By Jennifer Bradley, Staff Writer
The average person has a difficult time turning down
a bowl of their favorite ice cream, unless under the
influence of a serious flu bug. Even then, itís usually
not a hard sell! A loss of appetite, however, is very
common in the senior citizen community. Caregivers must
be aware of their loved oneís eating habits to ensure
nutritional requirements are being met. Just as we canít
imagine passing up that bowl of sweet dessert, your
loved one canít afford to miss the most basic of meals.
Professionals at Mayo Clinic say that though the causes
of malnutrition seem straightforward, they are often
caused by a combination of physical, social and
psychological issues. The American Association of Family
Physicians says seniors with unintentional weight loss
show a high risk for infection, depression and
ultimately, early death.
Author Leanne Beattie writes that a 1990 survey by Ross
Laboratories shows 30 percent of seniors skip at least
one meal a day. Another research project found that 16
percent of seniors consume fewer than 1,000 calories a
day. As caregivers, itís important to recognize the
warning signs of this easily remedied problem before it
The most obvious sign of appetite loss, thus
malnutrition, is a physical effect on a personís body.
Weight or hair loss, bruising and weakness are visible
signs of distress. So are persistent and recurrent
infections, fatigue, depression and poor skin integrity.
As a caregiver, keeping an open eye to a loved oneís
physical appearance and functioning is vital.
Another phenomenon, the prescription ďspreadsheet
syndrome,Ē is a large cause of malnutrition in older
adults. Howtocare.com explains how medications alter a
bodyís ability to absorb nutrients from food, and also
impair its natural process of excreting minerals. The
Web site lists some of these medications as cardiac
glycosides, lipid-lowering drugs, diuretics,
anti-inflammatory prescriptions, antacids and laxatives.