Malnutrition is a serious concern for the elderly, especially for nursing home residents who may already be vulnerable due to their age or health conditions. Malnutrition may not always seem obvious at first glance.
If your loved one is in one of the 1.1 million certified nursing facilities in America, according to Statista, then knowing the common signs of elder malnutrition can help you address this issue promptly.
Unexplained weight loss
One of the most noticeable signs of malnutrition in nursing home residents is sudden weight loss. Weight loss can indicate insufficient calorie intake, which is a key indicator of malnutrition.
Muscle weakness and fatigue
Malnutrition can lead to muscle weakness and fatigue. Residents who were previously mobile may become less active and have difficulty performing everyday tasks like walking or even feeding themselves. Encourage physical activity and monitor for any decline in strength.
Poor wound healing
Another sign of malnutrition is poor wound healing. Residents with malnutrition may experience delays in healing after surgeries or injuries. Slow wound healing can increase the risk of infections and complications.
Changes in skin and hair
Malnutrition can affect the skin and hair. Look for signs such as dry, flaky skin, brittle nails and thinning or brittle hair. These changes may indicate a deficiency in essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals.
Dental issues like gum disease, cavities and tooth loss can be signs of malnutrition. Proper oral care and regular dental check-ups are important to prevent and address these problems.
Malnutrition can also impact cognitive function. Residents may experience confusion, memory problems and difficulty concentrating.
Depression and mood swings
Malnutrition can contribute to mood swings, irritability and even depression. Be attentive to changes in residents’ emotional well-being and provide emotional support as needed.
Difficulty swallowing, also known as dysphagia, can be a sign of malnutrition. It can lead to a decreased appetite and difficulty in consuming adequate nutrients. Speech therapists can help assess and address swallowing issues.
Reduced immune function
Malnutrition weakens the immune system, making residents more susceptible to infections. Keep an eye out for frequent illnesses or infections.
Fatigue and weakness
Residents with malnutrition may complain of persistent fatigue and weakness. These symptoms can affect their overall quality of life and independence.
By asking the right questions, you can help your loved one live a healthy life even after serious physical pain or neglect. Staying vigilant is a great way to address any lingering concerns.