Malnutrition is a common health problem for older adults and is very common than you’d think. Good nutrition is important for one and all, it is especially important for seniors who are ill or have been diagnosed with a chronic disease, such as diabetes, heart disease, or dementia. Seniors have different nutritional needs than younger adults, they also take more medication, are also vulnerable to chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, etc. - all of which contribute to the rising number of older Americans who are seriously impacted by a deficient diet.
Problems caused by malnutrition:
Malnutrition is a growing concern as the U.S. population ages, which is when the body doesn’t get adequate nutrients to work properly, such as fats, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, and minerals from the food one consumes. It is the nutrients that give the body energy and strengthens muscles. Not to mention, these substances help the body grow and repair tissues, and also regulate bodily functions like breathing and the beating of your heart.
Malnourishment in seniors can cause a number of health problems, such as
- a compromised immune system, making them susceptible to viruses and infections as it becomes difficult for the body to fight off infections,
- unintentional and sudden weight loss,
- fatigue and tiredness (feeling out of energy),
- muscle weakness or loss of strength, which can cause falls and fractures,
- poor wound healing,
- problems with memory,
- greater risk of hospital admission, and lastly,
- increased risk of death.
The worst thing about malnutrition is it can contribute to a loss of appetite and disinterest in eating, which only makes the situation worse. It is mainly older adults with serious illnesses, those who’ve recently lost weight, and those suffering from dementia who are especially vulnerable to the effects of malnutrition.
Causes of malnutrition:
The cause of malnutrition may seem pretty straightforward- inadequate food, or not enough nutrient-rich foods. But in reality, it’s much more complicated than that in seniors. There are several factors at work that leads to malnutrition, including
Health Issues- Seniors may suffer from heath problems that cause a loss of appetite or make it difficult to eat, including conditions like dementia and other chronic illnesses. They may be under strict restrictions with regards to their diet that limit seasonings that enhance taste like salt, fat or sugar, which might make eating less desirable (as that makes food taste bland). Dental issues are what compound the problem that makes it hard to chew or swallow foods.
Medicines- Some seniors take multiple medicines for a variety of health issues, and certain medicines can decrease appetite or affect the taste and smell of food. Again, when foods don’t taste as good, there’s a decline in appetite. Eating doesn’t appeal as much so a senior may not consume as much as they need.
Diet lacks variety- Sometimes older adults tend to eat or are served the same foods that that they like or are easy to prepare over and over, missing out on required variety.
Disability- Older adults suffering from memory problems or physical disabilities may not be able to go grocery shopping or cook for themselves.
Alcoholism- Consumption of alcohol can lead to a decline in appetite and can affect how the body absorbs nutrients from food.
Here are some tips to improve your loved one’s nutrition and to prevent malnutrition:
Encourage healthier food choices- Encourage your senior loved one to eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as when meals are colorful, they are typically rich in nutrients. Your loved one has to limit intake of solid fats, sugars, alcoholic beverages, and salt. There are healthier alternatives to less healthy foods, so try those.
Encourage Exercise- Even a little bit of exercise daily can stimulate appetite and strengthen bones and muscles.
Provide Nutrient-Rich Snacks- Snacking on healthy foods between meals is a good way to get extra nutrients and calories. So, encourage them to grab fruit or a protein snack.
Experiment with food- If your loved one is on a restricted diet, use herbs and spices to add flavor to meals, which automatically will improve interest in eating.
Eat together- Make mealtimes interesting for your loved one by eating together. Take him on a walk around the block. Arrange for a lunch with a neighbor or a friend.
Managing health and nutrition as you age can be tricky stuff, you might need help with that. It’s advisable to consult with reputable home care agencies that have the expertise in matching the best senior home care Charlotte, NC providers with clients. If you are the primary caregiver, it is equally important that you stay in touch with the senior’s doctor and ask for help when required. The doctor can give you an insight into their risk for malnutrition, health conditions, and medicines.
For more info, check out: https://www.arogahomecare.com