Malnutrition among the elderly is more common than we might imagine. And often the condition is misdiagnosed as problems with medications or emotional challenges such as depression.
Senior health is complicated. But what all health professionals agree on is the need for good nutrition throughout life. So recognizing the signs of malnutrition in our seniors is highly important.
Here are ten warning signs that may indicate malnutrition in our elderly friends and relations. While there may be multiple reasons for the following conditions, they are a good place to start if you suspect your senior is not eating properly. If you notice any of the following, take the necessary actions to determine how often your senior is eating regular meals, determine why they may be eating less than necessary or eating unhealthy meals, and consider contacting a physician or other health professional to assess the situation. Often seniors are unaware they are risking their health by the nutritional choices they’re making. Does your senior have:
Brittle, dry hair
Ridged or otherwise mal-formed nails
Mouth problems- sores, inflammations
Apathy or irritability
Lack of appetite
Poor wound healing
If you can say “yes” to a number of the above warning signs it’s time to have your senior evaluated by a health professional and consider interventions to improve the nutrition of daily meals and snacks.
Why do so many seniors become malnourished?
Once again, no one answer fits all seniors. But in general there are reasons that our elderly friends and relatives have poor appetites or choose to eat either the wrong foods, or fail to take in adequate calories each day.
They may have a diminished sense of taste and smell, thus food seems less appetizing.
Their medications may inhibit appetite.
They may be on restricted diets that are not as tempting as they used to be.
Reduced social contact makes meal times less enjoyable.
Limited access to shopping may make food purchases difficult.
Depression can reduce appetite.
Excessive drinking of alcohol can inhibit appetite.
Since malnutrition can lead to a weakened immune system, or muscle weakness leading to falls and injuries, it’s important to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Encourage your senior to eat a diet rich in high nutrient foods such as nut butters, fruits and vegetables. Include eggs and other high-protein items such as fish and poultry. Encourage use of herbs and spices to add taste to diets in which sugar and salts are limited. Encourage healthy snacks between meals and ask a doctor about adding a nutritional supplement when necessary. Be sure to encourage social contact and exercise which will also increase a healthy appetite.
For more information on the issue of malnutrition in the elderly go to: