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Elderly Risk Malnutrition

Problem often underreported

Somewhere between 35 percent and 85 percent of nursing home patients in the United States are at risk for malnutrition or dehydration, reports this Seattle Times article. The exact percentage is difficult to estimate, because death certificate information rarely cites weight loss or dehydration as the cause of death, says the article.

Nursing homes have to keep track of their patients' weight, and the amount they eat and drink, but they can't force residents to eat in most cases. And seniors in nursing homes often eat less for a variety of reasons: Some medications dampen the appetite. Older people don't feel hunger as acutely as younger ones do. Some residents may not like the taste of nursing home food. Others may be incapable of feeding themselves, and nursing homes are often too short-staffed to guarantee much individual attention.

The problem isn't just in the United States, however. This Canadian Press article from Toronto's C-Health details a similar problem facing Quebec's elderly population.

What older people eat can provide clues about their general health. According to this HealthDay article, seniors who have an empty fridge at home are much more likely to become ill than seniors whose fridge is full.

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