Various factors cause malnutrition in older adults. Some of them are as follows:
Age-related effects: Changes in smell, taste, and appetite with age make it more difficult to enjoy eating as usual in older adults.
Dementia: Memory or behavioral issues in older adults tend to make them forget to consume food.
Medications: Certain medications for older adults can hamper their eating habits too.
Disease: Several illnesses, for example, inflammation-related diseases can decrease the efficiency of how the body processes food and results in appetite.
Impairment in eating ability: Older people have difficulty in swallowing or chewing because of poor dental health.
Depression: Loneliness, declining health, and grief contribute to loss of appetite in older adults, making them malnourished.
Limited access to food: Adults who show restricted mobility may not be able to get the right type of nutrients.
Alcohol consumption in older adults: Reduction in the digestive enzyme secretion from the pancreas and nutritional absorption impairment by cellular damage of intestine and stomach affects the gut microbiome and disables the nutrients transport into the bloodstream. It also downregulates the blood sugar levels causing hypoglycemia, deficiencies of various vitamins such as A, D, E, B, and K. Also, malnutrition in older adults results in different mineral deficiencies such as magnesium, calcium, and iron.
Medical complications of malnutrition in older adults
Malnutrition can cause several medical complications such as the following:
Organ disease due to poor nutritional content in the body causing inflammation.
Pancreatic damage due to dietary deficiency.
Deficiency of thiamine and other vitamins can cause various neurological issues such as memory loss or impaired movement.
Bone and muscle weakening
Malnutrition in older adults causes a reduction of dietary calorie intake and also a decrease in absorption and digestion, and nutrition impairment. The degree and extent of malnutrition depend upon the fact that how much nutritional deficiency is there, genetics, intake of food, severity, and presence of comorbid illnesses. The risk of developing macro and micronutrient deficiencies rises significantly. Additionally, malnutrition in older adults causes the risk of damage to the entire body system due to a lack of appropriate nutrients in the human body. There is a need to take care of oneself by consuming sufficient nutrition by eating a balanced diet, protein, and vitamin supplements.
Prevention of malnutrition in older adults
Some of the actions that can prevent and reduce malnutrition in older adults are as follows:
A balanced diet and physical activity: A well-balanced diet and physical activity can stimulate muscle and bone growth in older adults and can prevent malnutrition.
Observing habits: While spending time as a caregiver to the older people, observe the eating habits regularly and notice any changes in their eating behavior and pattern.
Nutrient interventions: If they are identified with malnutrition, proper dietary or nutrient intervention based on the recommendation of dieticians or health care professions should be followed.
Medication tracking: If they are ailing with any illnesses or disorders, keep track of the illness and a record of all the medications, dosage, schedule, and potential side effects.
Weight monitoring: Always monitor their weight at regular intervals. Weight change can help in deciding and indicating weight loss in older people.
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