According to research, malnutrition is common among the elderly, but it is under-diagnosed and under-treated in diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. Poor nutritional status and malnutrition among the elderly are major sources of concern. Malnutrition contributes to a progressive decline in health, decreased physical and cognitive ability, increased use of hospices, premature institutionalization that has to do with assisted living, and increased mortality. The causes of malnutrition in seniors are easily identifiable, and they are easy to manage. Knowing these causes of malnutrition can help prevent malnutrition in the elderly and help with information on what to do when seniors are malnourished.
- Inadequate food intake
Nutrition has a severe impact on the body, most especially the elderly who need it. Nutrients are required to provide us with energy, growth and to regulate our cell function and chemical processes. Poor nutrition can contribute to stress and weakness, and it can also increase our risk of developing certain illnesses and other health problems over time. Commonly referred to as “anorexia of aging,” elderly people have experienced a decline in their food intake as they age. It is crucial o provide regular nutritious meals in an assisted living environment where they are offered help and support.
- Poor nutrient absorption
Older people may be unable to absorb nutrients from their diets, such as carbohydrates, fats, minerals, proteins, or vitamins. This is referred to as malabsorption. If the body consumes nutrients but does not absorb enough of them, one may develop deficiencies because it lacks the nutrients it needs. For example: If the body doesn’t absorb potassium, it can lead to a potassium deficiency that can cause weakness and breathing difficulties. Poor nutrient absorption hinders the body from getting the nutrients needed for it to stay strong and alive.
- Low income
Older people who cannot afford healthy meals are at a higher chance of being malnourished. They can also not afford hospices and assisted living that can provide them with dietitians to help them with proper meal plans and nutrition education. Low income makes it difficult for seniors to get the supplements needed for adequate nourishment for the body.
It is commonly said that humans are not designed to be alone. Loneliness is also a factor that could lead to poor eating habits. Research has shown that isolation from society, neglect from children of the elderly, and loneliness can also cause malnutrition amongst the elderly. Assisted living helps eliminate loneliness as seniors live together in long-term care under the supervision of health professionals who can facilitate safe and socially healthy environments for them.
- Increased Loss of Nutrients and Altered Necessities
Seniors with medical issues may experience excessive and specific nutrient losses. Their medical issues can also alter their nutritional requirements, and failure to meet their specific nutrient requirements can lead to malnutrition. Hospices provide adequate care for the elderly, and dietitians can assess the seniors, ensuring that a diet plan is tailored for their specific needs.
- Mental Health Issues
Seniors with mental health disorders are at risk of being malnourished. A person’s mental health also affects their physical health, and for one to be deemed “healthy,” there is a need for both physical and mental health to be optimal. Mental health problems like depression also cause malnutrition. Symptoms of depression can affect the nutrient intake of the elderly while also altering the rate at which they take in food.
Palliative care given by health care providers and caregivers can manage malnutrition among the elderly effectively.