Malnutrition in the Elderly
Malnutrition in the elderly, whether it is over-nutrition or under-nutrition is a horror. It can result from a lack, or excess, of a fixed amount of nutrients in the right proportions. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malnutrition is singlehandedly the greatest threat to public health. (Malnutrition: The Starvelings, 2008) With the elderly population increasing in the world, it is a commonly acknowledged, and an unfortunate incidence, that malnutrition in the elderly is increasing with it.
Does malnutrition in the elderly come from ageing alone?
As we age, our dietary needs become exceedingly difficult to meet. A number of factors such as illness, poor mobility (when it comes to being able to cook healthy meals), dietary restrictions, altered senses, dry mouth etc. can cause malnutrition in the elderly. Sometimes it is not a medical condition but a psychological one such as depression, which results from feeling lonely, that causes malnutrition in the elderly.
So how do you identify malnutrition?
It’s simple. Most seniors start showing signs of malnutrition at an early stage. It is important to recognize this signs if we are to counter malnutrition effectively and save our loved ones delayed hospital stays, sickness, and ill-being.
One of the most prominent signs of malnutrition in the elderly is a medical condition called Sarcopenia. It results in a frail appearance by the persistent degeneration of muscle mass, sometimes also referred to as the frailty syndrome. It is linked to long term disabilities and increases chances of falls & fractures, proving to be fatal.
Other changes in appearance which may signify malnutrition in the elderly include substance loss in fat under the skin, also referred to as subcutaneous fat, hollow appearance under the eye temple, bruising, flaky skin and other skin conditions such as Oedema. If bones start to show and skin starts wasting, you should definitely identify that as malnutrition.
Among the most obvious symptoms of malnutrition in the elderly are rapid weight loss and loss of appetite, but other signs may include receding gums, hair fall, dryness and depression.
Remember that malnutrition in the elderly can cause severe, long lasting implications to your loved one’s health. To avoid them physical and emotional trauma, learn how to prevent malnutrition in the elderly.
How To Prevent Malnutrition In The Elderly
To prevent malnutrition in the elderly, first and foremost, make sure that their dietary needs are met. To increase food consumption, down try to shove large meals at meal times down their throats, but rather take it slowly and provide small meals at regular intervals throughout the days. Make sure that seniors are hydrated by providing ample amounts of water. Make regular dentist checks so that there are no problems during eating. Encourage exercise and dietary supplements such as calcium to strengthen bones.
Lastly, and the most effective tool to prevent malnutrition in the elderly, is love. Love them and make sure they know they are loved. Loneliness and despair in old age can lead to depression, memory loss, and other psychological problems which have marked consequences on physical health. Share a jog or a meal with an older loved one. They need your support, kindness and care.