Challenges for Older Adults
Successful Aging Not Possible for Many Hispanic Adults …
According the Encyclopedia of Aging, successful aging is defined as a combination of survival (longevity), health (without disabilities), and happiness (life satisfaction). Extend the definition to include maximum independence in safe, empowering and trusted environments with family and friends – and the golden years sound inviting. But do all have the same opportunities to age well?
It is projected that by 2019, the Hispanic population aged 65 will be the largest racial/ethnic minority in this age group. The National Hispanic Council on Aging reports that nearly one in five Hispanic older adults lives in poverty compared to 6.8% of non-Hispanic White older adults. It is estimated that without Social Security, over half of U.S. Hispanic older adults would live in poverty. A Profile of Older Americans: 2012 developed by the Administration on Aging found the highest poverty rates were experienced among older Hispanic women (38.8%) who lived alone. Poverty, access to health services, and senior hunger are key issues that in turn lead to malnutrition that impact all the aspects of successful aging.
Malnutrition, is the result of a lack of essential nutrients, resulting in poorer health, that may be caused by a number of conditions or circumstances or, simply because people do not have enough food to eat. A key predictor to malnutrition in older adults is loss of appetite. Consuming a poor-quality diet, especially over time, makes matters worse. And even overweight and obese older adults can be malnourished.
Whose at risk for malnutrition?
Those at highest risk of malnutrition are older adults, especially:
- Seniors who are hospitalized or in long-term institutional care
- Individuals who are socially isolated
- People on low incomes
- People with chronic eating disorders
- People convalescing after a serious illness or condition.
What are the signs and symptoms?
A symptom is something the patient feels and reports, while a sign is something other people, such as the doctor detect. For example, pain may be a symptom while a rash may be a sign.
Signs and symptoms of malnutrition include:
- Loss of fat
- Breathing difficulties, a higher risk of respiratory failure
- Higher risk of complications after surgery
- Higher risk of abnormally low body temperature
- Weakened immune system
- Higher susceptibility to feeling cold
- Longer healing times for wounds
- Longer recover times from infections
- Longer recovery from illnesses
- Lower sex drive
- Problems with fertility
- Reduced muscle mass
- Reduced tissue mass
- Fatigue, tiredness or apathy
In more severe cases:
- Skin may become thin, dry, inelastic, pale, and cold
- Eventually, as fat in the face is lost, the cheeks look hollow and the eyes sunken
- Hair becomes dry and sparse, falling out easily
- Sometimes, severe malnutrition may lead to unresponsiveness
For hospitalized older adults, research shared by the Alliance for Patient Nutrition shows malnutrition significantly affects outcomes:
- Patients with weight loss are at increased risk for readmission.
- Malnourished patients are 2 times more likely to develop a pressure ulcer in the hospital.
- Patients with malnutrition and weight loss have 3 times the risk for surgical site infection.
- 45% of patients who fall in the hospital are malnourished.
Simple Changes To Improve Nutritional Status in Older Adults
- Keep foods in the house that are easy to eat and prepare
- Eat several small meals and snack throughout the day
- Choose foods high in calories and nutrients such as nuts, foods cooked in olive oil, and oral nutrition supplement beverages.