Signs of Improper Nutrition in an Elderly Loved One

It can be difficult for older adults to get adequate nutrition, particularly if they are struggling with health challenges or taking medications that might suppress their appetites. However, research points to elders needing more of many key nutrients, including calcium and B vitamins. Malnutrition can occur for weeks and months before it shows up in physical symptoms, but there are a number of ways you can work to spot problems early.

March is National Nutrition Month, but proper nutrition matters year round. Some of the problems caused by insufficient nutrition in older adults include:Why Does Malnutrition Matter?

  • Weakened immune system and increased risk of infection
  • Slow wound healing
  • Muscle weakness
  • Decreased bone mass, which can lead to an increased risk of fractures or falls
  • Higher hospitalization risk
  • Increased risk of death

One of the most dangerous things about malnutrition is that it can cause an increased lack of appetite, which exacerbates the problem and makes getting back on track even more difficult.

 Why Is Malnutrition Such a Problem for Seniors?

For most elders, malnutrition occurs due to a combination of social, psychological and physical issues. Health concerns like dementia, dental issues, chronic illness, recent hospitalizations and a decreased sense of taste can all make seniors less enthusiastic about eating. A restricted diet can also dramatically impact interest in food. Other situations that lead to nutrition difficulties in seniors include a reduction in social contact, limited income, mental health issues like depression and substance abuse issues like alcoholism.

The Signs of Improper Nutrition

  • Have your loved one’s eating habits changed? Make a habit of checking in at mealtime on days that aren’t special occasions. If your senior loved one lives alone, check who buys food. Setting up a meal delivery service or helping them to prepare meals can make a big difference.
  • Pay attention for any unexpected weight loss. If clothing fits differently or there is a sudden drop in weight, it could be a sign of poor nutrition.
  • If a doctor notes slow healing, dental trouble or increased weakness, don’t write it off. All three of those symptoms can point to trouble with nutrition.
  • If a side effect of a medication is decreased appetite and it leads to a dangerous reduction in weight or appetite, talk to your loved one’s doctor about finding an alternative.

Care for Your Loved Ones with Senior Care Lifestyles

At Senior Care Lifestyles, we specialize in facilitating the connection between seniors and the right in-home care, assisted living and senior living communities. We have assisted hundreds of families with finding effective and affordable solutions for loved ones. Get in touch today by calling 410-977-3718, or complete the needs assessment form below to be contacted by someone at Senior Care Lifestyles.


Article submitted by Deborah Bakalich, MSRN Member 3.7.19