Seniors and Food-borne Illness

Seniors and Food-borne Illness

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Over the holidays, we tend to gather more as a family, and it usually surrounds food. Perhaps this is a familiar story… you come to town to visit grandpa for Thanksgiving.  He is so happy to see everyone and insists on preparing a pre-turkey dinner snack.  You head to the fridge to help, and there it is: the smell of rot coming from inside the open doors.  Upon further inspection, you discover that most of the contents of the fridge expired last Thanksgiving.  Those rarely used bottles of ketchup and mayo, the brown salad mix purchased with good intentions, and the unidentified leftovers that were forgotten in the back.  Your pre-dinner snack turned into helping grandpa clean out the fridge.

Most all of us have had the unfortunate event of getting a case of “Food Poisoning”. It is miserable and can knock the wind out of your sails for a few days. When it comes to older adults and food safety there are a few things to keep in mind.

As seniors progress into their 70’s and 80’s, a person loses some of his/her sense of smell and taste, which are key protective senses. With those changes it can lead people to eat spoiled food without knowing it.

Many seniors are on fixed budgets and can be EXTREMELY reluctant to throw away food.  This can lead to eating questionable things because they don’t want to waste it.

Younger people tend to bounce back better from food born illness episodes.  Older adults tend to be more prone to having long term consequences than younger adults.


What family can do.

If you have a loved one who is in the older, senior category, look in the fridge when you visit.  Find opportunities to dispose of things that are out of date or going bad. Our care staff is always telling stories of “harry green monsters” that they found in people’s refrigerators.

Keep counters clean with a disinfectant wipe, especially around food prep areas.  This can cut the risk of illness.

Exchange sink sponges or rags (that tend to be breeding grounds for bacteria) for dish brushes.  Brushes will dry out between uses and thus slow bacteria growth.

Our elders have enough challenges, this is one that they should skip!