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Is it plain ‘old age’ or ‘malnourishment’?


Quite like old age, malnutrition symptoms arrive slowly through the years. Since the process is so gradual, many of us (including the affected older adult) often do not suspect what’s really happening, thinking it is all part of old age! Even medical practitioners have often overlooked malnutrition in the elderly as a cause of health problems.

One does not have to be reduced to skin and bones to be malnourished. It is pertinent to keep a close eye on the elderly relation to prevent malnutrition.

As your seniors get into their golden 60’s it is advisable to spend more time with them as they do with your kids. Do some spot checks on what they are doing when they are alone and visit during normal mealtimes, not only on special occasions. Know what they are consuming.

If your relation is living alone, find out what food he or she buys. Check for slow wound healing, bruising, dental problems and any sign of weight loss or fluctuations by watching how their clothing fit. See what kind of medication they are keeping or consuming. Some drugs are known to affect appetite and nutrient absorption.

Symptoms of nutritional deficiency.

  •  Irritable and moody.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Frequent loss of memory.
  • Weak muscles.
  • Slow to recuperate from illness.
  • Sensitivity to light and glare.
  • Hair loss or change in colour of hair.
  • Brittle and spooned nails.
  • Severe and sudden loss of weight sometimes of 10 lb or 4.5kg or more.
  • Dry, scaly skin that bruises easily. Rashes and pigmentation are also a common occurrence.
  • Bleeding gums and pain around teeth and gums.
  • Bruise easily. May indicate a deficiency in vitamin C, B12, or folic acid.
  • Joints ache and bones become soft and tender.

We have to recognise that our elderly loved ones face unique nutritional challenges. A person’s requirement of nutrients does not diminish with age! For a start, they too need adequate calories from a well-balanced diet. Needless to say, there has to be a conscious effort to intervene.

Malnutrition can be easily prevented. Just be aware and look out for the signs! With a bit of care and some planning, older adults can enjoy their senior years without too many complaints!

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