Many Senior citizens are becoming malnourished -– here are the warning signs.
Individuals aged 65 and older are more likely to suffer from malnutrition than any other group, and this proportion is growing. In the UK, the number of patients over 60 who were admitted to the hospital with malnutrition increased from 1,405 in 2008 to almost 5,000 in 2018.
Despite the fact that obesity is still considered the most significant public health problem in Western countries, one condition that is becoming a growing concern is malnutrition, otherwise known as under-nourishment. Globally, around 462 million adults are malnourished.
A person suffering from malnutrition may experience a wide range of health problems, including poor wound healing, increased frailty, and higher mortality, among others. This condition occurs when a person does not consume enough calories or nutrients such as protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Reports also show that it is two to three times more expensive to treat someone who is malnourished than someone who is well-nourished. This is because they need more resources to treat them and a range of health problems may result from malnutrition.
According to data, people aged 65 years and older are more prone to malnutrition than any other age group. This number is rising. The number of adults over 60 admitted to hospital with malnutrition increased from 1,405 in 2008 to almost 5,000 in 2018. With the ever-rising cost of food, every year the number grows.
Recognizing the symptoms
Swallowing difficulties, poor dentition (for example, having missing teeth), mobility issues, acute and chronic ailments, and not getting enough protein, among other things, may contribute to malnutrition in the elderly. Nutrition health, in nearly every case, is not monitored when people live at home, making an almost 93% percentage of people who are malnourished. Loneliness, depression, difficulty cooking for themselves, difficulty accessing stores, and low income are among the causes of poor nutrition in the elderly.
Someone with a BMI less than 18.5 or an unintentional weight loss of more than 10% in the last three to six months is considered malnourished. Individuals with a BMI less than 20 who lost more than 5% of their weight in the last three to six months may also be considered malnourished.
It's not always simple to identify malnutrition in older people, as it might build up over a long period of time or because symptoms often become more common with age. Some indications of malnutrition in older people might include their garments, jewelry, and dentures becoming loose, a lowered appetite, a lack of interest in food and drink, exhaustion, altered mood, and weakness.
Those at risk of malnutrition or in need of further assessment will be identified by healthcare providers in primary care or care homes by using screening tools. BMI, as well as unplanned weight loss in the last six months, are used to assess a person's risk. Nutritional status might be missed for those living on their own, even though malnutrition figures continue to rise. Family and friends of senior citizens are being urged to look for possible signs of malnutrition as a result of the increase in malnutrition.
The first step in preventing and managing malnutrition is to focus on increasing calories and protein intake using a food-first approach, which attempts to improve a person's nutrition through diet alone.
Nutrition alone may not be the answer to malnutrition. People might require assistance eating and drinking, better fitting dentures, or softer foods that are easier to chew and swallow. For those who are lonely, eating in a pleasant environment might play an important role in boosting their appetite. Furthermore, those with money issues may require assistance accessing food items.
Oral nutrition supplements may be required by individuals with disease-related malnutrition, who require energy, protein, and other critical nutrients and minerals. Dietary counselling, support, and guidance, either with or without an oral nutrient supplement, are all effective in boosting nutritional intake and weight. Tube feeding, which is routinely carried out in hospitals or by healthcare professionals, may be used to provide nutrition in severe cases.
Recognizing people at risk for malnutrition prior to the need to manage dietary needs or overcoming barriers to adequate food intake is critical due to the serious health and financial consequences associated with malnutrition.
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