HomeHealth ConditionsMalnutrition: A Hidden Epidemic In Older Adults

Malnutrition: A Hidden Epidemic In Older Adults

Over the years, many older adults have let me into their homes because they have been referred to one of the health programs I work for. Part of my job as a geriatric clinician requires me to assess the persons malnutrition and to ask them information about their private lives, including their appetite. I then ask for their height and weight and if they have gained or lost any weight over the last few months. I am even required to ask if it is okay to open their fridges to see what kind of food they consume (I also check expiry dates to be sure no one is neglecting to dispose of rotten food).

Sometimes I come across older adults who have lost a lot of weight. Most of them live on their own. Many of these people have other conditions such as memory loss, decreased mobility, and serious medical problems such as diabetes or heart disease.

Some of the most remarkable weight loss situations in my experience has been found in people with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. Someone with dementia may forget to eat, forget how to prepare a meal, or have a decreased appetite. They may simply forget how to get food (arrange transportation, grocery shop, order groceries) or have an inability to problem solve their situation.

Proper nutrition and hydration are very important to help keep a person’s body (and mind) strong and running optimally. Here’s a great video from Alliance for Aging Research that explains the hidden epidemic of malnutrition in older people.

If the video doesn’t work for you, try this YouTube link: https://youtu.be/iPNZKyXqN1U

This article previously appeared on Angela’s site.

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Angela G. Gentile, M.S.W., R.S.W. is a geriatric clinician and specialist in aging who has more than 25 years of experience working with older adults and their families. She has worked in private practice, long-term care, home care, mental health and nonprofits. She has written two books - Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide and A Book about Burnout: One Social Worker's Tale of Survival. She also has a mobile app for iOS called Dementia Caregiver Solutions. Angela enjoys writing, traveling, photography and exploring what it means to age well. She is a realistic optimist who lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband, two adult children and lovable dog named Rocky.

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