What do you picture when you hear the term “senior malnutrition?” Perhaps you imagine an older person in a third world country, with limited access to healthy food choices and clean water. Did you realize that even in our land of plenty, senior malnutrition is escalating at astounding numbers? And the reasoning behind it – and solutions to solve it – are as complex and varied as the individuals struggling with it.
The latest statistics show that as many as one in four older adults in America are clinically malnourished, leading to serious health risks. For some seniors, depression or grief result in a loss of appetite. Others are experiencing cognitive difficulties that impact the ability to make good dietary choices. Still others are feeling lonely and simply have no desire to prepare meals for one. Or medication side effects may come into play.
Whatever the cause, senior malnutrition can lead to more (and longer) hospital visits and readmissions, immune system complications, and even an earlier death. And while it may seem logical to assume only underweight seniors are malnourished, think again. Many malnourished older adults appear to be a healthy weight or even overweight.
One of the key factors in both discovering and addressing senior malnutrition is in an increased emphasis within the medical community. It’s important for older adults to be screened by their physicians for any nutrition concerns, at least annually and more often if problems are uncovered. Family members are encouraged to take a proactive approach and ask the senior’s doctor for assistance in nutrition testing and counseling, and with putting a dietary plan together. If the senior is hospitalized for any reason, it’s also a good time to ask the doctor for tips on enhancing nutrition, or for a referral to the hospital’s nutritionist.
Family members can play a vital role in ensuring their senior loved ones are maintaining a healthy diet. Begin a dialogue to try to discern what may be keeping an older adult from eating well, and determine the best approach to alleviate the obstacles. For instance, if limited finances are a factor, check into the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is currently underutilized by qualified seniors.
Partners in Senior Care can help prevent senior malnutrition in a variety of ways, such as:
- Shopping for groceries and ensuring the pantry and refrigerator are well stocked with healthy food choices
- Planning and preparing nutritious meals
- Providing friendly companionship during mealtime to alleviate solitude
- Help the senior stay physically active to increase appetite and overall health
- Accompany and transport older adults to medical appointments
- Pick up prescriptions and ensure medications are taken exactly as prescribed
- And much more
To help your senior loved ones stay healthy, contact the professional in-home care team at Partners in Senior Care by calling us at 847-548-1330. We’re helping seniors thrive throughout Chicagoland, including Lake and Cook counties, and would love to share solutions to your senior care needs in a free in-home consultation. Contact us to get started!