Proper nutrition is essential to overall health and well-being, physically and mentally. At any age, a diet rich in lean proteins, fresh produce, and healthy carbohydrates does the human body good. Yet, even when you know the importance of good nutrition, you may have an elderly loved one in your life that suffers from malnutrition. Malnutrition is a serious problem among older Americans who lose their appetite for various reasons. If you have concerns about an individual, you should discuss them with healthcare providers and consider free home healthcare services to support a healthier lifestyle. Because recognizing the warning signs of malnutrition in the elderly is an important first step, you should review some important information.
Signs that an Elderly Loved One is Suffering from Malnutrition
The most obvious indication that your elderly loved one is suffering from lack of nutrition is weight loss, but other signs are subtle. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should note and be concerned if the person:
- Becomes uncharacteristically depressed, angry, or irritable;
- Is constantly tired;
- Has difficulties concentrating;
- Lacks an appetite or interests in meals;
- Always complains of being cold;
- Starts losing hair or hair falls out easily;
- Does not recover from illness within a reasonable amount of time;
- Has papery, thin, cold skin; or,
- Is often lethargic and sleepy.
In more serious situations, it is essential to take action quickly if you notice that the elderly individual experiences difficulty breathing.
Reasons Malnutrition is a Danger
Lack of proper sustenance can eventually lead to serious health problems for anyone, but it is a particular concern for the elderly. Malnutrition may result in various medical issues, such as:
- A weakened immune system, which increases the incidence and risk of infection;
- Decreased muscle mass;
- Longer or inadequate wound healing;
- General weakness, leading to falls and broken bones;
- Decreases in oral health, which leads to problems chewing food – and, in turn, feeds the cycle of malnutrition;
- Diminished cognitive functioning; and,
- Longer recovery from surgery or hospitalizations.
Preventing Malnutrition in the Elderly
You should always trust your loved one’s healthcare providers for advice and treatment. Mention your concerns to physicians and ask about any medications that may affect appetite. It is also important to address any diet restrictions that were recommended by doctors in the past. Low fat, low sodium, or low carb regimes may no longer be necessary for a loved one suffering from malnutrition.
Plus, there are additional steps you can take to ensure proper nutrition, including:
- Making meals for a social get-together or special occasion;
- Using spices, seasonings, and juices to liven up foods your loved one finds bland;
- Finding ways to introduce new, nutritious foods;
- Consider vitamins or supplements recommended by a doctor; and,
- Making sure healthy snacks are handy.
Take Advantage of Health Services and Care Benefits
Another tip for preventing malnutrition in the elderly may be getting a helping hand to assist with meals, grocery shopping, and related services. Free home healthcare may be available for eligible individuals through United Energy Workers Healthcare and Four Corners Health Care (DOL EEOICPA). If you have questions or want more information on the services we offer, please contact a member of our team to discuss your situation.