Malnutrition in the Elderly
Malnutrition is a physical state of unbalanced nutrition. This can be under or over nutrition. Usually people picture someone who is not getting enough nutrients. However, you can also be malnourished if you are overeating a diet that does not consist of enough fruits, protein, grains and vegetables. Seniors are more at risk of malnutrition due to physiological, psychosocial, and economic factors that result from doctor visits, being admitted to a hospital and changes in financial situation. Additionally, changing from being admitted to the hospital to going back home can be a large issue trying to figure out how to do things at home again and not being able to manage the medications.
According to Eat Right Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, clinical malnutrition is when a patient becomes malnourished. This could be because the patient needs more nutrition than usual or they are not able to absorb the nutrients they eat. For this reason, some patients receive their food through a tube. Malnutrition can be assessed by a Registered Dietitian by checking weight history, dietary intake, lab values and a physical exam. Other reasons for the cause of malnutrition can be an eating disorder, organ failure, infection or physical trauma such as a head injury. In addition to this, changes in eating habits can be a result of change in ability to cook, eating alone after a spouse passes away or a change in financial situation.
Today’s Dietitian referred to a review of studies on malnutrition in hospitalized older adults reported a prevalence rate of 12% to 70%.4 In nursing homes, as in the hospitalized setting, the reported prevalence also varies widely, ranging from 1.5% to 67% or more of the population having some degree of malnutrition. When a patient is identified of being at risk of or suffering from malnutrition they should be referred to an appropriate dietitian or social worker. Dietitians can find a meal plan that works for the patient according to their current situation and at home assistance if required.