The Causes of Malnutrition in Seniors
Since the coronavirus outbreak has presented such a severe risk to seniors, a poor diet is often overlooked by family members. Your elderly loved one’s primary goal might be to stay at home and avoid trips to the local grocery store. Even before concerns about the coronavirus caused so many seniors to self-isolate, an elder’s poor diet and malnutrition was a challenge many families faced. As the global pandemic continues to pursue, researchers say a weakened immune system can increase seniors’ risk of catching the virus. A diet low in nutrients can lead to a decrease in immunity. Other health issues linked to malnutrition include chronic fatigue, loss of bone density, slow healing wounds, and increased risk for falls. But, what are the causes of malnutrition in seniors?
The causes of malnutrition are incredibly varied, and they can be divided into three main types: medical, social, and psychological.
As you explore potential reasons that an older loved one isn’t eating well, consider their medical problems. A poor appetite is probably the most common cause of malnutrition and is mediated by various factors. It is well known that energy intake decreases with age and that micro‐nutrient deficiencies are more likely to occur with a reduced energy intake. Taste and smell are another reason your loved one may have lost their appetite as they cannot enjoy their food. Oral health and dentures have been shown to affect food intake and generally deteriorate with aging significantly. For example, poorly fitting dentures might make chewing painful. Struggling to stand for very long and prepare meals could lead a senior to eat very little. There are conditions like Parkinson’s disease and arthritis that make tasks associated with preparing a healthy meal, such as slicing and chopping vegetables, difficult and even dangerous for a senior.
Meals are often associated with socializing and a specified time to connect with friends and family. For seniors who are trying to distance themselves from others, eating alone might be necessary. However, the situation can become unpleasant for seniors, the longer they are isolated. Cooking and shopping for one may also seem like too much work after a while. Because of this, a senior may turn to fast foods and convenience items, including frozen dinners, processed foods, and canned foods instead. These foods tend to be low in nutrients and high in sodium and trans-fat.
Grief, depression, isolation, and loneliness are other reasons your loved one may not get the essential nutrients they need. A death in the family, a change in personal health, or anxiety about the coronavirus are just a few psychological challenges that can affect a senior’s eating habits. For instance, those trying to cope with stress, anxiety, or depression may consume too many unhealthy comfort foods or sugary treats. In contrast, others in psychological pain may lose their appetite altogether.
Once you pinpoint the leading cause of your loved one’s malnutrition, it will be easier to address those concerns. Whether it’s having groceries delivered or exploring meal delivery services, there are various solutions for you to consider. If you have any questions or concerns about your elderly loved one, please contact their local doctor. At Courtyard Manor, we are now offering Zoom tours and assessments! Feel free to give us a call today.