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Phone: 800-228-5993

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The number one concern I hear from families about their aging loved one is their nutrition. Children have a hard time understanding why mom or dad are not eating enough food. It is really hard for younger people to imagine not eating, when we live in a culture that loves good food.  


Have you ever tried cooking for one or two people? Do you enjoy eating alone? Have you tried cooking a meal with arthritic hands or poor eyesight? These are just some of the physical and social changes that impair nutrition. There are biological, physiological, and economic factors that may also affect nutrition.  


Finances play a role in older adults and their nutrition. Many older adults are living on a fixed income and their groceries take a back seat to utilities, housing, medication, and other health care needs. Home-delivered meals are a popular resource for older adults but they also cost money and many older adults do not feel they can afford them. Healthier food can often time be more expensive, so this plays a role in what they purchase at the store as well.  


Poor appetite is a major cause for malnutrition. There are many reasons for this. Medications can cause lack of appetite and nausea and can alter taste and smell. The ability to taste and smell food is an important for appetite. There are also changes in an older adult’s body that contribute to appetite including hormone changes and changes in the central nervous system.  


Many older adults are missing teeth, have broken or unhealthy teeth, or dentures that sometimes do not fit right due to weight loss. This makes it difficult to chew and could also be painful. Sometimes strokes, cognitive impairment, and other diseases can cause difficulty with swallowing and this can contribute to nutrition and weight loss.  


Depression and anxiety is very common in older adults. Depression can cause people to not have the energy to get out of bed, let alone prepare and eat a meal. Anxiety can cause digestive problems and a tapered appetite. Dementia and confusion are also a major problem affecting the desire to eat. The ability to actually feed one’s self can be impaired with dementia and remembering that you need to eat can be another issue.


Western Illinois Home Health Care is a full-service home care provider. Our skilled staff can assess nutrition and also develop an individualized care plan to fit the person’s needs. This includes Nurses, Social Work, and Therapy. We also have Senior Care Managers that can select and supervise personal assistants to help cook, shop, and provide companionship around meal times. The Senior Care Managers provide ongoing oversight to avoid crisis by communicating with client, doctor, family, and personal assistants. If you or someone you know is need of assistance, please call us at 800-228-5993.  


Amanda Powell, BSW, is a Senior Care Manager at Western Illinois Home Health Care


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September 2017

by Amanda Powell

Malnutrition in Older Adults