About the SeniorAdvisor.com 2014 In-Home Innovation Scholarship: We started the scholarship program to bring awareness of the unique benefits and challenges of in-home caregiving for seniors to younger generations. The questions posed by the scholarship encouraged our nation’s future caregivers to present solutions for improving home care in the United States. College-aged students were required to answer one of the three essay topics below and provide a short bio as part of their scholarship application. Read the winning essays here.
How can your major of study improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care services?
Essay response by Thomas Merrow
As a student studying dietetics, food and nutrition have become my world of focus. University nutrition programs teach students human anatomy and physiology, the science behind the effects of nutrients on human health, and how to practice and successfully treat patients in a clinical nutrition setting. Although these skills are very valuable, they must be put to use in a way that result in healthy friends, family, and neighbors that are well cared for. Although there is great enthusiasm toward providing food security and nutritional stability for seniors, more must be done to ensure nutritional programs are well managed and proper nutritional advice is provided to in-home care senior patients.
How can the field of nutrition improve the lives of seniors across America? Nutrition graduates across the country are proactively aiding seniors by providing them services that ensure all seniors are receiving proper nutritional foods to promote health and wellbeing. Some services offer precooked meals for those who can no longer cook as well as food services which bring food to the seniors’ house. As a nutrition student from Maine, we are one of the highest food insecure states, and unfortunately, many of the nutrition programs are underfunded. Programs that deliver in-home care, such as Meals on Wheels or Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Programs, are necessary food supplement programs for many disabled or food insecure seniors. Without these services, many of our seniors would not know where to turn to for nutritional aid. Investing toward in-home care services as well as nutrition programs that train students to provide healthy meals will allow seniors to meet their nutritional needs and create a stable senior community.
Nutrition students are those who provide education toward preventing disease as well as mitigating illnesses through nutritional therapy. The famous line from Hippocrates states “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. The movement toward fighting disease with nutrition generates a secure health care system with stable in-home care service. This means less emphasis on pharmaceutical intake and a greater emphasis on diet education. Nutrition professionals have been diligently trained to provide patients with self-healing techniques through nutritional management. Most seniors are on a pill supplemented diet which may distort the natural chemistry of the body. Nutritional experts understand food-drug interactions and are capable of both explaining the science of nutrition as well as providing seniors with a nutrition plan-of-action for the current disease state or ailment. If in-home care was to increase in popularity and support, there would most likely be an increase in overall health and wellbeing in our senior population. In-home care services utilizing nutrition therapy and nutrition education will improve the health of seniors as they age.
In summary, our health care field is changing rapidly and a new emphasis on preventative disease management will be the norm if it isn’t already. Pharmaceutical based therapy is important but should only be utilized when necessary. Major treatment goals of a pill-based diet are now being replaced with nutrition therapy for better health outcomes and minimal side effects. Students studying nutrition are going to be the experts on how to personalize a healing program. As technology advances, soon Registered Dietitians and nutrition experts will be able to genetically prescribe a healthy diet based upon specific characteristics of an individual’s genetic code. Nutrition programs have an important role to play for in-home care for seniors in order to improve the lives of our family and friends through natural remedies.
Thomas is a first year graduate student at the University of Maine, Orono studying nutrition and food science.