There are numerous reasons attributing to the epidemic that is weight loss in elderly patients. There are certain physical, psychological, and social conditions that can cause a decline in weight. Some are inevitable, such as a direct response to a severe disease; however, some have the potential to be treated and reverted. The first step in managing weight loss ultimately has to be to figure out the reason behind why it’s happening in the first place and work from there. It’s estimated that one in five nursing home residents experience malnutrition in some form. Malnutrition is dangerous in that it ultimately leads to both physical and cognitive decline over a period of time.
There are many ways to combat this, though. This is, of course, excluding inevitable factors. Some times, simply hiring the right foodservice provider makes a substantial difference in avoiding, or fixing, weight loss in the elderly population.
1. Unappetizing Food
One of the factors that causes unintentional weight loss in the elderly population is unappetizing food. Sometimes, food doesn’t look appealing because it’s not what residents are used to eating. Many skilled nursing homes hire foodservice providers who present food in off putting ways that prevent residents from wanting to eat it. Making sure meals are plated in a way that looks desirable for the residents is an essential part of the meal service process that can ultimately make all the difference. Serving healthy plates with a balanced food group can be presented in a way that makes it look appealing helps residents to eat more.
2. No Schedule for Meal Times
Not having a set schedule can be detrimental to nursing home residents. This is especially true for residents suffering from dementia. Not having a consistent, set time for meals three times a day ultimately impacts their eating habits. Having a reliable schedule creates habits and therefore aids in unintentional weight loss attributed to simply forgetting to eat or having the part of the brain that sends hunger signals affected by neurological diseases, whether it be dementia or otherwise.
3. Unable to Swallow/Chew
This issue stems from issues that are ultimately because of different factors, but ensuring that there are soft foods for residents with this problem to eat is essential for their overall health and well being. Hopefully, this is an issue that can be resolved by a doctor, but while it is affecting their ability to eat, their food should be accommodated to this issue so they can feel their best outside of it.
4. Not Enough Protein
There are studies rapidly being published about the required protein intake for the elderly population that we've linked at the bottom of this article. A slight increase in protein intake is originally recommended for ages 70+, but there is overwhelming proof that a greater intake of protein is needed to avoid frailty. According to The Fried Frailty Index, frailty is classified on the presence of three or more of these components: weight loss, exhaustion, weakness, slowness, and low physical activity. Frailty is a direct cause of muscle weakness.
There are some weight loss issues that cannot be solved simply by changing your foodservice provider, but there are many that can. It’s important to have qualities to the meal service that makes eating an enjoyable experience for nursing home residents. It’s also important to take all of this advice into consideration when choosing a foodservice management company. GKM is always willing and able to go above and beyond for your residents and ensure they’re at their peak performance.
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