Malnutrition kicks in when the body doesn’t assimilate enough nutrients from food. We’re talking here about carbohydrates, fats, protein, and of course, vitamins and minerals. All these combined make your body feel energized. Why are nutrients so important? Because they help the body recover all by itself – tissue repair, muscle growth and restoration, process regulations, and more. In the US, an estimated number of 3.7 million people above 50 suffer from malnutrition. In older adults, proper nutrition is fundamental. It is particularly important in older adults because they’re predisposed to all sorts of age-related diseases, including dementia, heart disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes, and more.
Main causes for malnutrition in older adults
Malnutrition happens when your body doesn’t get the right amount of nutrients from food. Seniors deal with lots of health problems that may trigger a severe loss of appetite. Some may even have restricted diets, or dental problems that make swallowing and chewing difficult. Medicine can also decrease appetite or affect smell and taste.
In worst case scenarios, depression may lead to severe malnutrition. Older adults that feel depressed may even forget to eat, thus their chances of developing malnutrition increases at a very fast pace. If you care for an older parent who doesn’t eat like he used to, he may be malnourished. Consult with a physician in this case, and ask what can be done to get dad off the couch and out at the park.
Malnutrition in older adults – a serious health condition with severe repercussions
Malnutrition can have severe side-effects on the general health of an older adult. As we age, our minds and bodies become extremely sensitive. We’re talking about brittle bones, arthritis, dizziness, lack of appetite, low self-esteem, insomnia and more. All these conditions are directly linked to the level of nutrients within our systems.
Lack of nutrients happen when we don’t eat nutritive foods. Older adults often forget to eat 3 meals a day, and sometimes they don’t even remember to drink water. Water is just as important as food. Dehydration and bad foods compel the body to get its required amount of energy from the muscles. If you’ve noticed that your older parents has started losing weight all of a sudden, it could be a crystal-clear sign of malnutrition.
Steps to take when caring for a malnourished older adult
In case you suspect that mom or data suffers from a medical condition that causes malnutrition, the best solution is to help them seek treatment. Here are some steps to consider.
- Talk to them about the importance of healthy food choices. Lean meats, veggies, fruits, whole grains, and dairy are food packed with nutrients. Limit the intake of sugar, solid fats, and alcohol.
- Healthy snacking is a great way to convince a senior adults to give their bodies just what it needs to look and feel energetic and full of life.
- Improve food taste. Many seniors are not allowed to eat certain food because of a restricted diet. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that they have to eat terrible food. Season their meals with spices and herbs to make it taste better.
- Supplementation. Older adults are not used to intense exercise and they don’t spend a lot of time in the sun either. Sometimes they forget to drink water and stay hydrated. In these cases, nutritional supplements may be required. However, before giving your loved one vitamins and minerals, it’s best to consult with their physician first.
- Make plans for social activities. Workout and mealtime should become a social activity. Take them out for lunch, and then spend some time in the park. Walking can have a lot of benefits to their general health.
Combating malnutrition in older adults
As far as the general health of an older adult is concerned, it’s worth mentioning that often times the smallest changes can have the biggest impact. If your loved ones has started losing weight all of a sudden, then it might be a sign of malnutrition. The first thing that you should do is encourage mom or dad to eat better. Fresh fruit, whole grains, dairy products and raw veggies are the best. Compel them to drink more milk to help strengthen their bones, and add more egg whites into their diets to keep their heart at bay.
Combating malnutrition in older adults is not something you can’t do. It’s tough to convince seniors with no appetite to eat more often. But, if you talk to them about the importance of good nutrition, you have chances to get them back on their feet. Have a friendly conversation, and don’t put any pressure on them. Offer tips and assistance in choosing the right foods, and be there for them in case they need any further assistance.