Good nutrition is important at any age, but it becomes a more serious cause for concern as a person ages.
Problems causes by malnutrition in seniors
- Compromises the immune system causing the elder to fall sick more often
- Wounds take longer to heal
- Muscle mass decreases and this can cause problems in walking and may cause weakness in limbs, limiting activity
- Senior is at a higher risk for hospitalization, illness and relapse
- The risk of falls and fractures increase
What causes malnutrition in seniors?
Age related conditions
As a person grows older, their sense of smell and taste decreases. This can make food unappetising for them.
The side effects of illnesses can cause problems with appetite and digestion. This can include nausea, loss of appetite, loss of taste and stomach problems.
As one grows older, dental problems increase. Chipped or broken teeth and weak teeth can cause difficulty in chewing.
Mouth and stomach ulcers can cause dietary issues. Weakened throat muscles may make it difficult to swallow.
Some kinds of age-related physical impairment like stroke, and Parkinson’smay make it difficult for the senior to eat on their own. Trembling in the extremities makes it difficult to hold a spoon and guide the food to the mouth. Stroke can weaken facial muscles causing food to dribble out of the mouth.
Certain mental problems like Alzheimer’s, dementia, etc can causememory loss in seniors and they may forget to eat, may forget to buy groceries and it may cause other irregular food habits.
Medicines and treatments for illnesses can cause loss of appetite, nausea, loss of taste and stomach problems.
Restrictions on diet due to illness
Some health conditions like blood pressure or diabetes may require a restrictive diet (less of salt, avoiding sugar etc). Many seniors find it difficult to eat diet food.
Once they retire, seniors do not have the same kind of finances that they did when they were younger. This may mean having to get different kinds of food than what they were used to and it may cause their eating quantity to reduce.
Many seniors have very little social contact or social interaction and they may skip meals rather than eating alone.
Not having easy access to food
Inability to drive or fear of walking alone to the grocers may reduce the type of food that the senior is able to eat.
Grief, loneliness, failing health, lack of mobility and other factors might contribute to depression and cause loss of appetite.
Tips to ensure your senior gets adequate nutrition