September 29, 2017

Senior adult food insecurities being addressed in clinic with two simple questions

Written by

geriatric hungerThis quick and easy screening tool allows UAB and the Food Bank to work together to provide wrap-around care for seniors at risk of hunger. The overall health of adult patients age 65 and older is dependent upon a healthy diet, which may not always be readily available to them. The University of Alabama at Birmingham Geriatrics Clinic is partnering with Blazer Kitchen and the Community Food Bank to address food insecurities with senior patients by asking two simple questions about income and their current food situation.

“Having access to healthy food options will improve our patients’ overall health,” said Caroline Harada, M.D., associate professor of Medicine in the UAB Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Palliative Care. “Many of our patients suffer from conditions that require special diets, such as diabetes and hypertension. This partnership will help them better control their medical conditions by providing access to healthy food and encouraging a healthy diet.”

UAB clinicians are able to learn whether senior patients on fixed incomes might run out of food before they have the money to buy more. This quick and easy screening tool allows UAB and the Food Bank to work together to provide wrap-around care for seniors at risk of hunger. Seniors have often worked their entire lives and are unaccustomed to asking for aid, and might not have a safe, confidential place to reach out for help.

“We are gaining new insights to our patients and their needs — simply because we asked,” said Jessica Nix, social worker in the UAB Geriatrics Clinic. “In less than two months, we have been able to see the significance of this program, as every patient has been incredibly thankful.”

To meet patients’ immediate needs, UAB provides a food box at that day’s appointment alongside a referral to Blazer Kitchen with an end goal of finding a more long-term solution. The Food Bank’s Benefits Enrollment Center matches seniors to food pantries in their own communities and, if eligible, helps them enroll in benefits like food stamps, farmers’ market vouchers, Medicare savings plans and more. The aim is to ensure elders receive services they need to stay safe and food-secure in their homes.

“Through our partnership with UAB, hunger among seniors is no longer a hidden problem,” said Kathryn Strickland, the Community Food Bank’s executive director. “Together, we’re building a lasting system to ensure seniors who are vulnerable to hunger get the help they need.”

Other community partners include Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation, the Greater Birmingham Community Foundation, UAB Benevolent Fund and Feeding America.