Malnutrition and Dehydration

There are a variety of factors which can lead to malnutrition. Depression, an increasing problem among the elderly, is a potential cause of malnutrition because individuals suffering from depression have a tendency to eat less and in turn to do not receive appropriate vitamins and minerals to prevent malnutrition.  Other causes of malnutrition include difficulty swallowing and adverse drug effects such as vomiting and diarrhea.  Nursing homes often fail to take steps to prevent malnutrition by not monitoring resident food intake and output, not providing a comfortable environment to promote eating and not providing food that is appetizing.

The elderly have less water content in their bodies than younger adults and a decreased thirst response which, among other factors, puts them at risk for dehydration.  Increasing fluid intake in the elderly is important and relatively simple.  The nursing home should monitor the resident’s fluid intake and ensure that the resident drinks at least six cups of fluid each day.

Maintaining appropriate nutritional and hydrational status is important in the nursing home setting.  Residents who do not receive adequate nutrition and hydration in their diets are more at risk for the development of pressure ulcers, infection, muscle weakness leading to immobility and falls and poor nutrition and hydration make it more difficult for existing pressure ulcers and infections to heal.