Malnutrition in Older Adults: Care Partners and Malnutrition
This is part 4 of 4 in a series written by KovirPage LLC's social work intern, Brianna Burke of Traverse City, Michigan.
Considering how detrimental malnutrition in older adults can be for their overall health, it is important to implement assessment before seniors get to hospitals and rehabs. It is necessary to start screening for malnutrition in seniors living in the community, in order to keep them healthy and prevent them from ending up in the hospital later.
According to researchers DiMaria-Ghalili and Amella (2019), care partners should monitor changes in weight in order to screen for early signs of malnutrition. In addition, care partners can also help to educate [their loved one] on the dangers of malnutrition, as well as provide tips on how to increase the amount of protein and calories they intake (DiMaria-Ghalili and Amella, 2019). Furthermore, if seniors are unable to shop for food themselves, care partners can contact community agencies that could provide food delivery or other meal programs (DiMaria-Ghalili and Amella, 2019).
Involving care partners in the screening and education for malnutrition in older adults can not only benefit seniors’ health but can also lower the number of hospitalized senior citizens. Researcher Marshall (2013) states that it is important to involve care partners in screening, educating, and preventing malnutrition in seniors who live in the community. Marshall (2013) asserts that involving care partners in the screening and treatment of malnutrition can have positive health outcomes for older adults; furthermore, the involvement of care partners can help seniors to recover from malnutrition, or at the very least, prevent the condition from becoming worse (Marshall, 2013).
With the current research on the impacts of malnutrition in older adults, it is important that professional care providers and care partners are educated about the risks of malnutrition and the warning signs.
In addition, health workers who work with seniors should be knowledgeable about not only what malnutrition in older adults is, but understanding the severity of this condition. Health care workers and care partners can help the senior community to prevent and treat malnutrition, so that older adults have better health and life outcomes.
Despite the fact that loss of appetite may be common in older adults, this does not mean that all elders must be condemned to suffer from malnutrition. Through educating health care workers and care partners, these workers can be equipped to prevent and treat malnutrition, as well as screen for it in older adults. This will help to lessen the number of seniors suffering from malnutrition, and early screening could help prevent other older adults from succumbing to the struggles associated with malnutrition.
Written by Brianna Burke, BSW Candidate, KovirPage LLC Intern
DiMaria-Ghalili, R. & Amella, E. (2005). Nutrition in older adults: Intervention and assessment can help curb the growing threat of malnutrition. The American Journal of Nursing, 105(3), 40–50. https://doi.org/10.1097/00000446-200503000-00020
Griffin, O. (2020). The prevalence of malnutrition and impact on patient outcomes among older adults presenting at an Irish emergency department: a secondary analysis of the OPTI-MEND trial. BMC Geriatrics, 20(1), 455. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12877-020-01852-w
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National Institute on Aging. (2020). How smell and taste change as you age. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/smell-and-taste
Volkert, D. (2013). Malnutrition in older adults - urgent need for action: A plea for improving the nutritional situation of older adults. Gerontology. 59(4). 328-333. doi: 10.1159/000346142
Wolters, M., Volkert, D., Streicher, M., Kiesswetter, E., Torbahn, G., O’Connor, E., O’Keeffee, M., Kelly, M., O’Herlihy, E., O’Toole, P., Timmons, S., O’Shea, E., Kearney, P., Van Zwienon-Pot, J., Visser, M., Maitre, I., Van Wymelbeke, V., Sulmont-Rossé, C., Nagel, G., Flechtner-Mors, M., Goisser, S., Teh, R., and Hebestreit, A. (2019). Prevalence of malnutrition using harmonized definitions in older adults from different settings- a MaNuEl study. Clinical Nutrition. 38(5). 2389-2398. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2018.10.020.