The statistics are startling. According to a recent study regarding seniors and nutrition, more than half of those who visit emergency rooms are either malnourished or at-risk for malnutrition – but not because of critical illness, dementia, or a lack of access to health care.
According to the study, Malnutrition Among Cognitively Intact, Non-Critically Ill Older Adults in the Emergency Department, published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, out of the patients age 65 and older seeking Emergency Room treatment, 16% were malnourished and 60% were either malnourished or at risk for malnutrition.
Malnourishment of Seniors
Of the malnourished patients, 77 percent denied they had been previously diagnosed with malnutrition.
In this study, according to Medical News Today, “nearly all (95 percent) of patients had a primary care physician, nearly all (94 percent) lived in a private residence and nearly all (96 percent) had some type of health insurance. More than one-third (35 percent) had a college education.”
The findings stunned lead study author Timothy Platts-Mills, MD of the University of North Carolina Department of Emergency Medicine in Chapel Hill, N.C.
“We were surprised by the levels of malnutrition or risk of it among cognitively intact seniors visiting the ER, and even more surprised that most malnourished patients had never been told they were malnourished,” he said.
Malnutrition is defined as lacking “adequate calories, protein or other nutrients needed for tissue maintenance and repair.” Researchers learned the culprits behind the findings were depression, dental problems and difficulty buying groceries.
If seniors aren’t getting the proper nutrients, their risk of developing age-related eye health issues increases. Studies show that as vision quality deteriorates, seniors can encounter a host of difficulties. For example, injuries from falls become more likely; the risk of depression also increases.
In spite of dental issues, depression, and difficulty in obtaining groceries, Dr. Platts-Mills points out there are ways for patients to get the nutrients they need. Supplements can help seniors in a variety of ways.
“Implementation of oral nutritional supplementation is inexpensive and may reduce overall costs by accelerating recovery from illness and reducing readmissions,” said Dr. Platts-Mills.