What is Malnutrition?
Malnutrition is defined by the WHO as deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients. The term covers two broad groups of conditions – undernutrition and overweight.
Specific to Older Adults
- 1 in 2 older adults are at risk for malnutrition
- 300% increase in healthcare costs for those with poor nutritional status
- 4 to 6 days longer in the hospital
- $51.3B in annual costs for disease-associated malnutrition in older adults
- 60% of older adults in hospitals may be malnourished
Problems caused by Malnutrition
- Weak immune system, which increases the risk of infections
- Poor wound healing
- Muscle weakness and decreased bone mass, which can lead to falls and fractures
- Higher risk of hospitalization
- Increased risk of death
How to Spot Malnutrition?
- Observe eating habits – spend time during meals. If an older adult is living alone, find out who buys their food.
- Watch for weight loss – help older adults monitor their weight at home. Watch for other signs of weight loss, such as changes in how clothing fits.
- Be alert to other red flags – in addition to weight loss, malnutrition can cause poor wound healing and dental difficulties. It may also cause weakness, which can result in falls.
- Know your loved one’s medications – many drugs affect appetite, digestion and nutrient absorption.