The Journal of Clinical Nursing reported that as many as one in six people who live by themselves at under-nourished or at risk ofmalnutrition.

The 75-year-old group was followed for 4 years. In the 3rd year, 11 percent were at risk for malnutrition, and in the 4th year, 18 percent were at risk.  So the questions are what causes malnutrition, what are the health risks and how can it be prevented?

The challenges to older Americans eating right include several factors:

  • Altered taste, smell and sight
  • Dentures and reduced saliva flow resulting in dry mouth
  • Long term illness, medical side effects
  • Dietary restrictions
  • Desire to eat, living and eating alone
  • Low income and inability to shop and cook

Health problems in older adults caused by malnutrition include:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Weak immune system, which increases the risk of  infection
  • Low red blood cell count
  • Digestive, lung and heart problems
  • Poor skin integrity
  • Muscle weakness, which can lead to falls and fractures
  • Digestive, lung and heart problems
  • Poor skin integrity

There are ways to assist seniors in eating a healthy diet.  They include:

  • Aim to have small frequent meals each day rather than trying for 3 large ones.
  • Add extra energy and protein sources to main meals such as milk, cheese and butter on vegetables.
  • It is important to have appropriate meal consistency.  If there are problems chewing certain foods, choose soft  texture foods.
  • Add protein drinks to the mix.
  • Incorporate food preferences into each meal and monitor food intake regularly.
  • When possible, eat with them or even just sit with them while they eat and allow them plenty of time.