Malnutrition in the Elderly
Malnutrition is the state of inadequate or unbalanced nutrition in which the lack of proper nutrients causes adverse effects on the body. In seniors, undernourishment is more common as a person does not eat enough or is unable to process or absorb food correctly. Malnutrition is often prevalent in seniors who live alone and don’t want to bother cooking for one or who have health problems that lead to a lack of taste or appetite. But malnutrition, unfortunately, also occurs in nursing homes and care facilities, even under doctor supervision.
According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on healthy eating among Americans age 60 and older, 68 percent “needed improvement” in their diet and less than a third eat regularly from the five recommended food groups. Cognitive issues, dental problems, swallowing disorders, depression and other underlying health conditions make the elderly especially susceptible to malnourishment. Symptoms of malnutrition go beyond noticeable weight loss, and caregivers and family members should acquaint themselves with signs of failing nutrition including changes in the senior’s mouth, skin, eyes and hair.
Research studies have indicated that seniors who live at home often do better with overall eating, but you’re encouraged to discuss the following prevention tips with your aging loved one:
- Eat meals more frequently with your senior loved one to help assess nutrition issues and make eating more pleasurable.
- If salt intake is limited, experiment with other seasonings and natural flavorings.
- Divide larger meals into smaller portions to eat more frequently throughout the day.
- Consult a registered dietician who can create a list of the best food choices.
- Consider nutritional supplements such as meal replacement bars and protein shakes.
What helpful tips can you share about encouraging aging loved ones to eat a nutritional diet?