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Keeping Seniors Healthy: How to Avoid Malnutrition in Older Adults

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

What is Malnutrition?

Malnutrition is an imbalance of protein, calories, and other essential vitamins that your body needs to function. It isn’t just caused by hunger or lack of access to healthy food, but rather a combination of physical, social and psychological factors.

Although maintaining basic nutrition can be challenging at any age, for older adults, a poor diet can leave them vulnerable to increased hospitalizations, a weakened immune system, decreased bone mass, muscle weakness, slow wound healing, and an increased risk of falls and fractures.

Nutrition for Seniors with Dementia

Factors Contributing to Malnutrition

The causes of malnutrition might seem straightforward, but in reality, a whole host of factors can accelerate the condition. They include:

  • Normal age-related changes. Over time, your loved one’s sense of smell and taste may decline, along with his or her appetite. Sometimes those subtle changes can make it difficult to enjoy food and maintain a consistent eating schedule.

  • Medications. Some prescriptions can affect an older adult’s appetite or ability to absorb nutrients.

  • Restricted diets. Older adults are likely to suffer from chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes or cancer, to name a few. Those same conditions may require dietary restrictions — such as limiting salt, fat or sugar — which could cause inadequate nutrition.

  • Impairment. Difficulty chewing or swallowing, poor dental health, or having a limited ability to handle tableware.

  • Limited access/limited income. For seniors living on a fixed income, buying healthy food could be especially challenging if they’re already paying for expensive medications. Additionally, older adults with limited mobility may not have easy access to nutrient-rich foods.

  • Reduced social contact/depression. Seniors suffering from grief, failing health, loneliness, and other factors that contribute to depression, may experience a loss of appetite. Older adults who typically eat alone and don’t find mealtime enjoyable may lose interest in cooking and eating.

  • Alcoholism. Too much alcohol in the body can interfere with digestion and absorption of nutrients.

How to Prevent Malnutrition

Malnutrition in older adults might be an under-recognized condition, but there’s good news: it’s preventable. Presidio’s Home Care Aides can help your loved one achieve optimal nutrition through:

  1. Meal preparation. Our Home Care Aide will take the time to understand your loved ones’ food preferences so that they can provide fresh, well-balanced, and delicious meals that are to their liking. Our Aide can shop for groceries, cook meals, prepare snacks, and take care of cleanup.

  2. Tracking medications. Our highly trained Home Care Aides can observe which medications might be affecting your family member’s appetite and provide medication reminders if necessary.

  3. Establishing a routine. To help your loved one develop a healthy routine, our Home Care Aides can encourage enjoying meals and snacks at the same times every day. Establishing structure can help decrease restlessness that might otherwise be felt by your loved one.

  4. Encouraging physical activity. Beyond creating a nutrient-packed meal plan, Presidio’s Home Care Aides can remind, motivate, assist, and even participate in exercise routines as well as prescribed physical therapy programs to enhance your family member’s appetite.

  5. Companionship. Since eating is a social activity, having one of our Home Care Aides on site means your loved one is never alone. They can help make mealtime a social event and if necessary, assist with feeding.

How Presidio Home Care Can Help

Proper nutrition is critical to maintaining your loved one’s health and overall wellbeing, and our Home Care Aides are here to help. Contact your local office to learn more about how we can monitor and prevent malnutrition in seniors.

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