20 March 2021

Malnutrition in the elderly: Things to know

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Malnutrition is a condition in which a person is either deficient in nutrients, such as protein, vitamins and minerals, or not getting enough calories. An estimated 462 million adults are malnourished. So is malnutrition in the elderly worrying?

1. Malnutrition in the elderly and what to know

Health and social care professionals, along with politicians, often think of obesity when nutrition is on the agenda, but often forget that malnutrition is still on. is an important public health issue in all countries of the world.

Malnutrition is more common than we can imagine. Society is increasingly developing, leading to many people still mistakenly believe that some health conditions such as malnutrition have been eliminated. However, recent studies show that nearly 3 million people in the UK at any given time are estimated to be living with malnutrition or at risk of malnutrition due to insufficient intake of nutrients. . The number of people over 75 years old – those most at risk of malnutrition – is expected to nearly double over the next 25 years. Surveys show that about 35% of residents in nursing homes are at a significantly more common risk of malnutrition and underweight among the elderly living in nursing homes compared to the general population. , and increases markedly with age. In contrast, obesity is clearly less common.

Many clinical, social, and functional factors are interrelated that can affect nutritional status, and these factors are common in the elderly. Poor food and nutrient intake due to health-related factors are the main causes of malnutrition, although psychosocial problems also have a significant effect on diet. including loneliness when living alone, Alzheimer’s disease and depression. Elderly people living in nursing homes have a complex, elusive combination of healthcare needs that often come with anorexia or difficulty eating. For example, service users with severe dementia may forget to eat or even forget how to eat, and people with neurological problems may have difficulty swallowing or have problems with eating themselves.

Dinh dưỡng
Good nutritional care is essential for the elderly

Documentation of malnutrition among the elderly has increased with national guidelines on nutritional screening and care and, furthermore, recommendations by the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust’s Francis Report, which shows that the patient is not can drink or eat properly.

However, too many people are still unaware of the prevalence of malnutrition among the elderly, or the serious consequences it can have, and even undernutrition in the elderly has not been reported yet. receive and put on treatment. Malnutrition in the elderly is associated with poor recovery and increased infections, hospitalization, re-hospitalization, and prolonged illness.

Good nutritional care is essential for the elderly and can help increase independence in daily life, reduce the risk of falls, improve health and reduce pressure sores. Nutrition care must ensure that those who are undernourished or at risk of malnutrition are promptly identified through screening, that action is taken to ensure that they receive appropriate nutritional assistance appropriate and timely, at the same time nutritional care is regularly monitored.

Raising awareness of people, relatives and caregivers on support for early prevention and treatment of malnutrition is also one of the important measures to reduce the risk of malnutrition in the elderly. Early recognition of malnutrition through regular screening and evaluation. Provide personalized care, support, and treatment. Monitor and evaluate weight, improvement and outcome of the elderly group. It is important that self-screening is not considered a nutritional success in practice. Good nutrition also means ensuring that the risk of malnutrition can be identified, and that everyone has access and / or assistance to consume food that not only meets nutritional needs but also needs. bridges and cultural and religious interests. Malnutrition should be everyone’s concern and everyone’s responsibility.

2. Prevent malnutrition in the elderly

An aging population is one of the reasons that undernutrition is a growing concern. Good nutrition is important for all elderly people. It is especially important for elderly people who have an illness or have been diagnosed with a chronic illness or dementia.

Malnutrition occurs when the body does not get enough nutrients from the food eaten every day to function properly. Essential nutrients include fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals. These substances provide the body with energy and help strengthen muscles. They help the body to develop and repair tissues. They also regulate bodily functions such as breathing and heartbeat.

Malnutrition in older adults can lead to a number of health problems, including:

  • Unintended weight loss;
  • Fatigue and lethargy (always feeling a lack of energy);
  • Muscle weakness or loss of strength. This can lead to a fall, which can cause fractures or damage to other parts of the body;
  • Increased depression or anxiety;
  • Problems with memory;
  • A poor immune system makes it difficult for your body to fight off infections;
  • Anemia.

2.1. Why malnutrition happens?

To know how to prevent malnutrition, it is first necessary to find out the causes that can lead to malnutrition. Malnutrition occurs when a person does not have enough food or eat enough (this means not providing the body with the nutrients it needs). Several things can affect the amount and type of foods older people eat, including:

  • Health problems: Older adults may experience health problems that cause anorexia or difficulty eating. This may include conditions such as dementia and other chronic illnesses. They may be on a diet thus causing the food to taste bland. They may also have dental problems that make it difficult to chew or swallow food.
  • Lack of variety in the diet: Fast and processed foods don’t always have all the nutrients your body needs. Sometimes older people tend to eat the same foods they like or are easy to prepare, leaving out the necessary variety.
  • Medications: Certain medications can reduce your appetite or affect the taste of food.
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Certain medications can reduce your appetite or affect the taste of food
  • Low income: Seniors may not have a fixed income. Besides, they may also be paying a large fee for expensive medicines to help control their health condition. They may have a hard time paying for groceries, especially the healthy foods they need.
  • Disability: Older adults with dementia or a physical disability may not be able to shop for groceries or cook for themselves.
  • Social issues: Meal times can be social. As we get older, we may begin to lose friends and gradually become family members. Elderly people who often have to eat alone may lose interest in cooking and eating.
  • Alcoholism: Alcoholism can reduce cravings and affect the way your body absorbs nutrients from food.
  • Depression in older adults can also lead to anorexia.

Because of these health problems, elderly malnourished people are more likely to see doctors, hospitals and even emergency rooms. They don’t recover from surgery or other procedures as quickly as well-nourished ones.

2.2. Prevent malnutrition in the elderly

To improve nutrition for the elderly in the family, here are some things to try:

  • Encourage healthier food choices: Foods, preferably foods rich in nutrients, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats can help the elderly limit their intake of fat. solid, sugar, alcoholic drinks and salt. It is advisable to suggest to the elderly how to replace unhealthy foods with healthier choices.
  • Snacking on healthy foods is a great way to get more nutrients and calories between meals. It can be especially helpful for seniors who feel full before mealtime.
  • Make better food: If the elderly need to be limited by certain diseases they have, herbs and spices can help restore the flavor of the food they eat. Just be sure to avoid salt-rich herbs or spices.
  • Consider adding supplements to the elderly’s diet: Seniors can benefit from supplements or other nutritional supplements. However, supplementation of these substances requires permission from a doctor.
  • Encourage exercise: Even just a few minutes of exercise can help improve the elderly’s appetite and keep their bones and muscles strong.
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Even just a few minutes of exercise can help improve the elderly’s appetite
  • Plan social activities: Prepare meal times and do a social activity. Take the elderly for a walk around the property. Encourage them to meet neighbors or close friends for lunch and chat. Many restaurants now have discounts for seniors.
  • Communicate regularly with hospital medical staff, retirement communities or elderly nursing homes: Health workers may not be aware that older people are suffering from malnutrition. Get their attention and make a plan to improve your nutrition.

Managing the health and nutrition of the elderly seems to be a very difficult task. If you are looking to help the elderly in your family, talk to your doctor about what to do. Your doctor can talk with you about the elderly person’s risk of malnutrition, health status and medications. You may need help making sure your loved one is eating properly. In addition, if you cannot spend time caring for the elderly in the family, try to find someone who can care for and provide healthy meals with adequate nutrients for the elderly in the family. family.

(Source: Vinmec)