Malnourishment is defined as a lack of sufficient nutrients in the body. Older adults become malnourished when they don’t absorb the nutrients necessary for their body at a specific age, not necessarily because they aren’t eating. Nutrition needs become increasingly complex as we age for several reasons, as reported by the National Institutes for Health
- Older people become less active, their metabolism slows, their energy requirement decreases, and as a result they need to eat less.
- The ability of older adults to absorb and utilize many nutrients become less efficient and as a result, their nutrient requirements actually increase.
- People over the age of 70 have different nutritional needs than those over the age of 65.
- Chronic conditions and medications can affect nutrition requirements with some drugs causing nutrients to be depleted in the body.
Other causes of malnutrition in seniors include dementia, depression, social isolation, the inability to buy food because of transportation or budget limitations, alcoholism, and confusion over dietary restrictions and how to meet them. For seniors, nutrition becomes a tricky equation of physical needs combined with social and emotional abilities.
What are the signs that a senior may be malnourished?
- Eating habits are not robust: Does your loved one eat a full meal? Do they seem to have an appetite or do they play with their food and leave most of it on the plate?
- Weight loss becomes apparent: Is your loved one losing weight? Does clothing seem ill-fitting? Does he or she appear gaunt, with dry, gray skin, and chapped lips?
- General health seems to be slipping: Malnutrition can cause poor wound healing, easy bruising and dental difficulties. Gastrointestinal health will be impacted causing stomach upsets, diarrhea, bloating and other problems.
- New medications have been prescribed: Whenever new medications are prescribed by your loved one’s physicians, keep an eye on their appetite. Some drugs will adversely impact it along with digestion and nutrient absorption. If you observe any of these, report it to the doctor immediately so that a different drug can be prescribed.
If you believe that a loved one may be suffering from malnourishment it is important to act quickly. Contact his or her physician, discuss your concerns and the best interventions that can be made immediately. Then, contact Home Care Assistance
so that our caregivers can make sure your loved one is eating properly. We will make sure that he or she is eating nutrient packed foods that taste good and comply with any dietary restrictions that may exist. Our caregivers undergo continuous education
on care for seniors through our proprietary Home Care Assistance University and it includes nutritious culinary training. Home Care Assistance caregivers
will also take your loved one grocery shopping and help them to prepare meals. Aging is complicated and the root of all good health in good nutrition.