Nutrition & Hydration in Older People

Nutrition is an essential aspect of human health that requires utmost attention. The bones and cells become weaker as we get older, as torn tissues may not be repaired. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 19.6 million older people visit the emergency department between 2018-2020 in the U.S. This is mainly due to caregivers’ lack of transition support, as individuals gradually develop into the old stage.

You can save yourself some hospital bills by staying on good nutrition and hydration. These two are crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, even at old age.

An individual who does not receive the amount of nutrients required for proper growth is considered malnourished. At the same time, research shows a high rate of malnutrition and dehydration among older adults.

What is Nutrition?

Nutrition is described as the intake of food to meet biological and dietary needs. Therefore, it is safe to say that good nutrition contributes to both mental and physical wellbeing. A malnourished person can either be over-malnourished or under-malnourished.

In this guide, there are descriptions, causes, and prevention and management of these three types of nutrition.

what is nutrition

Malnutrition

Malnutrition occurs when there is an inadequate amount of iron in the body of an older person. People above 65 years do not need excess calcium like little ones but require iron in the correct quantity. The common cause of malnutrition is medical conditions that lead to loss of appetite.

Another factor that contributes to malnutrition in older adults is difficulty in swallowing. Since many of them find it difficult to swallow, they depend on supplements. As a result, caregivers or nutritionists should be involved in crisis intervention by preparing foods in soft texture. However, certain foods that lose excess nutrients in high heat or temperature should be avoided.

Older adults who also have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease are at greater risk of losing weight. Hence, both over-nutrition and under-nutrition are forms of malnutrition.

over nutrition

Over-nutrition

This is when the body takes in the nutrients that are more than the required amount. Over-nutrition may lead to several health conditions, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity.

Under-nutrition

This is when an individual is not consuming the energy required by the body, and it is the most common form of malnutrition among older adults. The affected individual begins to lose excess muscle or skeleton, which may further lead to a condition called sarcopenia.

An older person is at risk of a severe medical condition that may hinder the absorption of certain nutrients. Other external factors such as poverty and depression also contribute to the inability to eat or loss of appetite.

Preventive Measures of Malnutrition

  • Check the amount of energy-giving foods needed by the body, and eat accordingly.
  • Use a moderate serving plate to measure food portions and control over-nutrition.

  • Encourage the intake of small meals at regular intervals.
  • Maintain food hygiene, and ensure to help the older one in the cooking preparation and serving.
  • Visit a dentist regularly for recommendations on improving chewing and swallowing problems.
preventive measures of malnutrition

Hydration

Hydration in older people means they are drinking enough fluid needed per day. Usually, an average of 6-8 glasses per day is recommended.

There is a rapid response service on standby in health centers specialized in older adults because they are believed to develop sudden health attacks. However, this has been linked to a lack of adequate water in the body. When a person is dehydrated, it can also lead to the following:

  • Constipation

  • Imbalance

  • Swallowing difficulty

  • Delirium

  • Urinary tract infection

  • Falls

preventive measures of dehydration

Preventive Measures of Dehydration

  • Add flavor or fruit to water to remove the bland taste. This is particularly good for old adults who cannot drink up to the required quantity of water daily.

  • Drink little water at a time if you are not comfortable with high volumes at once.

  • Reduce the intake of caffeine, or mix a caffeine content with water.

  • Take water while undergoing exercise or vigorous activities during the day.

Conclusion

Older adults need long-term community-based care and support. Many of them have no idea the proper nutrition for their health nor how to stay hydrated. Hence, health practitioners are encouraged to engage more in community nutrition and educate these individuals. They belong to the dependent group in society, as they rely on the independent groups for care and counsel.

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