Malnutrition and inadequate nutritional care is sadly common for Canadian seniors, affecting more than 33% of the senior population. Since proper nutrition is the basis to overall health, many seniors are experiencing health risks such as infection, muscle tears, and poor wound healing, among other serious conditions. Caused by a combination of social, physical, and psychological issues, addressing senior malnutrition is part of good senior care. The following are some causes of malnutrition and ways to combat senior malnutrition.
Malnutrition in Canada
According to a 2013 Canadian survey, one-third of seniors experienced one or more of the following risk factors of malnutrition:
- Gaining or losing more than 10 pounds (4.5 kg) in six months
- Skipping meals almost once per day
- Eating fewer than two servings of vegetables and fruits per day
- Rarely or never eating with someone
Reduced or limited mobility is also cited as an important risk factor, as this can limit the ability to shop for healthy ingredients or prepare healthy meals at home. Financial constraints, psychological factors such as depression and loneliness, and geographic factors such as isolation and lack of public transportation all contribute to an epidemic of senior malnutrition.
How It Begins
Seniors often have health problems that lead to decreased appetite and increased difficulties in eating. Problems with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, oral hygiene, and medications make it difficult for seniors to remember to eat, swallow food, and absorb the right nutrients that they need. They may also have limited income that makes it challenging for them to afford groceries. Often many end up eating alone, which is a deterrent to cook meals. The problem is intensified by the lack of mobility, loneliness, grief, and other feelings that lead to depression and loss of appetite.
How to Spot Senior Malnutrition
Malnutrition isn’t always easy to spot but uncovering some of the signs early can help prevent further complications.
- Do they eat enough vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats on a regular basis?
- Do they have weekly access to fresh, healthy ingredients through meal delivery service, a family member providing groceries, or an in-home caregiver assisting with shopping?
- Are they able to prepare meals on their own, or do they have access to meal preparation from a family member or in-home caregiver?
- Are meal times a social occasion, or do they always eat alone?
- Are they losing or gaining substantial weight as describe above?
- Do they have healthy digestion and regular bowel movements?
- Are they on any medications that affect appetite or digestion?
You can identify whether your loved one has an issue with malnutrition by answering these questions.
What You Can Do to Help
Help them form a meal plan that encourages eating nutritious foods and not foods that are packed with sugar, caffeine, and processed ingredients. Arrange for a family member or friend to spend time cooking and sharing meals with them. And if you notice health problems associated with malnutrition speak to their doctor to find out if any of their medications are affecting their health and if they can be screened for malnutrition.
If you live out of town or lead a busy personal or family life and you need assistance with ensuring your loved one is in the best possible health, Qualicare Family Homecare can help. Our trained in-home caregivers can assist with everything from shopping for groceries to favorite meal preparation to the simple act of providing companionship at mealtime. We ensure compatibility between the client and caregivers based on cultural preference and temperament and can ensure the caregiver’s interest and skills in preparing food that the client enjoys.
With Qualicare’s signature nurse-managed care, your loved one’s daily activities will be monitored and assessed on a regular basis and we will alert you in any changes in nutrition, weight gain/loss, or overall health. For instance, we can identify if a new medication is causing a loss of appetite in your loved one. We can provide assistance for you to act as a health care advocate to communicate this side effect to the doctor. This comprehensive service ensures your loved one is in the best of hands.
To learn more about combatting senior malnutrition, reach out to Qualicare Family Homecare today at 613.266.3899.