WARNING SIGNS OF SENIOR MALNUTRITION
We all want to eat healthier, but for a lot of us our schedules are so busy that we don’t have to time to plan—or shop—to make healthy meals. For others in our communities, making healthy meals is impossible. There are over 6 million people in America who don’t have access to any food at all, and most of them are seniors.
For nearly 60 years the Meals On Wheels Association of America has been working hard with an army of volunteers to stamp out senior hunger and care for our most vulnerable members of society. But we all have to do our part. If you have a loved one that you suspect may not be getting the nourishment they need, here are some things that the Mayo Clinic suggests you can look out for, and simple things you can do to help:
- Weight loss—The first thing to look for, of course, is weight loss. But also look for dental difficulties: this can be both a cause and a symptom of poor nutrition. As we age, our appetites change and we can get more full more quickly; this can prevent us from being able to regularly eat hearty, balanced meals. A great way to help is to bring in a supply of healthy between-meal snacks when you visit.
- Food insecurity—Retirement naturally brings with it changes to our financial situation—not to mention it’s just harder to around than it used to be—and this can often lead to feelings of anxiety. Sit down and discuss some simple ways to stretch a budget, like bringing a shopping list to the supermarket (that way they can get just what they need and not be distracted by unhealthy, expensive detours) or using coupons and buying generic brands, which can also save a ton of money.
- Depression—Emotions can drastically affect how our bodies work, so be very vigilant about signs of depression. Living alone can also cause many people to lose interest in eating, so if possible arrange your visits around meals times and make eating a social occasion.
- Weakened immune system—Not eating properly can make us vulnerable to infection because the body doesn’t have the fuel to take care of itself. One warning sign is that “skin integrity” goes downhill, so look out for signs of slow healing and easy bruising.
- Muscle weakness—Watch for signs of unsteadiness. As our muscle strength diminishes we can become prone to falls, and therefore prone to fractures.
- Other symptoms of malnutrition might not be so obvious, such as anemia, digestive disorders, and heart and lung problems. Talk to your loved ones about asking their doctor—or consult their doctor yourself—to include nutrition screenings as a regular part of their check-ups.
We need to look out for each other. For more information on how you can help the Meals On Wheels Association of America eradicate senior hunger by 2020, please visit, www.mowaa.org.