Exploring the Causes of Malnutrition in Seniors

Sunrise Senior Living  |  September 8, 2020
Share

Since the COVID-19 crisis presents such a serious risk for seniors, a poor diet may be easy for family members to overlook. An older adult’s goal might be to stay home and avoid trips to the grocery store or farm stand. Even before concerns about the coronavirus caused so many seniors to self-isolate, an elder’s poor diet and malnutrition was a challenge many families faced.

As the coronavirus pandemic persists, researchers continue to say a weakened immune system can increase an older adult’s risk for the virus. A poor diet can often result in decreased immunity. In addition, there are other health issues linked to malnutrition:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Loss of bone density
  • Slow healing wounds
  • Increased risk for falls

Learning what puts older adults at risk for a poor diet or malnutrition will help you learn how to detect a problem and address it.

Evaluating a Senior’s Risk for Malnutrition

For some older adults, malnutrition is linked to a lack of transportation to the grocery store or an inability to plan healthy menus. Research from the Mayo Clinic also shows that other physical, social, and psychological factors can contribute.

  • Physical: As you are exploring potential reasons that an older loved one isn’t eating well, consider physical problems. Poorly fitting dentures, for example, might make chewing painful. Struggling to stand for very long and prepare meals could lead a senior to eat very little. Then there are conditions like Parkinson’s disease and arthritis that make tasks associated with preparing healthy meal, such as slicing and chopping vegetables, difficult and even dangerous.
  • Social: Meals are often a social occasion and a time to connect with friends and family. For seniors who are trying to physically distance from others, eating alone might be necessary. The longer an older adult is isolated, the tougher the situation can become. Cooking for one may seem like too much work after a week or two. A senior can turn to fast foods and convenience items, including frozen dinners, processed foods, and canned foods instead. These tend to be low in nutrients, and high in sodium and trans-fat.
  • Psychology: Other issues that impact nutrition are grief, depression, isolation, and loneliness. A death in the family, a change in personal health, or anxiety about the coronavirus are just a few psychological challenges that can affect a senior’s eating habits. Sometimes people trying to cope with stress, anxiety, or depression may consume too many unhealthy comfort foods or sugary treats. Other times a person in psychological pain can lose their appetite altogether.

Once you pinpoint the cause of a senior loved one’s poor nutrition, it will be easier to address those concerns. Whether it’s having groceries delivered or exploring meal delivery services, there are a variety of solutions to consider.

Sunrise Response to Nutrition During COVID-19

If you are considering a senior living community for yourself or a loved one, you can feel confident in Sunrise. Our teams are working hard to ensure residents maintain a healthy diet despite the coronavirus. COVID-19 Response: Message from Caitlin Rogers, VP of Dining and Nutrition Services explains how we accomplish that.