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senior home health care malnutritionThis is the second article in a series on senior malnutrition. Last week’s article focused on factors which make seniors at risk for malnutrition, and next week’s will focus on recommendations from senior home health care experts on steps to take if malnutrition is suspected.

Due to the complicated factors which can lead to malnutrition in seniors, senior home health care experts note that it can be tricky to identify seniors who are suffering from it.  Yet early detection is important to correcting the situation and helping prevent complications from developing before it is too advanced.

For family members with elderly loved ones, especially those who may be at risk, senior home health care providers indicate that it is important to be attuned to the following in order to detect potential issues with a loved one’s nutrition.

Eating Habits

The best way to know what a loved one is eating on a regular basis is to spend time at their home, or the assisted living facility or nursing home where they live.  Visiting at meal time is a good way to find out what they are actually consuming, or if they are skipping meals entirely.  A sudden or drastic change in a senior’s long established eating patterns can indicate that they may not be able to access the same foods they have been eating all their life.

Food Supply

Family members who stop by for a visit can also observe what is in the refrigerator or pantry during their visits.  If the cupboard is bare or seems to contain only unhealthy foods, there may be reason for concern.  For seniors who are on a fixed monthly income, checking the pantry at the end of the month or just before their next social security or retirement payment is due may indicate they are struggling to have enough food to last until the end of month.

Weight Loss

While it may not always be easy to notice if a loved one has lost weight, try to observe any changes between visits.  Do they seem noticeably thinner?  Do their clothes seem a lot looser, or do they otherwise fit differently?  Family members who accompany loved ones to doctor’s appointments may be able to obtain information about weight loss between appointments, or if the senior is willing to provide proper authorization, a doctor may be able to provide information about the senior’s health including any concerns about weight and nutrition.

Health Symptoms

While weight loss is something that is logically connected to nutrition, senior home health care providers indicate that there are actually other physical signs that can signal malnutrition.  Frequent bruises, having cuts and other wounds take a long time to heal, and dental health problems can also indicate that a senior is malnourished. Although it may not seem logical, weight gain can actually be a sign of malnutrition as well.

Medications

Certain medications can affect a senior’s appetite and their body’s ability to digest and absorb certain nutrients.  Being aware of the medications a loved one is on and possible side effects related to nutrition can raise family members’ awareness, triggering them to look for possible signs of malnutrition.

If a family member or friend suspects that their loved one is suffering from inadequate nutrition, there are several steps that can be taken and resources that can help, according to senior home health care experts.   These options will be addressed in the final part of this series on senior malnutrition.