The risk of malnutrition in the elderly

There is a growing concern about malnutrition in the elderly, that puts at risk their physical health and quality of life. Age UK puts those over the age of 65 at risk of being malnourished at 1 in 10. Understanding the cause of malnutrition may be a bit challenging as it is a complex one. Malnutrition can be a consequence of ill health as well as be a contributing cause of long-term ill health.

The negative consequences of the malnourished are many. These undesirable effects can include hospital admittance, the loss of independence of otherwise healthy persons, increased visits to healthcare practitioners and prolonged recovery times from ill health.

The influence of tooth loss and malnutrition

Malnutrition is a condition in which a person no longer receives all the essential nutrients that a physical body needs to achieve health and wellbeing. A main cause of malnutrition is an obvious one – that of the inability to bite and chew without pain and difficulty caused by tooth loss. Tooth loss is more prevalent in the elderly as it is commonly an age-related problem. Fortunately there are modern dental interventions such as dental implants Navan to give the elderly replacement teeth they can confidently use to correct their nutritional deficiencies.

There are other contributing causes, too, that may not be so easily addressed. Malnutrition in the elderly remains a pertinent issue for society to address because of:

  • The inability to shop for food due to mobility issues.
  • Their reduced incomes.
  • Depression that makes it a challenge to look after themselves.
  • Acute and chronic illness.
  • Not having the energy or will to cook meals.
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The above factors especially relate to those elderly persons who live alone and whose nutritional health is not monitored enough. Identifying the signs of malnourishment is also another complex challenge. Signs that may indicate that a person suffers from malnutrition include:

  • Loss of appetite or lack of interest in eating.
  • Poor fitting teeth-replacement devices.
  • Tiredness and physical weakness.
  • Altered mood
  • Poor fitting clothes.

A first effective step in managing the malnutrition crisis is to initiate a food-first approach. If the lack of nutrient consumption is a significant factor of malnutrition, then it stands to reason that correcting this deficiency will go some way in addressing the problem. It must be remembered that if tooth loss or problems with dentures make it difficult to eat, a suitable teeth replacement tool must be found first to improve masticatory function. Then improving nutrition can be achieved by improving the diet by including more of those nourishing foods that are high in protein, full-fat dairy, soups, vegetables, fruit, and even powdered supplements may help.

The elderly may also need help with the preparation of meals and readily available, frozen meals are a great way to address this challenge. Other worthy intervention measures include subscribing to a home meal delivery service or having family members drop by with meals that can be easily heated at mealtimes.

For all suitable tooth replacement solutions available to the elderly, contact your local dental practice.