Senior malnutrition is all too widespread, but caregivers and family members alert to the signs of nutrition problems can help battle this sobering condition.
Malnutrition is not simply a lack of food. It is the failure to get proper nutrition. It affects the thin and the overweight, young people and adults — and, sadly, it is a pervasive problem among our nation’s elderly. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, in 2012 there were 3.7 million senior citizens who were diagnosed with malnutrition.
The consequences of malnourishment are serious, both physically and psychologically. It weakens the immune system, leading to slow healing and increased risk of infection, and it can cause muscle weakness, increasing the risk of falls and injuries. Read on to find out more about how senior malnutrition starts, how to recognize the signs, and what you can do to prevent it.
According to the Mayo Clinic, malnutrition in seniors is usually caused by a combination of issues. Health or dental problems can lead to trouble eating or decreased appetite. Dietary restrictions that have been imposed to manage medical conditions can also make it difficult to get sufficient nutrition. Psychological issues such as isolation and depression contribute to loss of appetite and lack of interest in eating. Lastly, social factors like limited income or inadequate transportation can affect seniors’ access to food.
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It can be difficult to detect malnutrition in older people, but family members and caregivers are in a unique position to keep an eye out for the symptoms. Comfort Keepers has a helpful mnemonic for family members:
The Mayo Clinic suggests a number of ways caregivers can fight malnutrition in seniors:
Of course, it’s always an option to arrange for in-home care to help monitor your loved ones’ nutrition. Have we missed any tips? Let us know in the comments below.