Remember Sunday dinners at Grandma’s house, when the whole family came together around the table to share a hearty meal, conversations, and laughter? Sadly, with many families now living at a distance from their older loved ones, and with so many pressing needs pulling us in different directions, it’s difficult to continue this tradition – and it may be just one of the many factors contributing to the dramatic increase in senior malnutrition.
As many as 25% of all seniors in the U.S. are malnourished, resulting in critical health concerns. For some older adults who live alone, they simply aren’t motivated to cook properly for themselves. Others are experiencing grief, depression, anxiety, cognitive difficulties, poverty, medication side effects, and more.
Whatever the underlying factors, seniors who are malnourished face compromised immune systems, longer and more complicated hospital stays, readmissions, and earlier mortality. And detecting malnutrition isn’t as simple as observing weight loss in a senior; those who appear healthy or even overweight may also be struggling with malnourishment issues.
One key component to detecting senior malnutrition and subsequently addressing it lies in the hands of the medical community. Seniors should be screened for nutrition issues by their primary care physician, and a dietary plan put in place. When hospitalized, hospital personnel should also look into any potential nutritional needs, and include their findings and a prescribed course of action into discharge paperwork to be reviewed with both caregivers and the senior’s doctor.
Family members also play a vital role in ensuring the nutritional needs of their senior loved ones are met, and in helping to uncover the root cause if problems are discovered. For instance, if financial concerns are preventing the senior from maintaining a healthy diet, he or she may qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Currently, as many as three out of five older adults who do quality for the program are not utilizing its benefits.
It’s important to pay attention to signs that your senior loved one may not be adhering to a healthy diet, and to discuss any concerns with the older adult’s physician. And call on North River Home Care for help in establishing better nutritional habits for your senior loved one. We can plan and prepare balanced meals, pick up groceries and ensure there are healthy food options in the fridge and pantry at all times, and provide friendly companionship that makes mealtime more pleasant.