The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that food poisoning sickens as many as 48 million Americans every year. Of these, nearly 130,000 require hospitalization and approximately 3,000 die.
Elderly nursing home residents may be particularly vulnerable to food poisoning. While you may not be able to do much about the food the nursing home staff serve, you can protect your loved one from food-borne illnesses that originate in his or her private refrigerator.
1. Mark expiration dates
Food poisoning often happens when someone consumes expired or spoiled food. Because your loved one may have diminished taste and smell, eating unwholesome food may be more likely than you think. Accordingly, you should clearly mark expiration dates both on the food’s container and on a separate chart. Then, when food passes its prime, you should immediately discard it.
2. Clean private refrigerators
Even if the food in your loved one’s private refrigerator is fresh, dangerous bacteria may accumulate inside an unclean refrigerator. Therefore, at least once a month, you should clean and disinfect the refrigerator. If the refrigerator has a freezer compartment, regularly defrosting and cleaning it is also a good idea.
3. Encourage symptom reporting
Even when he or she is not feeling well, your elderly relative may not want to bother nurses or others at the nursing home. Still, waiting to report the symptoms of food poisoning may be catastrophic for your loved one. After all, food-borne illness may lead to dehydration, infection and other serious complications.
Staff at the nursing home should monitor your relative’s physical well-being. Nevertheless, by encouraging your loved one to report symptoms of food poisoning, you ensure he or she receives the immediate care necessary to keep food-borne illness from becoming a medical emergency.