Malnutrition in the Elderly

Four things you should know about Malnutrition in the Elderly - Sunshine Carers Cyprus

Things You Should Know About Malnutrition in the Elderly

Below are four things you should know about malnutrition in the elderly.  At this very moment, an older adult you love could be malnourished.  As a consequence, poor nutrition has been more recently associated with a 300 percent increase in healthcare costs.  How is it possible that someone who has food available every day could end up being malnourished?

Senior malnutrition is not always easy to spot.

We have witnessed the most extreme cases of malnourishment in the news, However, this condition is also damaging at less noticeable levels, especially in older adults, many of who are at risk.  Malnutrition happens when a person does not get the right nutrients to live a healthy life; whether that be from not eating enough or eating too much. Being malnourished causes an imbalance in our bodies, and if it lasts for too long.  It can also have a significant impact on our health and general well being.

Older adults are most at risk.

The main causes of malnutrition might seem fairly simple — too little food or a diet lacking in nutrients.  However, in reality malnutrition is often caused by a combination of physical, social and psychological issues.

One of the most common reasons for malnutrition in older adults is extended illness.  This tends to occur when regular meals are not possible.  Other seniors suffer from dental problems or lack of appetite.  At times, limited income and lack of transportation may prevent seniors from purchasing nutritional foods.  It is fairly common that seniors may opt not to eat at all.  Many older people find that eating alone reminds them of their solitary life.

The health hazards of malnutrition.

According to research, one in three patients who enter the hospital are malnourished, as are 45 percent of patients who fall ill while in hospital care. In addition, malnourished patients face three times the risk of surgical infections.

The consequences of malnutrition among elders is quite severe.  Very few Europeans starve to death, but people weakened by lack of nutritious food are at risk from severe health problems. The Elderly are more likely to suffer falls or bedsores, and once hospitalized often suffer from further complications.  The duration of a hospital stay is often longer than those who are well nourished and generally their death rates are higher.   However, elder malnutrition is preventable, but it does require action by family and friends, the healthcare system and the local community.

Proven ways to prevent malnutrition.

It is hard to know the specific number of older adults currently suffering from malnutrition.  However, experts estimate that as many as half of hospital patients worldwide are malnourished or at risk from malnutrition.  Studies have shown that about 40 percent of older adults eat less than 75 percent of the recommended daily allowance of nutrients.

Four things you should know about Malnutrition in the Elderly - Sunshine Carers Cyprus

One of the most reliable ways to detect malnutrition is weight loss.  This may occur for a variety of reasons.  Weight loss may be due to a change in medication that suppress the appetite, or your loved one may be experiencing oral pain or chewing problems.

Dietitians encourage caregivers to talk with the older adult about any changes in their medication or how they are feeling and to refer to a doctor with concerns.

Here are some other ways to treat early signs of senior malnutrition.

  • Schedule a visit with the elderly person around mealtime, then check the contents of their refrigerator.
  • Offer to buy groceries or extend an invitation to take him or her shopping.
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables as well as foods that are high in protein and fibre are ideal for the elderly.
  • Make mealtime a social event. Visit often with loaded grocery bags, then offer to fix a meal and to eat together.

With regular attention you can prevent malnutrition from invading the lives of the older adults you care about.  Spend some time with the seniors in your life and watch for any signs.  By feeding those we love, we nourish the body while the act of service nourishes the soul.

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