Your loved one has lived a long life, providing you with many treasured memories. They helped shape you into the person you are, and they cared for you for years. Now it’s your turn to care for them. One of the most common issues the elderly experience (one that arises often and goes undetected) is malnutrition. This is a guide for how you can detect and prevent senior malnutrition.
Causes of malnutrition you might not know about
Malnutrition can have a complex series of causes. It isn’t always as simple as you may think, such as not eating or eating foods lacking nutrients. It can be a combination of multiple factors, including physical, social, and psychological. These are a few examples:
- Coinciding health issues (dementia, dental, chronic illness)
- Medication use
- Recent hospitalization
- Dietary restrictions
- Financial limitations affecting the ability to buy groceries
- Isolation during meals leading to disinterest
- Mental instability, such as depression, which includes appetite issues
When you are taking care of an elderly loved one, observe the conditions in which they are living. As you become more aware of what can cause malnutrition, you’ll have the knowledge on how to detect and prevent it.
Do you suspect your loved one is malnourished? Let’s go over the symptoms so that you’ll be better able to judge the situation.
Signs of senior malnutrition to look out for
Your loved one is at risk of malnutrition when they start showing any of these signs:
- Weight loss
- Poor eating habits
- Changes in appetite
- Issues with chewing or swallowing
If you see your loved one showing any signs of malnutrition, it’s imperative that you speak with a doctor and get your senior immediate medical care.
The consequences of senior malnutrition
Senior malnutrition can be damaging, with a range of unfortunate consequences, including:
- Difficulty recovering from a surgery or disease
- Difficulty healing wounds
- Increased infection risk
- Increased fall risk
- Decreased strength
If your loved one has a cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, or cancer, they’re especially affected by malnutrition. When your senior shows signs of micronutrient deficiencies, it can affect any existing conditions they may have. Reduced eating or lack of food variety can cause these deficiencies.
Ways to treat or prevent senior malnutrition
You have the power to treat or prevent senior malnutrition in your loved one. Whether you can be there for them or have to work, you have options. These are just a few of the recommendations:
- Encourage plenty of water consumption.
- Avoid too many dietary restrictions.
- Offer small meals with plenty of nutrition, including calories and protein.
- Provide snacks during the day and at bedtime that follow a nutritional plan.
- Offer them their favorite foods to get them to eat something, even if just a little at a time.
- If the food you’re making seems bland, add flavor with spices.
- Include other nutrition products, such as Ensure®, to supplement meals.
- Encourage daily movement and exercise to help increase appetite.
- Provide companionship for meals to offer conversation and to encourage eating.
When you can’t be there for your loved one:
- Enlist someone to join your loved one for meals in your place.
- Shop for food supplies that allow for quick and easy preparation while still providing the needed nutrition.
- Buy supplies with packaging that is easy to open.
- Maintain a decent supply of nutrition supplements, such as Ensure®.
- Consider hiring help from home health aides who can help you shop for food and can prepare meals for your loved one.
Note: Always consult with your loved one’s healthcare provider before starting a nutrition program.
This is your loved one, and you want to see them live a fulfilling, healthy rest of their life. When you pay attention to the risks and consequences of senior malnutrition, you are one step ahead of it. You’ll be better prepared to prevent it from ever happening, or at a minimum, you’ll know what you can do to help them recover.
You have your own life and career that may get in the way of your senior’s care. If you want to see them get the right care while you’re not around, consider your option to hire a caregiver. At Westchester Family Care, we can give you peace of mind while caring for your loved one in the comfort of their home.
It’s important to note: Please consult with a physician before starting your own treatment plan for a loved one. This article is not a replacement for their services.
Contact us to learn how our family can care for your family.