Poor nutrition is a big factor in an elderly person’s overall health condition. Far too many seniors are at risk for malnutrition and family caregivers may not even notice the symptoms well enough to intervene. Help an aging loved one get the best diet possible by learning how to recognize the top 5 signs of malnutrition in seniors and what can be done to prevent it in the future.
Seniors become malnourished in many ways, and it is almost never intentional unless they are struggling with an eating disorder. Common reasons for malnourishment include non-nutritious meals, not eating enough calories, skipping meals, suppressed appetite and improperly managed restricted diets like diabetes. Other causes include depression, dental issues that make eating painful, alcoholism and simply the inability to prepare food for themselves.
Family members and caregivers should look for these 5 warning signs of malnutrition in seniors:
1. Different Eating Habits
While it is perfectly normal for an elderly person’s appetite to diminish over the years due to medicine side effects, oral health and a more sedentary lifestyle, they still need to eat balanced meals and healthy snacks. Family caregivers may notice that food is just pushed around the plate instead of being eaten. Senior care aides can help track whether or not the elderly loved one is getting regular meals and what amounts are actually being eaten.
2. Changes to Skin and Hair
When seniors are malnourished, they usually have excessively dry skin and chapped lips. Lotions won’t seem to help much and the dryness may be so severe that the skin cracks. Many elderly people experience thinning hair as a result of aging, but hair thinning and loss are also signs of malnutrition. In extreme cases, seniors may have a hard time with their wounds healing from lack of nutrients in the body.
3. Persistent Weight Loss
Again, many seniors go through a period of shedding pounds as they age. Family caregivers can ensure their elderly loved one is getting regular doctor visits to monitor their health, including weight. Other signs are a change in the way their clothes fit and pinched or hollow facial features.
4. Declining Oral Health
Malnutrition causes problems with an elderly person’s mouth. Family caregivers may notice that their gums are starting to swell or bleed. In more advanced cases of undernourishment, the teeth start to decay. Regular visits to their dentist can help distinguish issues with malnourishment versus other oral health issues.
5. Everything Slows Down
A malnourished body doesn’t function as efficiently and starts to shut down. In seniors, this often means anemia, fatigue, a weakened immune system, muscle weakness and bloating. In serious cases, organs can start to shut down and lead to kidney failure, poor liver function, gastrointestinal problems, heart problems and more.
Because so many of the signs of malnutrition are similar to regular effects of aging, it can be tricky for family caregivers to notice the signs. By comparing notes with other family members, senior care aides, physicians and others, they can get a clearer picture of whether their aging loved one is suffering from malnutrition.
If you or an aging loved one are considering senior care in Lodi, CA, contact the caring staff at Provident Home Care. Call today (877) 572-3411.
Robin Conley RN., Owner and CEO of Provident Care Home Care Providing HOME CARE- ASSISTED LIVING PLACEMENT ASSISTANCE
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