A Better Nutritional Drink for Seniors in Hospital

Elderly adults admitted to hospital for any number of reasons can quickly slide into a physical and cognitive decline.  Their routine is upset, they may be exposed to secondary infections and a poor diet can contribute to a downward health spiral for vulnerable older adults.   

But the “nutritional” drinks hospitals and nursing homes often provide to patients who are having difficulty chewing and swallowing or who have lost their appetite are far from the healthy supplements we might imagine. Full of water, sugar and less protein than a cup of greek yogurt, one doctor at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania is seriously questioning the medical community’s approach to providing good nutrition to sick patients. 

Dr. Dave Lieberman knows it’s certainly not going to happen overnight but he’s trying to make positive change, “one patient at a time” as he writes in a recent New York Times article.  And it can begin with a plain, unsweetened yogurt. 

By adding a drinkable, low sugar yogurt, a recent study found hospitals were able to significantly reduce rates of Clostridium difficile ( C. diff) infections among patients.  Probiotics in yogurt can help protect patients on antibiotic drugs against CDAD which an cause severe complications including dehydration, kidney failure and even death if not treated promptly.  According to the Mayo Clinic, the risk for becoming infected with C. difficile is up to 10 times greater for people over the age of 65 and a new, aggressive strain of the bacteria, can be resistant to certain medications.

For caregivers of elderly adults who may be facing a health crisis, instead of stocking up on supplement drinks full of sugar and very little real nutrition, try instead using nutrient dense foods such as full fat greek yogurt, nut milk, avocado, berries, spinach and peanut butter.  A freshly made smoothie can help patients recovering from illness or injury return to health so much better than a packaged drink with a main ingredient of corn syrup.

For more information about what foods to eat to help prevent cancer, fatigue or accelerated aging, check out the New York Times bestseller, The 10 Things You Need to Eat: And More Than 100 Easy and Delicious Ways to Prepare Them, by Anahad O’Connor and Dave Lieberman, here