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Malnutrition among seniors more common than previously thought

Created date

September 23rd, 2014
senior in grocery store
senior in grocery store

new study has shed some light on why many seniors don’t eat as well as they should. 

Researchers from the University of North Carolina Department of Emergency Medicine found that greater than 60% of adults ages 65 and over who seek emergency room care are malnourished or at a significant risk of malnutrition. 

Malnutrition is defined as a lack of proper nutrients for the body to maintain growth and repair of organs and tissues. The main reasons for this problem among seniors are not what you might expect—such as a lack of access to medical care, the presence of acute illness, or having dementia. In fact, nearly all patients in the study had a primary doctor, lived in a private residence, and had health insurance. Nevertheless, a majority of these seniors had never been diagnosed as malnourished.

By investigating further, the researchers discovered that the most common reasons that seniors weren’t eating well were depression, difficulty buying groceries, and difficulty eating because of improperly fitting dentures and swallowing problems.  

According to the study’s lead author, Timothy Platts-Mills, M.D., seniors visit the nation’s emergency rooms about 20 million times a year. That gives emergency room staff the opportunity to screen for nutrition status and make appropriate referrals to get seniors the food they need. But don’t wait until you end up in an emergency room. Talk to your primary doctor about how you eat, and ask about community resources, such as meal delivery services, that might help.