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Preventing Malnutrition Among Older Adults

Nutritional health should be part of physician care plans and hospital discharge instructions, and should be addressed in any follow-up physician visits. Forbes contributor and author of the article Preventing Malnutrition Among Older Adults, Howard Gleckman addresses the study by researchers at the University of North Carolina and the Karolinska Institue in Stockholm. The study involved a review of older Americans over the age of 65 presenting to the Emergency Department and the evaluation of their nutritional status.  The following are excerpts:

“When we think about the health of frail older adults, severe, high-profile illnesses such as dementia, heart disease, cancer, and debilitating arthritis come to mind. But for many seniors, small things can turn a manageable chronic condition into an acute medical crisis.
One is malnutrition.  Spend a little time in a hospital emergency department and you’ll be shocked at how many frail elderly patients arrive malnourished. A new study reports that one of every six older adults living at home reaches a hospital ER weakened by malnutrition and as many as 6 in 10 are at least at risk for the condition.”

“Who is more likely to suffer from poor nutrition? It isn’t just poor people.

More than half of people with depression arrived at the ER malnourished, as did nearly 40 percent of those who had difficulty eating (often because of dental problems), and a third-of those who had trouble buying groceries (perhaps because they couldn’t afford them or had no way to get to the store).
Interestingly, the study found little difference in rates of malnutrition between men and women, people with or without college education, and those living in cities or in rural areas. Whites were more likely to be malnourished than African-Americans.

The consequences of malnutrition among elders are quite severe. Few Americans starve to death, but people weakened by lack of nutritious food are at risk for severe health problems. They are more likely to suffer falls or bed sores, and once hospitalized, to suffer complications. They stay in the hospital longer than those who are well nourished and their death rates are higher.

Malnutrition among the elderly is largely preventable but it requires action by families, communities, and the health care system.”

“Since poor nutrition is often associated with chronic disease, both specialists and primary care doctors need better training in both identifying potential problems and helping families address them. That means teaching family members and paid caregivers to recognize signs of poor nutrition and showing them how to respond. A quick guide on what family members should look for when they visit a frail relative would be invaluable.

For instance, is mom’s refrigerator empty? Has she stopped eating since she started on a new medication? Are her teeth bothering her?

At the very least, nutritional health should be part of physician care plans and hospital discharge instructions, and should be addressed in any follow-up physician visits.”

Pedagogy Education offers online continuing nurse education courses and inservices for certified nursing assistants, home care aides and caregivers in the area of nutrition.

Corinne Kantor a Registered Dietetic Technician highlights the importance of healthcare providers being aware of therapeutic diets.  “Therapeutic Diets: An Introduction” is an online nutrition continuing education course is to familiarize nurses and other healthcare professionals with the basic concepts of therapeutic diets, including the types of therapeutic diets that may be ordered for a resident, the role therapeutic diets play in the treatment of residents, and which foods and beverages are allowed and restricted on therapeutic diets. Proper understanding of therapeutic diets will help minimize the risk of disease and other health conditions, and reduce the risk of injury.

Author Debra Collins RN provides an inservice “Feeding Residents and Clients”.  This inservice gives comprehensive instructions for nursing assistants and CNA's feeding residents and clients in long term care and home health care settings. Information is provided for assisting residents and clients with different levels of impairment and types of disabilities. Methods of assistance and use of assistive devices are described in detail. Instructions are given for maintaining a therapeutic dining environment, for monitoring residents and clients to prevent aspiration and choking, and for performing emergency care in the event of choking.

Another inservice by Debra Collins is "Nutrition, Hydration and the Elderly". This inservice is written for nursing assistants and CNA's in the long term care and home health care settings. Principles of providing adequate nutrition and hydration are described. Detailed instructions are given for preventing unintended weight loss and dehydration, monitoring weight, and calculating food and fluid intake. These courses may be purchased for an individual or for an entire facility staff.

Pedagogy offers discounts for purchases of 10 or more online inservices and also offers cost saving memberships that provide access to the entire catalog of inservices for your staff. To learn more about the Inservice and Compliance Memberships click here. To order multiple inservices for your staff contact us at sales@pedagogy-inc.com. Facility purchases of education always include the use of our Learning Management System that allows you complete control and oversight of education.
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