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Is malnutrition in the elderly normal?

As elderly people continue to age, one of the problems that some run into is that they can no longer eat or drink normally. They may have trouble swallowing or not taste food in the same way, so they may have no real appetite. In some cases, the medications that the elderly take could influence their hunger, too.

Malnutrition, therefore, is more common among the elderly than other populations, but that doesn’t mean that it’s okay for someone in a nursing home to be malnourished. When an elderly person is being adequately treated and monitored, it’s possible to address malnutrition with nutritional supplements, better dietary planning and, in some cases, intravenous solutions.

What signs are there that your loved one is not eating enough?

Malnourishment at an older age tends to present with either rapid skeletal muscle wasting or the progressive loss of muscle mass depending on the cause. For example, if your loved one has cancer, it may be typical to see them lose weight quickly. Someone who is simply aging and not eating enough will slowly lose muscle mass.

The differences in how malnutrition presents matter, because they can signal the difference between an illness or just not eating enough.

Why is malnutrition a problem for the elderly?

Besides the risk of illness or death related to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, starvation and dehydration, malnutrition can also impair immune function, delay recovery from diseases or illnesses and delay wound healing. For example, if you loved one develops a bedsore and is malnourished, they’re more likely to take longer to heal than someone who is well-nourished.

What can you do if your loved one is malnourished?

It is necessary for you to talk to your loved one about their eating habits. If they are not being offered meals or the meals they receive are items they cannot eat, you may want to address your concerns with the nursing home. If the nursing home is not doing its job and is failing to provide adequate nutrition to your loved one, you may have a case against the nursing home for neglect or elder abuse.