By: Lauren Hogan, Dietetic Intern
This past week, I got a quick glimpse into the role of the Registered Dietitian (RD) in the long-term care setting. I want to begin by clarifying my confusion about the meaning of "long-term care." Previously, I thought long-term care referred primary to the type of care elderly adults received once independent living was no longer feasible. However, there are multiple levels of care for aging adults, i.e. rehabilitation, assisted-living, long-term care, etc.
During this rotation, I worked primarily with the RD overseeing the Short-Term Rehab of Renaissance Garden in the Riderwood Community. I have a lot of respect for dietitians working with this population due to the nutritional challenges that arise as we get older. Generally
speaking as we age, our sensory function declines, appetite wanes, and muscle
mass decreases quickly (e.g. unintentional weight loss). It may seem like an uphill battle to start, yet it truly takes an RD with patience and the ability to think "out-side-the-box" to develop a nutrition care plan to meet the resident's needs. I also enjoyed the unique opportunity the RD has to build relationships with their residents simply because residents' stay tend to last longer compared to more acute care settings.
Finally, I appreciated being a part of a close-knit interdisciplinary team! Working hand-in-hand with nursing staff, speech therapy, mental health, physical therapy, social work, and physicians contributes to holistic approach to health management for this population. Many of team members convene regularly during the care plan meetings with the resident and their family members to discuss concerns, accomplishments, and goals for the resident. Likewise, I had a great experience and learned a lot about the role of the dietitian and the needs of our aging American population!