Nursing home kitchens may be serving up negligence

Some forms of elder abuse and negligence can be obvious. Bruises show trauma and dwindling bank accounts reveal fraud. But there is one cause that can affect seniors all across the country, and you might not realize where to look for it – in the kitchen.

33% of nursing homes violated federal standards for food storage, preparation and presentation in 2018, according to a recent investigation. FairWarning, a nonprofit news organization, underwent an exploration into the world of food issues in nursing homes. It can be difficult to spot these kinds of neglect, but identifying the signs of food safety violations can be critical in protecting your loved ones.

Leaving a bad taste

There are many ways that food may fall outside the safety zone in a nursing home:

  • Sanitation: The report found one instance where norovirus spread through a facility. When government investigators took a look, they discovered a clogged sanitizer nozzle in the dishwasher left bacteria on plates in circulation.
  • Handling: Unsafe handling of food ranked third for violations last year. Around 15,700 nursing homes ran afoul of guidelines, like staff members touching food without gloves and not wearing proper face masks.
  • Contamination: The problems can start before the food preparation even takes place. The investigation found numerous cases with unsealed containers and unlabeled food. This can lead to serious issues, with cross-contaminated foods and expired leftovers making their way onto plates.

Unappetizing consequences

These hazards are dangerous for anyone, but they can especially impact older adults. People over the age of 65 are at an increased risk for hospitalization and death:

  • Liver and kidneys can no longer handle foreign bacteria
  • Chronic conditions may tax and already faltering immune system
  • The digestive system takes longer to process food, giving problems longer to take hold

Make sure your loved ones are actually getting the care they need. Anything short of federal food regulations can put them in danger, so knowing where a facility can fall short may be crucial.