‘Disastrous’ nutrition in care homes: Quebec dieticians

Quebec dieticians told a public hearing on mistreatment of the elderly that nutritional services in nursing homes are “disastrous”. The lack of attention to proper nutrition worsens the medical conditions of many residents, according to Caludette Poloquin-Antouin. She the president of the Syndicat Professionel des Dietistes du Quebec.

For example, she said an older person who has broken a bone in a fall might require foods with Vitamin D to help heal and strengthen the bone. But often nutritionists’ services are regarded as “a second class priority”.

She didn’t say nursing homes underfed their residents. Rather, the difference between three square meals a day and a dietary plan designed for the special needs of the elderly can make a big difference in health and quality of life.

Older people who don’t get the right nutrients can suffer from fragile skin, a less resilient immune system and loss of muscle mass. Nor do they heal from surgery as quickly.

The dieticians’ group surveyed 220 long-term care homes in Quebec in December last year. They found just over half the homes used the services of a clinical nutritionist. Many of these worked onlpart-time.

The dieticians made their presentation to the Quebec Human Rights Commission looking into the abuse of the elderly. Later this week, the Commission will hold more hearings in Quebec City.

Last week in Montreal, the Commission heard from the province’s nurses who described abuse, neglect and a lack of respect in many of Quebec’s elderly care homes.