We spend so much of our lives counting calories, watching what we put in our mouths and playing the weight game that it seems ironic that many of us spend the ends of our lives barely eating. Senior malnutrition is a very real issue that has serious consequences. We know that good nutrition is critical to our overall health and well-being, which is why it’s important that you know the signs and symptoms of senior malnutrition as well as how to prevent it from happening to your loved one.
Malnutrition can occur from a variety of factors, including:
Restricted diets: Seniors who have to limit salt, fat, protein or sugar for health reasons may end up eating an inadequate diet.
Limited income: Living on social security is often not enough for seniors, especially if they’re taking expensive medication. They may end up eating inadequately because they can’t afford to eat healthy.
Health concerns: Whether it’s dementia, chronic illness or difficulty swallowing, there is a host of reasons why medical conditions can interfere with eating a healthy diet.
Depression: There are many factors that can set off depression, including grief, loneliness and lack of mobility. Depression is also linked to poor eating habits.
Medications: Medication can often suppress the appetite or decrease a person’s palate.
Reduced social interaction: Seniors who live alone may lose interest in cooking and eating.
By identifying these risk factors, you can minimize the risk of senior malnutrition. For instance, if your loved one has been sad, is living alone and has a strict diet to follow, consider enlisting the help of a caregiver who can prepare and freeze meals, as well as be a companion during meal times.
Sometimes, senior malnutrition can occur, despite our best efforts. Keep an eye out for these red flags:
- Weight loss
- Poor eating habits
- Poor wound healing
- Easy bruising
- Dental difficulties
- Change in how clothes fit
- Lack of energy
Senior malnutrition can be prevented, but it’s important to stay active in your loved one’s life. Know the medications they’re taking and how they affect the diet, offer foods that are packed with nutrients and share some meals with your loved one.