Recently I met with a family here in Westchester to do a geriatric assessment. The trigger for the assessment was the many falls their father was having. The son told me his father had Tea and Toast Syndrome. I chuckled. He didn’t. I thought he was kidding. He wasn’t. We both knew his father wasn’t English.
Tea and Toast Syndrome is real. It describes the poor eating habits sometimes seen in older adults. There are genuine reasons for this syndrome to exist. There is a change in appetite with age. This may be the result of lifestyle changes, the side effects of particular medications or difficulty with chewing. Depression can also cause a lack of interest in eating. Further, a dulling of the senses including changes in vision which makes meal preparation challenging. Finances may be limiting what a senior adult is buying. I vividly recall Adrienne. In retrospect, I suppose she had the apple variation of this syndrome. She would buy packages of apples that had gone bad. Eating six apples a day and little else would make up a substantial part of her daily food intake. She got the fiber but where was the protein? Adding to these reasons is the effect of memory loss on senior adults who are living alone. They may think they have eaten, but truly they haven’t. Other times, that part of the brain which serves as the thermostat for satiation, is on the fritz. While some older adults with dementia may overeat, others may not feel hunger.
The results of such a limited diet? Chronic ailments become exacerbated. There may be changes in liver and kidney functions. Blood chemistries may go askew. Blood pressure may be affected. When this happens it can cause dizziness which may result in falls as with the gentleman mentioned above.
To lessen the chances of this syndrome occurring, the use of Meals on Wheels, dietary supplements such as Ensure or Boost and working out an interventional plan with family members are some of the approaches I use. If there is home health aide, I will recommend that she make a nutritionally rich soup which is blended for easier consumption.
So now when this geriatric care manager hears Tea and Toast Syndrome, there is not a chuckle, but a call to action. Long live the Queen and all elders on a diet rich in nutrients accompanied by a good piece of chocolate.