Prevent Tea & Toast Syndrome
Tea and toast syndrome sounds quaint, but it is a real condition that can put seniors at risk for malnutrition. A person experiencing tea and toast syndrome will limit their diet due to a variety of reasons including a lack of desire to eat, inability to prepare proper meals, trouble chewing or swallowing, limited funds, or difficulty getting food into the house. It is especially common in those who live alone.
Over time, they begin to lose weight, their liver and kidney function may be affected, chronic illnesses become worse, and blood pressure drops leading to the risk of falls. Recognizing the symptoms of senior malnutrition can help you find the best way to combat tea and toast syndrome.
Symptoms of Malnutrition
While patients with a terminal illness may stop eating and drinking on their own as their body begins to shut down, there usually isn’t a particular illness causing the weight loss of someone experiencing tea and toast syndrome.
Some of the symptoms of senior malnutrition to look out for include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Muscle weakness
- Dizziness, falls, or fainting
- Peptic ulcers
- Pale skin
- Slow healing wounds
- Memory problems
- Weak immune system
How to Prevent Malnutrition in Seniors
If a loved one is losing weight or mentions skipping meals, it’s time to ask more specific questions about what they are actually eating and how often. Ideally, spend some time with them during meals to get a sense of their habits. Are they throwing away food? Are they eating the same meal over and over? These are important things to know, and they may not tell you themselves.
Check their cupboards and refrigerator to make sure they have healthy meal options. Peanut butter, fruit, and cheese are good ways to add extra nutrients to meals. If they have trouble chewing, make sure they have easy-to-swallow meal options or a blender to help blend things up into soups and smoothies.
If you see any signs of poor nutrition, make sure their physician is informed so you can work to determine the cause and solutions together. Ask if any medication could be causing a loss of appetite or whether it would be helpful to stock their pantry with meal replacement shakes. Meals on Wheels can also be set up to deliver nutritious meals to your loved one’s home.
Palliative care can also be an excellent support option for seniors who are experiencing weight loss along with other serious chronic illnesses. With regular visits from a nurse practitioner and a social worker, they can help be an extra set of eyes and ears in the home to make sure there aren’t hidden medical, environmental, social, or financial issues at play.
To learn more about the benefits of palliative care, please call Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care at 1-888-564-3405.
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