Since older adults are often less active, they may not realize they’re not drinking enough water and eating enough nutritious foods to sustain good health. For some, it can be a matter of simple forgetfulness, but others may have difficulty shopping and preparing meals. To maintain a healthy lifestyle, it is important to eat right and stay hydrated. If you suspect a loved one may not be getting the nutrients they need, look for these signs of malnutrition and dehydration.
Malnutrition is a condition that occurs when a person’s diet no longer provides the critical vitamins and nutrients required to sustain new cell production and normal body functions. Malnutrition affects every organ and system in the body, although some conditions are dependent on a specific cause. In moderate cases, symptoms may be hidden initially, but the signs will become more pronounced as the disorder progresses.
The symptoms of malnutrition include:
* Weight loss identified by loose clothing, sagging belts and slipping dentures in some instances
* Mental fog
* Loss of appetite and general disinterest in eating
* Depression, anxiety and lethargy
* General malaise, fatigue and loss of energy
* Poor concentration and inability to understand and answer simple questions
Unaddressed malnutrition can lead to a variety of serious medical conditions such as:
* Vital organ impairment
* Greater susceptibility to infection
* Mental impairment
* Pneumonia, bed sores and weakness
* Immune system weakness
Dehydration is characterized by a loss of bodily fluid in excess of three percent of a victim’s total body weight. Dehydration has many causes including illness-related fluid loss, side effects from medication or a sudden decrease in fluid consumption. Dehydration is particularly prevalent among the elderly population and is caused primarily because of physiological changes or caregiver neglect.
The symptoms of dehydration include:
* Excessive thirst
* Dark colored urine
* Flushed skin (especially in the face)
* Nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness
* Dry mouth
* Weakness and fatigue
* Dry skin that “tents” when pinched
A person suffering from advanced dehydration must be rehydrated quickly under the supervision of a physician. Unaddressed dehydration can cause the victim to experience an elevated heart rate, high body temperature, grogginess, headaches and death in extreme cases.
Older people are at increasing risk for developing dehydration and malnutrition, especially if they are living in a substandard nursing home facility. In order to reduce the chance of a loved one developing either condition, it is important to verify preventative measures are in place to ensure elderly residents are properly nourished and hydrated on a daily basis.