Home Instead Blog

Malnutrition in Older People a Cause for Concern
Feb 24, 2017

As we get older, we often lose interest in cooking or can find it difficult to cook tasty, interesting and healthy foods on a budget. Also, as we age we may have more dietary factors to consider as certain illnesses are more prevalent amongst older people.

Older people with poor nutrition are more susceptible to infections, take longer to recover from illness and those admitted to hospital respond less well to treatment, stay longer in hospital and have poorer outcomes than well nourished patients. For this reason it is essential that we remember the importance of good nutrition all the way through the life cycle and especially in our later years.

Common Indicators of Malnutrition

  • Weight loss – clothes, jewellery, belts, dentures appear loose
  • Tiredness and lethargy
  • Alterations in mood
  • Loss of appetite
  • Disinterest in food and/or fluids
  • General ‘slowing up’, e.g. taking a long time to understand and answer questions.

Overcoming Malnutrition
If malnutrition is suspected, the person may need to see a doctor and/or a dietician, as a malnourished person with a poor appetite may require a diet that is somewhat different –for example, they may initially need more high calorie and more sugary foods than a balanced diet would normally recommend so as to improve energy intake.

Some tips to help increase the energy intake each day:
  • Eat little and often – try a small snack between meals and a dessert after meals
  • Drinking plenty of fluids can help to prevent fatigue – try to have drinks with and between meals but not before, to avoid feeling too full to eat. Choose milky drinks and remember that hot drinks will also help keep you warm.
  • Avoid low fat/diet versions of food and drinks, e.g. skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, low fat yoghurt, diet drinks etc
  • Choose meals you enjoy, are easy to prepare and eat, and are high in calories.