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Why Hungry Seniors Aren't Getting Enough To Eat

May 06, 2015

NPR recently featured an Annals of Emergency Medicine study found a shocking number of seniors who visited emergency rooms were at risk of malnutrition or were malnourished.

The study found than half of senior patients treated were in nutritional danger. 

Similar studies have estimated that roughly 6 percent of independent seniors suffer from malnourishment. And just as startling other studies have found senior malnourishment rates to be as high as 85 percent in long term care facilities and hospitals.

Timothy Platts-Mills, the lead author of the paper, is an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

He says that unfortunately malnourished seniors can “fly under the radar”.

Once a senior was selected a subject for the study through a nourishment screening process during their emergency room visit. Researchers asked them what they caused them to eat less. The seniors offered dental problems, depression, difficulty buying groceries, and dental issues.

Platte-Mills says that although this study’s findings can make the problem sound out of control. The good news is that if a malnourished senior can be successfully identified. They can be quickly connected with services like meals on wheels, food pantries, or innovative in home programs like Madison Wisconsin’s Chefs for Seniors.

Platts-Mills continues:

"For some of these patients, we’re not going to change what happens-they may have a terminal illness. But for others, we can have a lasting impact on health and quality of life. That’s a group we should be identifying national, and we’re talking about a relatively inexpensive intervention.”

As long as studies  continue to highlight the increasing and avoidable problem, hungry seniors can become a thing of the past.

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