By Stephanie Purifoy, Groundwork communications intern
In communities across this country, discussions are centering around the quality of food provided to senior citizens in both hospitals and nursing homes. A majority of what the elderly eat is often high in sodium, sugar and trans fats. Insisting that hospitals should be the gold standard for healthy eating, the Healthier Hospitals Initiative is working to improve the quality of food served in hospitals. Nursing homes have begun to follow suit. But one group that has largely been left out of this discussion is the staff. Doctors, nurses and other staff often eat the same unhealthy foods as the residents and too often suffer the consequences of a poor diet.
One nursing home in McBain, in Missaukee County, is looking to change that. Autumnwood of McBain employs everyone from registered nurses to a wound care team. With the help of a Building Healthy Communities grant, Autumnwood was able to buy new water bottle refilling stations to replace old drinking fountains. The nursing home also purchased a large refrigerator and freezer for staff to store food brought from home, and Autumnwood ranked items in the vending machines by nutritional value to make it easier for residents and staff to purchase healthier items. The nursing home has also provided more information to the staff about how to eat and live healthily. The one-time grant of $2,000 is having an impact. Autumnwood’s staff has begun to show their appreciation and take advantage of the new appliances.
The Health Department of Northwest Michigan recruited the Groundwork Center, along with two other community partners (including Taste the Local Difference, a social enterprise of Groundwork), to identify and guide 50 local business and institutions that serve food—including schools, hospitals, food pantries, retail locations and elderly living facilities—in making changes to their food delivery system that will make healthy choices more accessible. The BHC program offers mini-grant funding to these sites that will be used to implement evidence-based health promotion strategies.
The number of registered nurses (RN) in the United States is projected to increase by 16 percent by 2024. Nevertheless, because federal law only requires one RN and one licensed nurse (LPN) to be on duty at a given time, nursing homes across the country are notoriously understaffed. More can be done to make positions in nursing homes attractive to those interested in the profession, and that includes fostering a healthy environment.
Caring for the elderly is a skilled job, and Autumnwood of McBain is doing its part to improve the health of its staff, said Autumnwood administrator Shannon Reed. “Our business is to provide the best quality of life whether that’s short term or long term and whether that’s for the residents or the staff.”
Other Building Healthy Communities grant recipient profiles: