It is important to be prepared to speak with health care professionals, so they can provide help by offering recommendations, strategies to try, referrals to other specialists, or other forms of assistance. You are encouraged to speak with a health care professional if the person in your care is showing any of the following signs while eating:
- obvious and occasional coughing during meals and/or after sips of fluid
- rapid weight loss or weight gain (in six months or less)
- complaining of pain during chewing or swallowing
The following are some helpful tips on how to communicate with health care professionals.
- Offer detail
- Ask questions
- The more detail you can provide about a change in a person’s nutrition, the more a health care professional can offer different strategies to help.
- Share details like: when did this start, how long have they had difficulty, how much difficulty do they have, what you have tried so far, etc.
- Share the results of the person’s completed Self-Mini Nutritional Assessment (Activity 4.1).
- Writing down and keeping track of weekly weights and meals eaten would be a great tool to help you communicate changes and new issues.
- If you notice issues with chewing or swallowing, explain when and what foods/liquids create problems at home.
- Beyond explaining who you are and the relationship you have with the person, offer details about your caregiving role, the support you provide, and how you and the person you care for would like you to be involved in care.
- Ask for help
- Ask a qualified health care professional who can lead you in the right direction. They will be able to tell you and the person you care for about the services in your community and if they think a referral is needed.
- Look online
You can search for nutritional programs, meal delivery services and social dining clubs by going online and browsing The Healthline – health services for Ontario website.
- more in-depth information on nutrition can be found through Canada’s Food Guide
- A guide to healthy eating for older adults (Dr. H. Keller, Dietitians of Canada, 2012) includes information such as maintaining a healthy weight, eating enough nutrients needed by older adults, staying hydrated, nutrition on a budget, and healthy recipes
- dietitians can help support you through individual counseling or nutrition programs and workshops.
- to speak to a free local dietitian, browse www.dietitians.ca/find
- ask Public Health Units and/or Community Health Centre(s) in your area
- ask your local grocery store(s) to see if they offer appointments with dietitians
- nutritious meals can be delivered to your door: see Meals on Wheels of Ontario from the Ontario Community Support Association or try Heart to Home Meals
Pause and Reflect
Are there any strategies from the nutrition section of this module that are most useful to you in your caregiving journey? Write as many down as you found helpful from this first section of the module in your Reflection Journal.