Malnutrition is the lack of proper nutrients necessary for daily bodily function. These nutrients include but are not limited to protein, calories, vitamins or minerals and malnutrition often affects a person’s body mass, function, and their overall health. This #MalnutritionAwarenessWeek (September 23rd – September 27th), we work to raise awareness of malnutrition as an epidemic and all of the ways that we can work together to prevent it.
Malnutrition in Older Adults
Older adult malnutrition is becoming an American crisis. One of every two older adults are at risk of experiencing malnutrition and as a result, the diseases associated. This can lead to increased fall risks, slower recovery times, and even death.
The causes of malnutrition can range from physical, social, and psychological issues. Despite seeming straightforward, there are often many complex reasons why older adults experience it:
- Health Concerns (like dementia, chronic illnesses, gastrointestinal issues, difficulty swallowing, dental issues, or difficulty absorbing nutrients.)
- Dietary Restrictions
- Limited Income or Access
- Lack of Social Contact
How to Spot It
The best way to spot malnutrition is to observe your loved ones eating habits. Spend time with them, watch them carefully, and be on the lookout for things like drastic weight loss, poor wound healing, and dental issues. Because malnutrition can affect strength levels, be aware of weakness and potential falls. These red flags are strong indicators that your loved one might be suffering from malnutrition. Lastly, monitor and keep track of your loved one’s medications. Many of these prescription drugs can alter appetite, digestion, and one’s ability to absorb nutrients.
What You Can Do
If you find that your loved one is exhibiting signs of malnutrition, first, work with their doctor to determine the cause and contributing factors. This way, you can identify and address the issue head on. Next, encourage your loved ones to eat foods that are packed with nutrients and find ways to make foods that may appear bland, more exciting. Snacks between meals and dietary supplements are great ways to pack in extra calories throughout the day.
Additionally, if their appetite seems to be lacking, encourage your loved one to participate in more physical activity. This stimulates appetite and can strengthen bones and muscles. Lastly, make meals a more social activity. This will encourage your loved one to participate and of course, create a routine that can make it easier for them to eat.
Malnutrition is preventable. It can be easily treated, and if we intervene, we can greatly reduce the risks that often come along with it. While screening tools are available, most people are drastically unaware of the significance of malnutrition as an issue, so these tools are not being used. This #MalnutritionAwarenessWeek, we seek to remedy this lack of information and additionally, find ways to combat this epidemic. If you or a loved one are in need of medical transportation following a malnutrition related illness or episode, contact Abba Medical Transportation.