Malnutrition is a condition where a person is either not getting enough calories, or is deficient in nutrients, such as protein, vitamins and minerals. Malnutrition in the elderly is an increasing problem. This can have many serious health effects including:
- Increased frailty
- Reduced muscle and tissue mass
- Decreased mobility and stamina
- Breathing difficulties
- Wounds taking longer to heal
- Slower immune response
- Difficulty staying warm
- Higher mortality
A person is considered malnourished if they have a body mass index of less than 18.5 or if they have unintentionally lost greater than 10% of their weight in the last three to six months.
People who are overweight can also be malnourished if they are not eating a balanced diet.
Identifying those at risk of malnutrition early is essential to help prevent the serious consequences of malnutrition.
Why elderly people are more likely to suffer from malnutrition
Data shows that people aged 60 years and over are more likely to be malnourished compared with other age groups. In 2018, the number of adults over 60 admitted to hospital with malnutrition was almost 5,000.
Several factors can lead to malnutrition in the elderly, including:
- Struggling to cook for themselves
- Difficulties with shopping
- Mobility issues
- Loss of appetite
- Swallowing difficulties
- Poor dentition (such as having missing teeth or poorly fitting dentures)
- Acute and chronic illnesses
- Low income
Symptoms of malnutrition in the elderly
It is not always easy to spot the signs of malnutrition. One of the most obvious signs is weight loss, but this can be missed as it can happen gradually over time. One way to check for this is to have regular weight checks. You can also check to see if clothing and rings are becoming loose.
If an elderly person has a poor appetite, then this is a sign that they may be malnourished. You should also look out for tiredness, weakness and low mood.
How a live-in carer can help prevent malnutrition in the elderly
Elderly people living at home are at risk of malnutrition if they do not receive adequate support. A live-in carer can support an elderly person living at home to improve their nutrition and health in a variety of ways.
Of course, the obvious way to prevent malnourishment is by improving a person’s diet. Live-in carers are trained in nutrition so they can provide adequate calories in the form of a balanced diet. This will include the major food groups as well as all the vitamins and minerals necessary for good health.
This can be achieved by shopping for and preparing healthy meals and snacks, eating with the elderly person to provide companionship, and providing a calm and pleasant environment so that the cared-for person comes to enjoy mealtimes once more.
Carers can also support their clients by:
- Encouraging them to eat little and often throughout the day
- Providing nourishing fluids, such as milk, soups, or using powdered supplements that are high in energy and protein
- Providing high energy and high-protein foods, such as full-fat milk, yoghurt, and cheese
- Offering finger foods if a person finds using cutlery difficulty
- Providing soft foods if a person struggles to chew or swallow
- Feeding someone if required
Taking care of underlying issues
Live-in carers can also help with a range of issues that may be preventing your loved one from eating a healthy diet.
They can help them to access benefits if a low income is a contributing factor. They can also help by shopping carefully to provide the best nutrition for the lowest cost.
Your live-in carer can also take your loved one for dental treatments and help them with dental care to ensure they can eat comfortably.
Live-in carers can provide tailored support for people with dementia who may have quite complex needs. Many people living with dementia fail to get the nutrients and calories they need because they forget to eat or have difficulty using cutlery, chewing or swallowing. They may also find mealtimes stressful and overwhelming or experience changes in taste.
Live-in carers have the time and resources to address these issues and provide tailored care for your loved one. For example, if your loved one doesn’t feel hungry at breakfast time, their carer can leave breakfast for a while and try again a little later. Or if your loved one is overwhelmed by larger meals or several items on a plate, their carer can provide them with smaller snacks throughout the day.
How Mumby’s can help
Here at Mumby’s, our elderly care can look after your loved one in their home. Our carers are trained to notice changes in health and wellbeing and will monitor your loved one to ensure they are receiving adequate calories and nutrients. They are also experienced in providing healthy meals and helping their clients overcome any barriers to healthy eating.
Our carers are flexible and provide food that your loved one enjoys and take however much time it needs for them to eat their meals. In many cases, just having someone there to provide companionship during mealtimes can have a significant impact on people’s diet and wellbeing.
If you’d like more information about how Mumby’s friendly and knowledgeable live-in Care team could support you or your loved one with healthy eating or any other health and wellbeing issue, call us on 0800 505 3511 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.