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Malnourished in the ER: Why Are Seniors Not Eating?

Summary: According to a recent study, many older adults who visit the ER are either malnourished or at risk for malnutrition.
Air Date: 8/15/14
Duration: 10
Host: Leigh Vinocur, MD
Guest Bio: Timothy Platts-Mills, MD
Dr. Tim Platts-Mills is an assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

His clinical research aims to improve the emergency care of older adults; particular interests include malnutrition, elder abuse, and the management of acute musculoskeletal pain. His work is supported by the National Institute on Aging and the Hartford Foundation.
Malnourished in the ER: Why Are Seniors Not Eating?
According to a recent study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, more than half of older adults who visit emergency departments are either malnourished or at risk for malnutrition.

In the study, researchers from the University of North Carolina estimated the prevalence of malnutrition among older patients in the emergency department. Researchers assessed the nutrition among 138 older adults and found 16 percent were malnourished and 60 percent were either malnourished or at risk for malnutrition.

One possible reason for this could be that people may feel isolated or lonely and preparing and eating food is a social behavior. Typically, you might prepare food with friends and family and sit down together and eat together. If you're on your own, you may not have the desire to plan and prepare a meal for yourself.

Can depression play a role in malnourishment?

One of the symptoms associated with depression is weight loss and malnutrition. In the study, among the 138 participants, 25 patients met the criteria for depression and half of them were malnourished.

Assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hil, Dr. Tim Platts-Mills discusses the study on malnutrition, why these patients are malnourished and ways to help prevent malnutrition in elderly patients.
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