Malnutrition in Older Adults and Preventive Measures

malnutrition in older adults

All adults are recommended to have a balanced diet and wholesome nutrition to maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, as they get older, it’s essential to shift our focus to the nutritional value of their foods.

Proper nutritional intake is a fundamental aspect of maintaining lifestyle quality and avoiding malnutrition, especially in older persons. Ignoring the appropriate balance can lead to issues with the immune system, muscles and weight levels.

At Seasons Retirement, we have a team of professional chefs who ensure that all nutritional needs of our residents are met by providing them with healthy and balanced meals. But while we do our part to help maintain proper nutrition levels, it’s also important to be aware of risk factors that might pose a higher risk of malnutrition in specific individuals and ensure that you and your loved ones take appropriate preventative measures to ensure their wellness.

Malnutrition in older adults and why nutritional balance is important

The concept of nutrition in health is quite simple; it focuses on forming a balanced diet that provides the body with the suitable substances it needs to replenish itself and maintain proper functions.

Generally, nutrients will cover a variety of substances you might be familiar with: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, as well as additional amounts of vitamins and minerals. Of course, water is also considered a nutrient due to its essential role in regulating our bodies.

It becomes essential to maintain good dietary habits to prevent malnutrition in older adults. Getting the right amount of nutrition every day goes a long way toward preventing several health conditions such as heart disease and osteoporosis.

In our modern society, it’s becoming increasingly rare to find cases of malnutrition in seniors, though some cases can still occur depending on individual habits, preferences and practices. This might not necessarily come about from a lack of vigilance. Despite making little to no changes to our regular eating habits, the prevalence of malnutrition in older adults indicates that the cause lies in the body’s changing needs as we get older.

For example, an increased need for calcium is common across most adults as they get older. If this need isn’t met by upping the amount of calcium-rich foods we consume, we can still end up with deficiencies that can lead to issues in the long run.

This makes it especially important for us to ensure our loved ones are aware of their bodies’ changing requirements and make adjustments that work to prevent malnutrition in older adults.

Which factors make it more difficult to follow healthy eating habits?

In some cases, there are unique and personal factors that can affect one’s ability to follow the proper diet and eat healthy as they get older. Some of these factors include:

  • Changes in lifestyle
  • New medications
  • Changes in income
  • Health conditions
  • Changes to your sense of smell and taste

It’s essential to recognize the effects of these circumstances and assess whether they’ve had any effects on your loved one’s dietary practices.

Preventive measures for malnutrition

While malnutrition can sometimes be challenging to detect and diagnose, it can easily be prevented by implementing changes in an older adult’s lifestyle to encourage proper dietary habits and avoid any nutritional imbalances. Here are some practical measures that can be used to prevent malnutrition:

1.    Exercise

Exercising can significantly improve the overall health of your loved one. It promotes increased strength and the maintenance of healthy muscles. It can also naturally increase appetite, as the body naturally seeks to replenish its resources after a session of physical activity.

2.    Opt for healthier food

Older adults should always prioritize nutritious and balanced meals; they should cut down on processed food, alcoholic beverages, salt, and sugars and select healthier food choices to avoid nutritional issues. For good health and improved general well-being, it’s recommended for their diet to include vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, as they offer the most nutrients.

3.    Supplements

To ensure your loved one gets their daily recommended nutrients, you should consider including supplements in their diet. Vitamin and mineral supplements can often make up for any specific deficiencies present in one’s diet, though keep in mind that this is not a complete solution to dietary imbalances. At best, supplements will round out an older adult’s diet and will still require eating healthy foods with high nutritional value to avoid malnutrition properly.

4.    Delicious meals

Delicious meals have a way of increasing one’s appetite. Seasons Retirement ensures that our residents are always offered meals that consider both flavour and nutritional balance.

However, your loved ones might also consider using spices and herbs like ginger, garlic, onions, and turmeric to try out new flavours and encourage proper meal consumption.

5.    Snacking

Eating healthy snacks between meal times at regular intervals is an excellent way to keep your digestive system working and absorb beneficial nutrients. Discuss some options for snacking with your loved ones to determine what might work best for them.

6.    Social activities

Socially active older adults are usually happier and experience an increased appetite than those who keep to themselves. If your loved one spends time socializing during mealtime, it’s more likely that they’ll be motivated to eat more and get the proper nutrients they need.

We also recommend encouraging your loved one to participate in community and outdoor programs, take a walk or visit a friend for lunch or dinner. These are all social aspects of a balanced lifestyle that indirectly fend off several risk factors for malnutrition.

Bottom line

Though malnutrition can affect any age group, it can be more apparent among older adults that make specific lifestyle choices or have underlying health issues.

It’s always a good idea to talk to a doctor or a dietician if you need help to improve the nutritional value of your parents’ or grandparents’ diet.

Seasons Retirement’s professional staff provides and supports the nutritional requirements of residents. We offer round-the-clock care depending on one’s dietary needs to ensure they live healthy and happy lives.

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