The Anorexia of Aging

Anorexic Old Woman

As the years go by, the human body becomes less efficient at managing energy and processing protein and other important dietary nutrients. This is because as the body ages, the metabolism slows down, perceptions of taste, hunger and thirst diminish and muscle mass decreases. The combination of these changes can lead to unexpected weight loss and increased incidents of dehydration and malnutrition in older adults. Due to the malnutrition associated with this condition, it is sometimes referred to as the anorexia of aging.

The anorexia of aging is a serious problem. In particular, the issues of malnutrition and undernutrition associated with the anorexia of aging have been linked to higher rates of mortality and contracting diseases, as well as higher instances of bedsores, frailty, and poor wound healing ability. A litany of things can cause this age-related anorexia, including medical conditions, diseases, medications, psychological issues, feelings of isolation, bouts of depression, sensory perception issues, chewing and swallowing difficulties, delayed stomach emptying, diabetes and hyper-metabolic conditions, such as cancer.

Tips for Combating the Anorexia of Aging

Using flavor and aromatic additives in foods. Taste and texture perception of food is important to the enjoyment of food as it is eaten. Unfortunately, there are many medications that decrease the functionality of taste buds as a side effect of their use, thereby inadvertently decreasing the user’s perception of good tastes and flavors. Many nursing home residents are on a cocktail of medications and these individuals might not enjoy food as much as those who are not on medications. As such, they have a tendency to eat less, which results in weight loss.

To help combat the effect medications can have on taste perception, nursing home cooks and staff members can use flavor additive ingredients in meals to help boost flavor and thus the resident’s overall perception of enjoyment while eating the food. Enhancing or magnifying flavors can help overcome the decreased chemosensory perception of those elderly persons on medications. The same thing is true of enhancing the smells associated with foods. Aromatic agents that are safe for consumption can be added to foods to make them smell more enticing to residents because scent plays a significant role in the perception of pleasure while eating.

Supply residents with nutrient-dense, protein-rich nutritional supplements between meals. One of the more devastating forms of malnutrition is protein deficiency, which can cause problems with wound healing, dentition, and supplying energy to the muscles. Providing residents with liquid protein-rich nutritional supplements between meals supplies the resident with the proper fuel the body needs to combat malnutrition. Nutritional supplements make for a good source of calories, vitamins, and minerals as well.

Contacting a Malnutrition Attorney

If you are concerned that your loved one is not receiving adequate nutrition at the nursing home or that nursing staff is not providing adequate care to prevent malnutrition from occurring, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Rooth Law Firm online or by calling (800) 350-0646.

Photo Credit: VinothChandar via Compfight cc

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