Do you have a loved one who lives in an assisted care center? If so, you may think the choice you have made was the best available for your family. In some cases, it becomes very difficult to deal with caring for an invalid elderly relative or other family member with special needs – especially when you must earn a living and take care of younger family members such as children.
Assisted care living is, at best, an artificial environment and often fails to address the real problems at hand. Most clients receive regular administration of drugs and sometimes other costly and useless medical procedures – yet little attention is paid to nutrition and diet.
As with many facilities such as hospitals, prisons, and schools, the emphasis on food as a way to maintain health is almost non-existent and the quality and nutritional integrity of food served to patients, students, inmates, and clients is wholly inadequate.
In truth, these types of facilities are really just symptoms of much larger problems in our society – by the time a person reaches a condition where he or she must be admitted to a care center, many things have escalated to cause the decline in health. Both mental and physical degeneration are due to poor lifestyle habits, and greatly diminish the chances of a person maintaining good health in younger years and reaching old age in good health.
Studies show that psychiatric problems can often be caused by lack of nutritional support in the body. According to The Mental Health Foundation, there are firmly established connections between the consumption of junk food to ADD and ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and schizophrenia due to the absence of key nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and essential fats. The highly-processed and increasingly industrialized diet maintained by a majority of British citizens and Americans – as well as other people living in industrialized countries – has contributed to a rapid decline in the overall health state.
It is certainly true that mental illness is caused by a combination of social, psychological, biological, and environmental factors, but to properly address health issues, we must also consider financial cost of that maintenance. Chief Executive of The Mental Health Foundation, Andrew McCulloch, admits both cost and healthy food are critical factors:”It costs £1,000 a week to keep someone in a psychiatric hospital. How much does good food cost? We need mentally healthy school meals, and mentally healthy hospital foods,” he said.
In Britain, studies conducted by Sustain, an activist organization working toward education about better diets, has prepared the publication ‘Changing Diets, Changing Minds’. The purpose of this publication is to sound the alarm that national health care services’ mental illness costs will continue to rise unless the government takes an active role in focusing on the connection between diet and mental function with regard to food, farming, education, and environment policies.
“Food can have an immediate and lasting effect on mental health and behavior because of the way it affects the structure and function of the brain,” the report reads. Tim Lang, chairman of the organization said: “Mental health has been completely neglected by those working on food policy. If we don’t address it and change the way we farm and fish, we may lose the means to prevent much diet-related ill health.”
Mental health care professionals are beginning to understand the connection between a lack of nutrients such as Vitamin D and illnesses like depression, personality disorders, and post-traumatic stress syndrome. An October 2008 report published in the Sydney Morning Herald revealed that in a study of over 50 psychiatric patients, nearly 60 percent were experiencing a critical Vitamin D deficiency, while 11 percent were found to be moderately deficient.
These issues, as well as conditions affecting the very young such as autism, ADD, ADHD and mood disorders, are all affected by lifestyle, diet, and environment factors. Great breakthroughs have been recently made about autism, a condition which sometimes results in the child or young adult being admitted to a care facility, by various knowledgeable health care professionals. One such practitioner is Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride – a medical doctor with advanced degrees in nutrition and neurology.
Dr. McBride has uncovered startling research into autism and the root causes in her book, The Gaps Guide. This book discusses the critical importance of first healing the digestive tract and removing processed foods from a child’s diet. The GAPS diet consists of meats, fish, eggs, fermented dairy, and vegetables (some raw, cooked, and fermented). The protocol focuses on replacing the current diet with real, nutrient-dense foods. She also recommends specific strategies for detoxification as well as supplementation to correct problems in the body that cause autistic symptoms.
It is essential to get proper nutritional support in the diet to maintain good health, and mental health is no exception. By taking steps now to prevent degenerative disease and immobility, you can avoid needing medications, surgeries, and assisted care now and into your later years.
Do you have a loved one in a care facility? If so, how has this affected you and your family and friends relationship with that person? Do you believe that proper nutritional support could possibly help keep a person out of managed care? Why or why not?
This post is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays carnival. Please visit this post and read all the other real food posts there.