Undernutrition

Overwhelming evidence implicates undernutrition as a major index of increased mortality in older adults. Undernourished elders admitted to acute facilities are more likely to develop complications, resulting in increased length of stay and healthcare costs. Rehabilitative efforts are less rewarding as patients often fail to return to baseline functional status and are more likely to require long-term placement or emergency readmission.

Free-living older persons with suboptimal nutritional status are at increased risk of dependence on care givers as a result of compromised activities of daily living. Additionally, convincing evidence exists linking undernutrition with an increased incidence of frailty, gait instability, falls, hip factures, immune dysfunction, delayed wound healing, and decreased cognitive function. Nevertheless, nutritional assessment and dietary management are often overlooked when health professionals evaluate geriatric patients.

As many as one-third of older adults in the US may be undernourished However, early clinical detection and appropriate intervention occur in less than one-tenth of cases. Health-care providers must remain astutely aware that geriatric health maintenance mandates efficient nutritional evaluation, surveillance, and prompt intervention.

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