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Geriatric and Mental Health Care Centers – Promoting Health, Or Death?

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.

4 replies on “Geriatric and Mental Health Care Centers – Promoting Health, Or Death?”

I do have a loved one in care- in Canada. My grandmother actually did eat quite well her entire life, making her own bread and meals, never eating fast or a lot of processed foods. Unfortunately, after my grandfather passed away two years ago, she was no longer able to hide the fact that her mental health was failing. After two years of my parents and my mother’s siblings attempting continuously to care for her and allow her to stay in her home, she had a panic attack and was admitted to the hospital.
As a health professional myself, I can only speak of the extended care facilities in certain provinces of Canada. Which currently provide healthy, balanced meals for their clients. My grandmother has an entire team of professionals that meet regularly with my mother and her sister in order to discuss their mother’s diet, exercise, mental and physical health and drug plan.

Unfortunately, eating healthy is just a part of the puzzle of dementia (as you pointed out in your article). Obviously families experience a LOT of guilt regarding the decision to place a loved one in extended- ‘managed’ care. At least here in Nova Scotia Canada, the care is excellent.

I am always glad to hear about managed care facilities that provide healthy food to their clients. From what I hear, things are different in Canada than the U.S., in many aspects of health care, nutrition, and food.

Unfortunately, I know many care centers do not. I know people who have worked at, toured, and had loved one in different facilities and been shown the types of food served to clients, and it is ghastly. Like many institutions (schools, prisons, hospitals), the food served is of the cheapest quality. I have a friend who goes around to centers that service autistic children and adults to speak about the importance of healthy foods in these facilities, because she has researched the effects of poor quality foods served to these clients and their behavior. Many of these people’s behaviors were profoundly affected when their diets were changed – just as many parents who have autistic children find relief when implementing a drastic dietary change, such as the GAPS diet developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride:

In a similar way, people who eat healthier diets can expect to stay out of managed care facilities longer than those who do not, although there are always exceptions.

It is my hope, however, to alert people to the possibilities of extending their health into their elder years by adhering to a healthy diet with real, traditional food in this article. I think the research is both revealing and motivating to do so!

After fighting depression and severe localized pain in my hips and upper legs that all kept getting worse over 2-3 years I found out I was severely deficient in Vitamin D. I’ve always had a better than the average American diet, rare fast food, limited processed food, lots of fruit, veggies, home and locally grown eggs, meat. In the last year grinding all my own wheat. For 23 years I’ve drank goats milk mostly, occassionally grass fed cow milk. My Doctor was as shocked as I was, within 6 weeks of supplements my mental outlook and my pain are all resolving.Even if you have a great diet, avoid GMO, have an ideal body weight and do a good job of taking care of yourself get your labs checked.

Robin – It’s amazing just how far real food and real nutrients can take you. Doctors don’t seem to make the connection, for many reasons. I haven’t had too much lab work done in my life, although I did have it done twice – with a full blood panel. The first time, the results showed I was grossly deficient in many things. The next time I had it done, which was last summer, my numbers were much better because I had been sticking with a real food diet. I’m glad to hear you are improving your health and getting back on track!

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