Malnutrition has the potential to occur as people age. Why? Sometimes they find it difficult to eat certain foods or begin to not feel as hungry as they used to.
For elders, getting good nutrition is the key to better long-term health. Unfortunately, some nursing homes and care facilities don’t take the right steps to make sure that the elders in their care are getting the right nutritional support.
When that happens, both nutritional deficiencies and malnourishment can wreak havoc on the body. Dehydration is also possible along with serious conditions such as anemia, a weakened immune system and other problems.
Statistically, approximately two out of every five elderly adults in nursing homes are malnourished. These individuals are at a higher risk of infection, injury and death.
What causes malnutrition?
Malnutrition generally occurs because of eating an unbalanced diet lacking in nutrients or by consuming too little food. In nursing homes, there is a heightened risk of nutritional imbalances and malnutrition for a few reasons, such as the medications that patients take, difficulty swallowing and other problems.
Nutritional deficiencies in nursing homes are common, so it’s important to make sure that you spend enough time at the nursing home to know their menus, to understand the steps they take to guarantee meals are delivered on time to patients and to be aware if your loved one begins to lose weight or show signs of malnutrition or dehydration.
It is a common misconception that the elderly naturally suffer from malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies. It’s a myth that these issues cannot be corrected in most elderly adults. Corrective measures can be taken, such as:
- Increasing the intake of fluids with electrolytes or vitamins
- Altering the diet to the taste preferences of the elder
- Pureeing food instead of providing solids
- Supplementing food with liquids
- Increasing the number of foods served with a semi-liquid form, such as soups or softer casseroles
Your loved one deserves to receive the right nutritional support as they age. They are in a medical facility to receive care, so their nutritional needs should not be overlooked. If the staff is allowing them to skip meals or is failing to deliver the right food or drink to them, then you may want to look into your options to intervene.