May is Older Americans Month and this week, we’re excited to have a guest post by Wendy Phillips that is meant to be shared with your clients and patients!
Spring is a beautiful time in Utah, and the month of May has brought us bright blue skies and a return to outdoor activities. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, Utahns have shown strength in community. This is something we cherish, and it is so important as we work together to care for some of the most vulnerable people in our community, older adults. May is also Older Americans Month, and the theme for 2020 is “Make Your Mark.” This theme was selected to encourage and celebrate countless contributions that older adults make to our communities.
While celebrating the many contributions that older Utahns make, we also need to remember a significant risk they face every day that is amplified in the current realities of COVID-19. The pandemic is hitting older adults particularly hard, as the mortality rate from COVID-19 is higher for this age group. Immune systems in general weaken as we age, and older adults are more likely to have preexisting and chronic conditions that increase risk of infection and death. One of these significant chronic conditions may be malnutrition, which compounds health issues, decreases immunity and makes older adults even more vulnerable to COVID-19.
Malnutrition is diagnosed by a physician or a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) through a medical and diet history and a nutrition focused physical exam. RDNs evaluate weight changes, nutritional intake compared to estimated needs, fat and muscle stores, and signs or symptoms of vitamin or mineral deficiencies. The results of this nutrition assessment are compared to standardized criteria used in the United States to determine if the patient is mild, moderately, or severely malnourished, and then a medical diagnosis is made by the physician. RDNs partner with the patient, family, and healthcare team to develop a treatment plan. This plan complements the medical plan that is in place to treat other medical conditions, including #COVID19.
How can you help? The good news is there are lots of ways you can make a difference! Here are some:
- Many older Americans are newly homebound and isolated due to #COVID19. Become aware of their risk for #malnutrition and how you can #DoaCOVIDCheck to help to protect them by using these resources.
- #DoaCOVIDCheck on the older adults in your life, including family, friends, and neighbors, to ensure they have an adequate supply of food. Protect them from the health effects of #malnutrition during #COVID19. Utah has developed a new hotline for at-risk individuals who may need meal, grocery, or medication delivery. The hotline, 1-877-424-4640, will remain open Mondays-Fridays, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Representatives from the Department of Human Services will operate the line.
- Find out about more Utah specific resources, listed by county, here
- Visit the website defeatmalnutrition.today to learn more!
Over 900 RDNs call Utah home, and are here to provide medical nutrition therapy and serve our communities. We have at least a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or dietetics (many also hold Master’s and/or PhD degrees), and complete a 1200 hour supervised practice/internship, and must pass a national exam to become a RDN. Additionally, we are certified dietitians in Utah, indicating the highest level of assurance that RDNs are Utah’s nutrition experts. Visit www.eatrightutah.org for more resources and to find a RDN near you!
Public Policy Coordinator for the Utah Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Regional Vice President of Morrison Healthcare