ewsroom.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/ElderlyCare-300×255.jpg” width=”300″ height=”255″ />NASHVILLE (TSU News Service) – A recent study by researchers at TSU, in collaboration with RTI International, a worldwide research and development firm, suggests that the elderly and their caregivers may not be getting the food safety education they need to implement safe cooking and eating practices.
As a result, the study shows older adults, along with pregnant women, young children and immune-compromised individuals, face a higher risk of severe illness from foodborne pathogens than the rest of the population.
The study, headed by TSU’s Professor of Family and Consumer Sciences, Dr. Sandria L. Godwin, was conducted using focus groups with 55 people who work with older adults, including doctors, nurses, home healthcare providers and relative caregivers. It found that most participants lacked training and knowledge regarding safe food practices for the elderly.
The results of the study, published recently in “Educational Gerontology,” also suggest that some healthcare providers may not be equipped to educate older adults about how to avoid foodborne illness.
While physicians and physicians’ assistants had received training in diagnosis and treatment of foodborne illness, they were not trained in preventative measures for older adults, the study found. Registered nurses and nurse practitioners received no foodborne illness training. Some home health providers had received formal instruction in safe cooking and food preparation, while others had not.
“In instances where caregivers were trained and knowledgeable, we found a lack of seriousness in some to be fully engaged in providing the necessary care,” said Dr. Godwin, a leading expert on consumer food safety, food security, emergency preparedness and dietary assessment. “We found this to be a major handicap in being able to ensure that older adults are adequately served.”
In previous projects by Dr. Godwin and her associates at TSU, they examined older adults’ food-handling knowledge and practices and developed targeted educational materials, since it was determined that seniors were more likely to read printed materials. The group developed and distributed entertaining educational booklets, as well as designed an interactive website to accommodate seniors accessing the information by way of the Internet.
“The interest in these materials was immediate,” Godwin said, citing a pre- and post-evaluation scheme that showed the effectiveness of the educational materials. “For those who reported reading the materials, there was an increased awareness of recommended food-safety practices.”
Materials developed by Godwin and her group include educational programs for older adults and their caregivers, as well as a cookbook, “Tasty and Safe,” with recipes on how to prepare food for seniors. The materials can be accessed at http://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/documents/Seniors%20Food%20Safety%20Booklet-1.pdf.
The TSU/RTI study also provided a list of leading food safety recommendations for older adults. They asked older adults to avoid eating raw or undercooked seafood, raw sprouts, soft cheeses, cold smoked fish, and cold deli salads, as well as hot dogs and deli meats that have not been reheated to steaming hot or 165 degrees F.
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