Malnutrition in the Elderly

Malnutrition in the Elderly

January 11, 2022

Malnutrition in the Elderly: Signs, Reasons, Resources

It is estimated that over 50 percent of older American adults are malnourished. Multnutrition is harmful at any age, but especially devastating in the elderly because it can lead to increased immunity weakness, bone density weakness, muscle weakness, and therefore falling.

What are the Signs?

Often as caretakers, we are focused on providing the essentials for our loved ones – food being a primary essential. It can be hard to detect an “off” few days of eating to what can be potentially more dangerous. Below are signs to look for:

  • Weight Loss – This may seem obvious, but sudden or severe weight loss is the first indicator that essential calories are lacking from a person’s diet.
  • Feeling Weak or Tired – Is your loved one more lethargic than normal? Are they unable or less interested in doing things they previously enjoyed?
  • Loss of Appetite/ Not Interested in Eating – Often caretakers will see elderly loved ones especially In memory care find one food that works – like soup, but when your loved one suddenly stops enjoying a former favorite it may be a sign of malnutrition.
  • Swelling – Is your loved one retaining more fluid than normal or showing signs of swelling? This could be a sign of malnutrition.
  • Only able to stomach small amounts of food at a time – If your loved one is only able to stomach small amounts of food at a time, pay attention to their caloric intake to make sure they are getting enough.


There are many causes for malnutrition in the elderly. As we age, many factors can affect our nutrition. Below are a few factors that can contribute to malnutrition:

  • Dementia/Memory Loss
  • Dental Issues that do not allow one to chew or cause pain
  • Medications Change Appetite
  • Limited Income/Access to Food


If you suspect malnutrition in your loved one, we recommend you contact their doctor. A doctor can help to assess the cause and help to prescribe a plan. There are a TON of premade high-calorie nutrition drinks that are on the market – so many we can donate an entire blog to them. Ranging in price and nutrients, these drinks are available at most grocery stores. If your loved one has limited income or access to meals, we recommend looking into local meal services, like Meals On Wheels. Meals on Wheels’ mission is to “ support our senior neighbors to extend their independence and health as they age.” They offer meals delivered to Seniors. At a local level, our CEO and Founder, Mark Baldwin is on the Board of the Meals on Wheels in Sarasota. “Serving Seniors quickly became my passion, whether it’s advocating and locating Senior housing and resources, or serving on the board for Meals On Wheels where we are delivering meals so people can remain healthy and happy living at home. The Meals on Wheels mission is one I personally and professionally align with. I am honored to be able to donate my time to such a great cause and help our neighbors here in Sarasota.”

Are you in need of meal support? You can find your local Meals on Wheels chapter here.

We hope to remind caregivers to be mindful of malnutrition in your elderly loved ones. It can lead to many complications and is a cause for concern. If you are in need of resources or placement support, please contact us.

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