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Why is it so Hard to Feed the Elderly?

Published May 16th, 2014 in Eat for Health

In a country as wealthy as the United States, one in twelve seniors does not have access to adequate food due to lack of money or other financial resources. They are food insecure.

I have several clients who have to make the choice between medication, transportation and food. When faced with a social security payment of eight hundred dollars many elderly women in particular have to make the choice between medications and food in today’s worsening economy. If they are living with dietary restrictions and have a pet the situation may be dire.

These individuals are not the typical welfare recipients; they are the victims of time, age and false promises to take care of you. Some of them are like a family member of mine whose spouse was the income holder and when they passed away so did the retirement income…leaving her with only her social security. Yes this may be the result of poor planing, but how many reading this can throw stones?

Now I’m not one who believes in living on the dole, but when I hear of elderly women losing their food stamps, or having their HUD housing allowance cut because they earned a little extra money at the spring fair or for working a part time temp job, I get annoyed…… One eighty two year old client has to provide itemized lists of medications, and nutrients each month justifying her food assistance; she has a medical file three inches thick for peat sake!

In the Pacific Northwest we are blessed with a climate that allows for an abundance of produce, fruit and agriculture. As a child my mother, aunt and others in the area began planning the garden in January. By August the jars were filling the shelves with jam, fruit, and vegetables. Later when we got our first big freezer, it was filled with meat, fish and other foods. We knew how to be self sufficient, and so did many of today’s elderly. But they no longer have the health or resources to plant a garden on their own any more.

Recent research at the University of Illinois using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) revealed that the seniors who are dealing with hunger are also facing negative health and nutrition consequences.

“In 2011, 8.35 percent of Americans over age 60 faced the threat of hunger — that translates to 4.8 million people,” said Craig Gundersen, University of Illinois, professor in agricultural strategy in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics and executive director of the National Soybean Research Laboratory who led the data analysis on the study.

Hand-in-hand with hunger goes a lower intake of calories, vitamins, and other nutrients, which puts them at risk for a wide variety of ailments. These risks also increase the burden on the floundering healthcare system for falls, dehydration, dementia, fractures, diabetics, and heart disease to name just a few. When given not only adequate nutrition but quality nutrition from locally grown foods, these individuals maintain their independence, health and productivity well into later life, without boxes of prescriptions, repeat hospital and doctor visits.

The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) reported April 28, 2014, “Lower dietary consumption of EPA and DHA”, the active components of high quality fish oil might be risk factors for cognitive decline. There is growing evidence that very long chain omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for maintaining cognitive, heart, nerve and general health. “Intake of fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and trout can help prevent cognitive decline, our preliminary data support previous research showing intake of these types of fish have health benefits,” one researcher said.

In light of the cover Oregon debacle the potential for our elderly to be further compromised seems likely. According to a NPR report Sunday April 27, 2014, “Oregon has been “all in” on health reform. Its embrace of the Affordable Care Act includes a Medicaid expansion, a $2 billion federal experiment to show the state can save money by managing patients’ care better, and, of course, the state’s own online marketplace to sell Obamacare.

Many healthcare providers have reservations on the truth of this, as local medical groups began denying service and medications to patients earlier in 2014, medications such as enhailers, pain medications, and others. This equates into more out of pocket payments for elderly cash strapped individuals.

So Cover Oregon’s board made a choice on Friday. Instead of spending, another $80 million dollars to try and fix its troubled website, it would sign up with the feds for about $5 million and be assured of a working system.

Now for me as an Oregon Tax payer, I question what other ways could that money be invested to benefit our state citizen’s health through sustainable farms, mobile farm markets into low encome housing areas, and honest education about the healing properties of real foods.

Community gardens, where individuals can meet and help each other, socialize and remain connected within their communities. There is so much more that can be done without involving the federal or state governments, it is time for communities to take back control of their health by working together – No One in this State should go hungry, when we have so many resources to help ourselves.

 

To your good health

 

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