Meet NHC Dietitians Julie Griffin and Karl Schnoor. Julie has worked as a Registered Dietitian at NHC HealthCare Laurens for nine years, after completing a dietetic internship. Her professional interests include promoting nutrition-focused health strategies for disease prevention to reduce morbidity and mortality and improve quality of life through food. Karl has been the Director of Food & Nutrition Services for the past 14 years at NHC St. Charles. It became clear early in college that his passion for food and desire to serve others matched up with a career as a registered dietitian in healthcare.
How does a registered dietitian work with seniors during their stay in senior care?
We work with our patients from day one until discharge. On their first day we obtain food preferences, food allergies and intolerances. We provide them with copies of our menus. We consider any dental conditions. We talk about their nutrition goals while they are with us and we create a nutrition plan for their stay.
What are some ways seniors can improve their health with nutrition?
Seniors can improve their health by eating well-balanced meals. We suggest food first before a nutritional shake or supplement, unless that is the only option. Proper nutrition provides energy to sustain any therapy session, improve immunity, increase muscle mass, improve healing and cognitive function, and improve recovery rates from surgery or illness. All our menus are designed and approved by registered dietitians and are created for senior adults. We hope our patients can eat in the dining room for socialization.
What are some signs and symptoms to look for in seniors that suggest poor nutrition?
Malnutrition is one of the things a dietitian will focus on. Seniors may show signs of malnutrition through unintended weight loss, a lack of appetite or a lack of interest in eating, frequently feeling tired or maybe they will have brittle hair and nails, weakness and increased falls. Dental problems may contribute to poor eating.
How does the dietitian work within a patient’s interdisciplinary team?
We have weekly staff meetings to discuss nutrition care, weight loss and falls. We discuss care during family care conferences and are in constant communication with the family. We work with speech therapy on issues of swallowing and with occupational therapy to make sure the patient can eat independently. Social workers can help plan for going home and assist in provision for meals.
What resources do you recommend for our listeners to use for questions about nutrition?
We want our patients to know they can always contact us after they go home. We are always ready to offer suggestions.
Some of the resources that offer good information are EatRight.org, Nutrition.gov, and AARP.org.