Older Adults and Malnutrition

It has long been known that the elderly is one of the demographics at greater risk for malnutrition.  In a paper written earlier this year in the American Journal of Nursing (AJN), entitled CE: Malnutrition in Older Adults (by Ann Reed Mangels) it was found that:

“Older adults are at risk for compromised nutritional status because of physical changes associated with aging, as well as cognitive, psychological, and social factors such as dementia, depression, isolation, and limited income. Malnutrition negatively affects quality of life, increases health care costs, and increases the risk of short-term mortality. Nurses and other members of interdisciplinary health care teams play important roles in preventing malnutrition in community-dwelling older adults and in older adults in long-term care settings. This article provides an overview of screening tools and interventions nurses can use to minimize the risk of malnutrition in older adults.”

In response to this phenomenon, a recent endeavor has been undertaken between Home Instead Senior Care and Bournemouth University nutritionists.  Their take is that one thing can reduce the occurrence of malnutrition within this demographic is ending the “isol-eating” they see which is very common.   When elderly eat alone they are more likely to suffer malnutrition.

The first step begins with education, in this case to caregivers and their families of proper nutrition.  It was found that 19 percent of over 75s can actually eat meals for 3 months without ever enjoying it with a dining companion.  A third claim this is due to living alone; a quarter say they don’t need as much food as they once did; a third regularly skip meals and as much as 10 percent skip meals on a daily basis!  According to Professor Jane Murphy, Registered Nutritionist and Dietician:

“It’s a myth to assume that losing weight and becoming frail are an inevitable or natural part of the ageing process. Around one in 10 older people in the UK are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition. Malnutrition is largely preventable and treatable, and yet this growing problem for our ageing population is often overshadowed by the health concerns of obesity. It’s important to look out for the signs of unexpected weight loss, for instance clothes or jewellery might feel looser.”