As the German Society for Geriatrics (DGG) writes in a recent report, very old people generally have an increased risk of developing malnutrition, with up to 50 percent of geriatric patients already suffering from malnutrition.
Malnutrition is not only a problem in poor developing countries. In Germany, too, more than one and a half million people are affected, explains the German Society for Nutritional Medicine. (DGEM). According to experts, the chronically ill, tumor patients and elderly people are considered particularly at risk.
When people talk about malnutrition, images of starving children in poor countries in Africa or Asia usually come to mind. But the problem is also widespread in this country. Older people are particularly affected. They often suffer from loss of appetite and weight loss. This can increase the risk of illness. But something can be done about it.
Tips and help against malnutrition
“To counteract this, we need much better education in hospitals as well as in nursing homes and old people’s homes on the causes and consequences of malnutrition. Particularly in cases of loss of appetite and weight loss, immediate action must be taken,” says Professor Dorothee Volkert, head of the “Nutrition and Metabolism” working group at the DGG and staff member of the Institute for Biomedicine of Aging at the Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg.
The DGG working group has now presented the new information flyer “Essen und Trinken halten Leib und Seele zusammen!” (Eating and drinking keeps body and soul together) for physicians, patients and relatives, which is intended to provide suggestions for better nutrition in old age.
Suggestions for a better diet
“In concrete terms, we first want to achieve that affected persons develop an awareness of possible malnutrition. Many people are not even aware that cognitive limitations or physical weakness, for example, are directly related to this,” says Prof. Dr. Volkert.
Older people often experience loss of appetite and weight in everyday life. These problems must be taken seriously. Possible consequences include an increased risk of disease, delayed recovery, reduced muscle strength and, ultimately, reduced independence and quality of life.
It can also often be observed that hunger and thirst are not perceived – but in fact too little nutrients and fluid are absorbed.
“That’s why those affected should react immediately and optimize their own nutrition,” Volkert warns.
“Unless otherwise prescribed by a doctor, one and a half liters of water a day in the form of various beverages are sensible. In addition, protein-rich products such as dairy products, meat, fish or legumes are added every day, and snacks with nuts, fruit or cheese cubes also enrich the daily diet”.
Her tip: “Take time for all meals, ensure good oral hygiene and weigh yourself regularly.” (ad)
“Nobody here should have the false shyness to ask for appropriate support. Help with shopping or food preparation is simply part of the package. If necessary, there is also special cutlery, plates or cups that make eating easier,” explains Dorothee Volkert.
What the experts of the DGG working group “Nutrition and Metabolism” have also discovered: Numerous older people suffer from chewing and swallowing problems, have difficulties in buying and preparing meals, have to eat alone or have fundamental worries and fears that can lead to a lack of nutrition.
WashingtonNewsday Health and Wellness.