Causes and Symptoms of Malnutrition in the Elderly

Posted: 10/7/2015 12:16 PM by Interim HealthCare

Healthy meals that contain the nutrients our bodies need to function well is important for our overall health. As we age, it is even more important that our bodies get the nutrients it needs, yet many older adults are not getting adequate nutrition. This lack of a healthy diet may cause malnutrition; however, it is not just the foods and drinks consumed that can cause this condition. There are a number of factors, including:

  • A weak immune system that may increase the chances of infections
  • Muscle weakness, leading to falls and fractures
  • Poor wound healing

Reasons Behind Malnutrition

Aging adults who are getting senior care may develop this eating disorder as a result of social, psychological, or physical problems. Here are some reasons that may have caused malnutrition in the loved one you are providing in-home care for.
  • Low income: Depending on their health situation, most of their money may be going towards medical bills and prescriptions, leaving very little for groceries. For this reason, low income seniors may be more interested in food that is cheap instead of healthy.
  • Restricted diet: Their doctor may have put them on a restricted diet to limit the amount of sugar, salt, or fats they consume. While this may be helping with some medical conditions, the lack of some key nutrients may cause malnutrition to occur.
  • Health problems: Health issues, such as dementia or a chronic illness, may result in a lack of appetite for the aging adult. Some health problems may also make it difficult for the senior to absorb certain nutrients.
  • Isolated or withdrawn: Without having anyone to share a meal with, the elder may lose interest in eating or cooking altogether. 
  • Depression: Depression can completely transform the behavior of someone you love, making them sadder, more anxious, and sometimes unwilling to get out of bed. It can be a debilitating condition that could cause your loved one to lose their appetite.
  • Alcoholism: Consuming too much alcohol can cause problems with the digestive tract and the body's ability to absorb nutrients.

Symptoms to Look for

It can be challenging trying to spot those who are suffering from malnutrition, especially if they seem completely healthy. However, if the following symptoms are noticed, it is important to take care of this condition as soon as possible to prevent any future health complications.
  • Weight loss: Regularly having your loved one weigh themselves at home will give you an idea of whether or not there has been a change to their weight. Also, observe how their clothes are fitting and if they seem like they have become loose.
  • Know the side effects of all medications: Some medications may cause your loved one to lose interest in eating, while also disrupting their digestion and ability to absorb nutrients.
  • Watch your loved one's eating habits: If you are providing elder care for a loved one, try to make a habit of eating with them in order to pay close attention to what they are eating.
  • Be alert of any other possible health problems: Malnutrition does not only affect your loved one's weight, but may also cause bruising, dental issues, and poor wound healing.
If you witness any symptoms of malnutrition, have your loved one get treated right away to avoid any further health complications.

If you have an aging loved one in need of elder care contact Interim HealthCare today.