Food safety for the elderly is a significant concern whether the older person lives on their own or in a facility. Food safety is paramount, so the elderly do not become sick or compromised. When possible, facilities should always adhere to USDA food safety guidelines.
Safety and Sanitation in the Kitchen
Safety and sanitation in the kitchen are essential to everyone and not just the elderly. With the recent onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, hygiene and senior safety have become even more critical. The security of our elderly is at risk, and professionals should take all food prep precautions for their safety.
Safety in the kitchen also means that our elders will not get hurt while preparing or cooking food, usually found with occupational therapy. Watch their use of cooking utensils, including sharp knives, and make changes to what they're using if necessary. For example, many have issues when it comes to opening jars. Your facility can be proactive if you know that there is a struggle to open things. The first thing you can do is to make sure that there is a mechanism to help them open jars. Alternatively, you can store food from jars in containers that are easier to open.
Independent living for senior citizens must remain safe even when it comes to the proper handling of food. Another safety issue that presents itself is what you can find in the refrigerator. Often, there is the problem of not remembering to remove foods that are past their expiration dates. A staff member should clean the fridge regularly, so there are no bad foods seniors may eat accidentally. Food poisoning is one of the most significant food safety issues that arise with the elderly who are living alone.
Cross-contamination of food happens when bacteria spreads from one food to another. Cross-contamination can occur by not washing hands in between handling different foods or by using the same cutting board to cut raw chicken and then chopping vegetables.
Cross-contamination can cause many things, including food poisoning. The symptoms of food poisoning include:
- Abdominal Cramps
If you are an administrator at a facility where fragile and older adults live on their own, you must understand what food cross-contamination is and how to avoid it. FoodSafety.gov has some comprehensive guidelines and resources for your assisted living or nursing home facility.
Stomach Virus or Food Poisoning?
When your elderly patient becomes ill with what looks like a stomach virus, it is always a good idea to rule out food poisoning. Be sure that food is being cooked to the right temperatures and adequately handled, so cross-contamination does not take place. Don't wait to contact a physician for medical advice for stomach viruses or food poisoning.
Food Safety in Nursing Homes
There are about 9 million people who reside in long-term care facilities in the United States, so food safety in nursing homes is a serious business. There are millions of meals served every day in facilities, and food safety is a top priority.
Food Safety Practices that Nursing Homes Follow
- Thorough inspections of all food products when delivered
- Monitor all meat temperatures before consuming
- Label all perishable items with the correct expiration dates
- Handle all food safely, and adhere to infection control practices
- Cook foods to the appropriate temperatures
- Clean and sanitize all areas where food is prepared and served
- Wash and sanitize dishes and utensils at the proper temperature
Certified dietary managers are often in charge of all safe food handling practices. With our aging population, we must avoid all food-borne illnesses. It is also essential for certified nursing assistants, nurses, and all other staff who distribute and handle food to become appropriately trained in food safety practices.