While a bout of bacterial food poisoning can cause a little distress for average adults, it is extremely serious for elderly adults. Some of a senior’s most desired comfort foods—eggs, poultry, milk, cheese and deli meats—are among the list of foods that are high risk for harboring bacteria that can make them very sick. Every year, bacterial food poisoning affects millions of elderly adults across the country. Family caregivers need to take extra precautions to prevent their aging loved one from getting sick.
What Exactly is Bacterial Food Poisoning?
When food is not cooked well enough, mishandled, or allowed to sit for too long in a certain dangerous temperature, it can become a home for bacteria such as listeria and salmonella. When the bacteria are ingested, the body tries to fight them off as they spread throughout the body. A person’s immune system is usually able to resist all but the strongest attacks. However elderly adults have a weakened immune system and may not be able to stop the spread of bacteria in the body.
Salmonella food poisoning is usually spread through food that has been contaminated by human or animal waste. It is often found in milk, eggs, poultry and meat. The contamination can take place when the bacteria get on the food through soil, human handling and cross-contamination with other food or utensils. The Listeria bacteria is more likely to be found in raw food like raw milk, deli meat, undercooked meat and raw vegetables.
How Bacterial Food Poisoning Affects Elderly Adults
Because elderly adults have a weaker immune system, they are more likely to develop serious food poisoning. Symptoms include watery stools, high fever, stomach cramps, dehydration, aching muscles and vomiting. In extreme cases, food poisoning can result in headaches, shaking, muscle spasms and dizziness. The real danger comes when the bacterial infection reaches the heart, brain, spine and bones. It’s then that life-threatening conditions can happen, such as inflammation to the heart or brain membranes.
Preventing Bacterial Food Poisoning
Family caregivers can implement house rules when it comes to preparing and storing food. Caregivers also need to pass on the information to senior care aides, other family members and senior community services. Caregivers of any background should always wash their hands before handling food, keep any leftover foods refrigerated and cook raw meat thoroughly. They should also keep seniors from eating some of the top trouble foods, like undercooked eggs. All fruits and veggies should be thoroughly washed. Finally, it’s important for caregivers and senior care aides to avoid cross contamination by keeping raw food away from cooked items and not using the same knife for raw meat on other foods.
Bacterial food poisoning in the elderly is not something that family caregivers should be taking lightly. If there are any signs of bacterial food poisoning in an elderly adult, they should be taken to the doctor immediately.
If you or an aging loved one are considering senior care in Bellevue, NE, please contact the caring staff at Seniors Helping Seniors® Greater Omaha at (402) 215-0308 today.