Navigating the labyrinth

I have been working in health care for 20 years, and I continuously find myself stunned at the challenges of navigating the system. In 20 years, I have learned the questions to ask, the nuances, the resources, etc. My heart goes out to those who do not have the wherewithal or the advocate to help them, as it can be overwhelming and frustrating even for someone like me.

Nutritional Voodoo

The challenge lately has been to get my mother’s weight up, which has been complicated by her four recent hospitalizations and “bowel rest” (read: no food). She’s down to 95 pounds fully dressed. Twice I asked for a dietary consultation in the hospital and twice a dietician came with the most UNHELPFUL information.

First, the go-to recommendation is a product called Ensure, which promotes itself as a “nutritional drink.” There are two kinds—a protein shake in various flavors, or a new “clear” type drink. My mom got sick of the shakes so now we’re on the clear drinks. They go down easier, aren’t as sweet and don’t get her as full.

I wonder if the dieticians hold stock in the company, as it seems abundantly clear to me that they are not reading the label of this product. The main ingredients are water, corn syrup solids, and whey protein. So it’s basically water and sugar with a little whey protein thrown in.

As a comparison, the top ingredients in an Odwalla strawberry-banana smoothie are: strawberry puree, apple juice, orange juice and banana puree.

Which sounds more nutritious? Let’s read further down the label…

Ensure (one serving is 1/4 of a 10 oz. bottle), percentage of recommended daily serving

Vitamin A — 30%
Vitamin C — 45%
Vitamin E — 30%

Odwalla (one serving is a 12-ounce bottle)

Vitamin A — 15%
Vitamin C — 70%
Vitamin E — 150%

Ounce for ounce, you get more nutrients (plus protein) in Ensure. But you also have to wash it down with all the corn syrup. Odwalla and other companies make delicious, whole food products with ingredients you can pronounce and understand. So why don’t the dieticians at least offer that up as an option?

Secondly, if I want the protein, I can simply add a scoop of whey protein to a milk or yogurt shake. My mother mentioned the protein powders I’ve stocked at her house. The dietician said, “Oh, yes, that can work. Let me get you a sample.” So she proudly returned with a packet of NESTLE HOT CHOCOLATE. I was stunned into silence. I don’t even know where to begin with this. So I will just leave it. We threw away the hot chocolate (with its one gram of protein and plenty of corn syrup) and returned to the whey protein.

Coming up…

The joys of controlled substances.

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