Daily Editors' Notes

Food for thought: Maybe actual candy bars would be a better dining option

Share this article:
John O'Connor
John O'Connor

Are you in the market for an agonizingly slow, painful death? In that case, I can't recommend small cell lung cancer strongly enough.

It sure did the trick for my mother, not that she was looking for a miserable endgame. In addition to stealing her ability to breathe, walk and otherwise live normally, it also helped scrape more than 60 pounds off a body frame that could ill-afford the loss.

It was while she was trying to stay above the 100-pound mark (unsuccessfully), that she first encountered dietary supplements. It's fair to say they left a bad taste in her mouth in more ways than one. Her primary complaint was that the taste of these supplements compared unfavorably to, shall we say, fecal matter.

I'm reminded of her experience whenever I see supplements in nursing homes and other senior living settings. It's not hard to see why they have become so common. Weight loss is certainly a serious problem among the elderly. But feeding residents a nutrition supplement drink instead of meals hardly ensures adequate nutrition, much less a pleasurable dining experience.

In recently released Choosing Wisely recommendations, the American Geriatrics Society noted that geriatricians should avoid “using prescription appetite stimulants or high-calorie supplements for treatment of anorexia or cachexia.”

At the organization's mid-May meeting in Orlando, Paul Mulhausen — who led the Choosing Wisely work group — was less ambiguous. He said that the main ingredients in these drinks are water and sugar. Rather than calling them supplements, he referred to them as “liquid candy bars with vitamins.”

So what's to be done? Many experts insist that a far better option is to find ways to help residents eat actual food. A more palatable diet can help. So can providing a more social environment during meal times. And as any aide can tell you, many residents can use a little extra eating assistance.

Unfortunately, many operators find that it's much less of a hassle to pop open a bottle of the old liquid candy bars instead. Yes, there may be times when no other option exists. But supplements should be served as a last resort.

In fact, you might find it helpful to try a glass of the stuff yourself. I'm guessing you'll discover that Mom's assessment wasn't too far off.

John O'Connor is McKnight's Editorial Director.

Share this article:
close

Next Article in Daily Editors' Notes

Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.

    ALL MCKNIGHT'S BLOGS

    More in Daily Editors' Notes

    Butler County should take the addicts

    Butler County should take the addicts

    It's not a secret most county nursing homes are hemorrhaging money. That's why I was intrigued by a Butler County (OH) proposal to allow heroin addicts to stay short-term in ...

    Too late: Change is here for long-term care

    Too late: Change is here for long-term care

    If someone were to complain that long-term care has become a "same old, same old" scene, you might be inclined to agree. Staffing, reimbursement, over-regulation — they're all ongoing challenges ...

    Think you're having a weird day? Take a lesson from the pros

    Think you're having a weird day? Take a ...

    There are plenty of developments that can force you to reconsider the way you do business. Whether it's merger/acquisition fallout, notable court rulings, additional regulatory guidance or legislation being introduced, ...