Sept. 6, 2014—Food is the fuel that keeps a body going, whether you’re young or old. But a new study suggests that many older adults aren’t getting enough nutrients on a daily basis. Researchers found that more than half of the seniors studied were either malnourished or at risk for malnutrition, which can lead to a variety of health problems and increase risk for infection and injury. Thankfully, there are ways to help seniors get the nutrition they need.
About the study
Published in Annals of Emergency Medicine, the study sampled adults 65 and older who visited an emergency department in the southeastern United States. Of the 138 adults studied, 60 percent of the study participants were either malnourished or at risk for malnutrition. A full 16 percent were considered malnourished. Of these malnourished patients, 77 percent claimed they hadn’t been diagnosed as malnourished in the past.
The lack of proper nutrition wasn’t different for men or women, urban or rural locations, or varying levels of education. However, malnutrition was higher among patients:
- With symptoms of depression
- In assisted-living facilities
- With difficulty eating
- Reporting difficulty buying groceries
With these connections in mind, researchers suggest a comprehensive approach that involves:
- Ensuring dental health.
- Alleviating symptoms of depression.
- Linking vulnerable seniors with food assistance programs, such as Meals on Wheels and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Read the full study here.
|The take-home message|
|Caring for a senior can be challenging, and malnutrition may seem like just another thing to worry about. However, it’s an important consideration, because malnutrition can lead to:
Because of these health problems, malnourished seniors are more likely to fall, and they tend to have longer recovery times when they’re injured or undergo medical procedures. However, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, there are some simple things you can do to help an aging family member or friend. You could:
Small changes can have a big impact on your loved one’s nutrition. Try these tips to ward off malnutrition:
If you’re caring for an aging adult, visit the Caregiving health topic center for more tips.