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Consequences of Malnutrition in Seniors

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Senior woman eating a healthy salad while sitting next to an exercise ball.

Many senior communities have incredible meal options and other wonderful amenities for their residents. Even in places like this, older adults still run the risk of malnutrition if they cannot take care of themselves otherwise.

Finding a community with a good team who cares about its residents, down to the last detail, is important. As you’ll see below, overall health and wellness play a significant role in preventing malnutrition. The condition is usually preventable, whether it’s the inability to eat, lack of interest in eating, or any other reason.

Malnutrition in Seniors Defined

When many people think of malnutrition, they probably think of a third-world country where the people only get one meal a day (if that). This is certainly terrible and sad and is an extreme example of malnutrition.

However, not getting enough of (or too much of) a particular nutrient can lead to malnutrition. This may come from not eating enough of the right foods or enough food in general. But even if you’re eating all the right things, you will eventually become malnourished if your body isn’t absorbing the nutrients.

This is why it’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet and see a doctor for regular checkups to ensure your body gets everything it needs in the proper amounts.

What Causes Malnutrition in Seniors?

Before we get into the consequences of malnutrition, let’s look at six of the primary causes. By knowing what causes it, there’s a better chance of malnutrition being prevented in the first place.

Cognitive Issues

Cognitive issues such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can play a huge role in the lack of proper nutrition. If the senior lives independently, they may forget to eat or buy groceries if they have memory issues. These issues can also cause their bodies to not absorb nutrients properly.

Dietary Restrictions

The best way to manage many diseases, such as diabetes or the risk of heart attack, is through strict diets. However, when dietary restrictions are in place, it’s easy for you to not get the nutrients that you need. 

Illness

Loss of appetite is a common symptom of many illnesses, such as cancer or intestinal and stomach issues. If eating makes you sick, there’s a good chance you won’t eat enough of the things your body needs to stay healthy.

Problems Eating

Another issue that’s particularly true for older adults is trouble eating. This may be due to poor dental health or other mouth-related problems. It could also mean having trouble swallowing. In situations like this, some creative solutions may need to be employed. And a doctor may recommend a good supplement to ensure your body is getting what it needs.

Medication

Just like illnesses, some medications also include loss of appetite as a side effect. Suppose a drug is commonly known to cause appetite loss. In that case, a doctor may prescribe another medicine to help counteract that effect. This is especially the case for a senior who may already be at risk for malnutrition.

Lack of Appetite

In addition to all these things, there are other potential causes for the lack of appetite. Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety can have a disastrous effect on wanting to eat. Alcohol abuse could be a culprit too, because it could prevent your body from absorbing nutrients. Even a lack of money can contribute to lacking an appetite because if a senior can’t afford groceries, they may refuse to eat entirely or ration themselves.

Senior man is giving a packet of supplements by a young doctor.

Consequences of Malnutrition in Seniors

Some of the more “minor” consequences of malnutrition are achy joints, excessive bruising, or changes in skin color and feeling. However, these can quickly become serious, and several other things can be serious and even life-threatening:

  • Weakened immune system
  • Needing help performing daily activities due to muscle loss and weakness
  • Increased chance of heart failure
  • Injuries and wounds won’t heal as fast
  • Inability to regulate temperature properly
  • Increased risk of cognitive issues

If you begin experiencing any of these things, it’s important that you see a doctor right away. The sooner malnutrition is dealt with, the better the chances of no lasting effects. This is especially true if you are eating a proper diet because there may be something more serious going on below the surface.

How Parsons House Contributes to Healthy Living for Seniors

The benefit of an assisted living community is that the senior generally has access to care that will prevent or minimize the chances of any severe malnutrition. Whether through healthy meals, medical care, or staying active, there are many ways to avoid malnourishment.

If you’re considering a senior community in La Porte, give us a call at Parsons House. The kind and professional team are happy to answer all your questions and book you a tour of the grounds.

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Written by Parsons House La Porte

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