandy Markwood, Chief Executive Officer(CEO) of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), whose members coordinate the popular home-delivered meals program, also known as "Meals On Wheels®". "When you see warning signs, it’s indicative of a larger risk.

Following, from the Home Instead Senior Care network and Markwood, are warning indicators that a senior who lives alone could be in trouble and suggestions for ways family caregivers can help.

  1. The loneliness. More than three-fourths (76 percent) of seniors who live alone eat alone most of the time, according to Home Instead Senior Care network research.
    Suggestion: Try to make sure an older loved one has companionship at home or in a congregate meal site.
  2. The multiple meds. Nearly three-fourths (71percent) of seniors take three or more different medications a day,according to research.
    Suggestion: Talk to a senior’s health care team about how medications might be impacting an older adult’s appetite and discuss with them what to do about it.
  3. The lack of healthy food staples. Nearly half (46 percent) of seniors who live alone consume few fruits, vegetables or milk products, the survey revealed.
    Suggestion: In season, why not find an affordable,local farmer’s market? Talk with an older loved one about their favorite recipes that incorporate healthy products.
  4. The illness. Thirty-one percent of seniors in the Home Instead Senior Care research say that an illness or condition has forced them to change the food they eat.
    Suggestion: Adapting favorite recipes from the recipe box and making mealtime a social event may help.
  5. The physical problems. A fourth of seniors who live alone –25 percent –can’t always get to the grocery store any more, nor can they shop or cook for themselves.
    Suggestion: The local Area Agency on Aging office has staff to help and the local Home Instead Senior Care office can arrange for a CAREGiverSM.
  6. That smelly fridge. Check out expiration dates of food in the refrigerator when visiting a loved one. Is food outdated or spoiled?
    Suggestion: Help a senior by packaging food in small portions and labeling in big letters with the date.
  7. The suspicious grocery list. If Mom’s grocery shopping list is mostly sweets, then she may be headed in the wrong direction with her diet.
    Suggestion: Help a parent compile a grocery list. Why not buy the ingredients and make that recipe together?
  8. Those important details. When visiting a senior, check out things like skin tone –it should be healthy looking and well-hydrated – as well as any weight fluctuations.
    Suggestion: A visit to the doctor can help ensure a senior is healthy.
  9. The empty cupboard. An emergency could trap a loved one home for days.
    Suggestion: Prepare by stocking back-up food, water and high-nutrition products such as Ensure® in case a trip to the store isn’t possible.
  10. The support. Isolation is one of the biggest threats to an older adult.
    Suggestion: Encourage a loved one to invite friends to dinner. Or consider getting home care assistance to help your loved one with day-to-day tasks when you can’t be there. Meal preparation and companionship are among the many non-medical services provided by the professional Home Instead CAREGivers.

The Craving Companionship program can provide the support family caregivers need to help their elderly loved ones make the most of mealtimes.


Founded in 1994 in Omaha by Lori and Paul Hogan, the Home Instead Senior Care® network is the world's largest provider of non-medical in-home care services for seniors, with more than 950 independently owned and operated franchises providing in excess of 45 million hours of care throughout the United States, Canada, Japan, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, Switzerland, Germany, South Korea, Finland, Austria, Italy, Puerto Rico and the Netherlands. Local Home Instead Senior Care offices employ more than 65,000 CAREGiversSM worldwide who provide basic support services – assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), personal care, medication reminders, meal preparation, light housekeeping, errands, incidental transportation and shopping – which enable seniors to live safely and comfortably in their own homes for as long as possible.  In addition, CAREGivers are trained in the network’s groundbreaking Alzheimer’s Disease or Other Dementias CARE: Changing Aging Through Research and EducationSM Program to work with seniors who suffer from these conditions. This world class curriculum also is available free to family caregivers online or through local Home Instead Senior Care offices. At Home Instead Senior Care, it’s relationship before task, while continuing to provide superior quality service that enhances the lives of seniors everywhere.