Malnutrition conjures up images of starving children in Africa. But it’s a common issue and closer to home here in Australia than you think.
Unbelievable as it may sound, according to the Australian Association of Gerontology one-third of patients aged over 65 who are admitted hospital are ‘overtly malnourished’. Clinicians say up to 44 percent of older people are at risk.
Hello? I thought we had an obesity ‘epidemic’? Obviously, not among our ageing population.
The increasing physical problems faced by the elderly make it not only difficult for them to cook and eat meals, but also more socially isolated and lonely. Who wants to eat alone?
Thank goodness for Meals on Wheels you say? Well, there’s no choice with what you get. And its not’s not free. The price of a meal ranges up to $12.00. Faced with the increasing rise in heating costs, rents, day care/home care, older people are often faced with deciding between buying a meal and paying the bills.
Experts on nutrition for the elderly increasingly view the traditional solutions to the problems of hunger and malnutrition — social policy fixes like Meals on Wheels — as inadequate.
As the elderly age, they develop chronic illnesses that kill their appetites or make it difficult for them to cook or eat. In addition, the drugs they take can suppress hunger, and deterioration of their senses can make them lose interest in food. In other words, even if one brings elderly people food, they will not necessarily eat.
The consequences of malnutrition in older people are calamitous. It causes slow healing, recurrent infections, delayed recovery, frequent falls, fracturing, frailty and premature death.
“These people are dying from infections,” my doctor friend said. “That’s how people in Somalia are dying!”
The solution is simple: Don’t let the elderly eat alone.