Various studies show that malnutrition is a big problem in the elderly population. In the UK, it is estimated that 1 in 4 elderly hopsital patients suffer from malnutrition and in care homes 1 in 3. Given that these people are obviously frail or ill this is shocking, but to some extent understandable.
The figure that really surprises people is that 1 in 3 elderly people who live independently also suffer from malnutrition. People assume that people with full control over their diet have no problem maintaining a healthy diet. However, the truth is that the elderly who live independently do not necessarily have full control over what they eat.
Why Malnutrition is so Prevalent Amongst the Elderly
Most people understand the importance of a healthy balanced diet and try to maintain one and this definitely applies to the older generation. In fact, they often have a healthier approach when it comes to food. They enjoy nutritional meals and will automatically prepare a proper meal every day made up of a good balance of carbohydrates, proteins and vegetables. However, the problems start when someone becomes too frail to go out shopping as often as they need or to cook properly for themselves. Bad weather, a fall, a cold can all lead to difficulty in getting out to buy fresh food products.
Many elderly people start to have problems sleeping. They suffer from more bouts of ill health and generally have less energy and not much of an appetite. They end up cooking less frequently and tend to make a sandwich instead. Without really realising it over time their diet becomes more constricted and less nutritious. Malnutrition creeps up on many elderly people without them even being aware of it. Usually it is only when they fall seriously ill that the fact they are suffering from malnutrition is discovered.
Luckily, it is relatively easy to reverse malnutrition. If caught and addressed early very little long-term damage is done to the body. Resuming a healthy diet helps, but is not the whole answer. The use of medical nutrition products is the best and quickest way to reverse malnutrition and put elderly patients onto the road to recovery.
Nutricia have developed an extensive range of medical nutrition products many of which are designed especially for the elderly.