The causes and risks of undernutrition in the elderly

Undernutrition in the elderly can occur for various reasons. Undernutrition occurs when the diet is so poor that it no longer covers the needs of the body. If this phenomenon is not stopped quickly, the person will become weaker, lose muscles and move less and less. One of the major risks of undernutrition or under-nutrition in the elderly is the increased risk of falling, with multiple consequences: fracture, hospitalisation, immobilisation, etc. Undernutrition, like dehydration, which is often linked, can go unnoticed for some time, to the point where the person enters a vicious circle: he or she eats less, his or her appetite decreases more and more, he or she becomes weak and no longer has the strength to go out, eat, go shopping, cook, or even to eat. Then the undernutrition worsens and so on. Stress, the operation, fatigue, pain, the quality of the food served, etc. are all factors that can cause the elderly person to eat less, especially as the sensation of hunger weakens with age, as does the sensation of thirst. A second trigger is moving into a nursing home, because of the change and stress of this situation, the loss of bearings or the change in diet. There are also other causes of undernutrition, such as oral health problems, chewing problems, stomach problems, illness or medication, etc. The loss of a spouse, feelings of isolation, depression, limited income, inability to travel, etc. are all factors that can lead to undernutrition. Undernutrition and malnutrition can be combated by various means. The people around you play a crucial role. First and foremost, it is important to try to preserve the independence of the elderly. The elderly person must continue to move regularly to maintain muscle tone and mass, and to combat sedentary lifestyles and social isolation. Walking every day, going shopping, cleaning, but also continuing to go out with friends or working in the garden are activities that are highly recommended to avoid the phenomenon of undernutrition. Offer the elderly person home support services, such as the provision of a meal tray or the accompaniment of a family helper to go shopping.

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