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Nursing Home Diet Dilemma

Many factors contribute to malnourishment in elderly patients

Many baby boomers face the unhappy prospect of watching their elderly parents spend their final years in nursing homes and other care facilities. And according to this story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, many of the elderly aren't getting proper nutrition in those facilities.

There are a variety of reasons for the problem. Among them are drugs that kill the appetite, dementia, and the fact that people in such facilities have health problems and are often depressed. Another problem: overworked and rushed staffs.

Jack Schnelle, director of UCLA's Borun Center on Aging, says there are no easy answers to the problem, according to the story. Staff members are in a difficult position -- do they force patients to eat against their wishes or let them fade away? And sometimes, families refuse to allow feeding tubes or other measures that provide nutrition.

Some medical groups, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, have joined together in the Nutrition Screening Initiative to push the idea that health-care professionals need to screen older people to make sure they are eating properly. And the American Nursing Association also urges its members to watch for signs that seniors are malnourished.

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