To the elderly population in Australia, malnutrition may have serious health repercussions and can increase the risk of death.
Nutrition problems in the elderly can cause several complications, some even chronic, and are caused by a variety of factors. To understand its impact, we need to look at its range and learn the ways to address it.
Complications Caused by Nutrition Deficiency in Older Adults
In 2019 the Dieticians Association of Australia reported that morbidity and mortality increased among people who are malnourished. Listed below are a few of the detrimental related effects of nutrition deficiency in seniors.
- Weight Changes
Both weight loss and gain are results of poor nutrition, which affect muscle functions. Many older adults who are not healthy experience changes in their weight due to too much or too little calories.
- Weakened Immune System
A person’s defence system is reliant on the nutrients the body receives. Most of us are confronted with limitations as we get older, making our bodies weaker. That and malnutrition put us at risk and can compromise the body’s ability to fight infections.
- Low Energy and High Stress
Older adults have a slower metabolism, and if they fail to eat nutritious foods, their energy levels suffer. Malnutrition also contributes to an increased cortisol level, resulting in stress.
Aging adults are prone to developing Osteoporosis. Less calcium intake affects bone density, making seniors more prone to fractures.
- Lifestyle Diseases
Old age and nutrition play a significant role in worsening a disease. For example, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer are the kinds of medical conditions that must be treated holistically. Improving a person’s lifestyle, which includes nutrition, is part of the process.
What Causes Poor Nutrition among the Elderly?
Seeing how adequate nutrition impacts, many older people push for an exploration of the causes of malnutrition. Unlike kids and young to middle adults, elderly people have limitations contributing to undernutrition. Some of them are listed below:
- Reduced or Loss of appetite – This is common among the elderly, especially those with existing illnesses.
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing – Dental health declines as we get older, and this can cause problems in eating.
- Reduced physical strength or mobility – When seniors have difficulty going to the grocery or preparing their food, they tend to eat less and only what is accessible, often failing to meet their nutritional requirements.
- Chronic conditions and medications – Illnesses and their subsequent medications have side effects that may affect appetite and eating patterns.
- Mental and emotional factors – Aging does not come easy for everyone, and many elderly go through depression which affects food intake and their daily function.
- Financial insecurity – Costly medications and doctor’s appointments are related to a senior’s ability to buy nutritious foods.
Addressing the Problem and Improving Elderly Nutritional Status
Despite the causes, nutrient deficiency in the elderly can be rectified. Once we understand all the factors, we can devise a strategic dietary plan. Aged Care Weekly suggests incorporating this into your diet:
- Add Fruits and Vegetables in Meals
The incorporation of nutrient-rich foods into the diet can drastically improve wellness. Most of these foods are also soft and tasty, making them more appealing. Greens like vegetables, fruits, grains, milk, and protein make up for a balanced meal.
- Mix Healthy Flavourings
A common problem when feeding seniors is their lack of appetite for certain foods, which is often a result of a diminished sense of taste and smell. It can be amended by adding healthy herbs and spices to create a more flavorful meal.
- Make Meals Colorful and Appealing
Microwavable, mushed foods are the enemy of proper nutrition. They may look stale and taste bland. Ensure plates are more colourful to make food more appetising. Adding some dried fruit, garnish, and sauce into the diet plan can make it more savoury for older adults.
- Make Servings Small Yet Frequent
Sometimes a heavy meal can be overwhelming to older people. The trick is preparing smaller, nutritious foods frequently. Don’t forget the needed amount of water intake.
- Make Mealtime Enjoyable and Social
Meals are meant to be shared with family, or a group, so try to eat dinner together with your senior loved one. Maximise this time to catch up and check on them.
Supporting Older Adults with Their Health
Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D, along with minerals like magnesium, calcium, and potassium, are crucial nutrients to a seniors’ health. Taking supplements and switching to healthier food choices that include a good amount of calories, protein, whole grains, low-fat milk, and olive oil helps a lot. On top of it all, drinking lots of water should not be neglected.
Encourage seniors to improve their overall wellness and support them in achieving their nutritional needs. Now more than ever, they need someone who can take care of them as they age.