Starving Seniors - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

1/30/06-St. Louis, MO

Starving Seniors

 One out of every three elderly adults don't consume enough calories, putting them at high risk for malnutrition. To put that in perspective, the same ratio of children in third world countries go hungry each year. It's a problem that's not often talked about, but it can be dangerous.

Mint chip, cookie dough, vanilla, strawberry, even orange sherbet ... everyone has a favorite flavor! For seniors at this nursing home, ice cream is also a way to make sure they get enough calories.

Geriatrician/internist Margaret-Mary Wilson, M.D., of Saint Louis University School of Medicine, says chronic illnesses, medications and changes in hormones can cause loss of appetite in seniors.

"Half the meal consists in its pleasant taste and its pleasant smell, but as we age, we get a blunting of that perception." And not eating, according to Dr. Wilson, enough can have serious consequences. "The reality is that we're dealing with a problem in older adults that is fatal."

So, how can you make sure the older people you know get enough to eat? First, let them eat what they like.

"We try to avoid restrictive diets in older adults," Dr. Wilson says.

Next, make sure they consume about 15 calories for every pound of weight. So, a 130-pound senior should get about 1,950 calories a day. There's also a more liberal food pyramid for seniors. It emphasizes eight glasses of water a day and more calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B-12.

Myra Bishop knew something was wrong when she just wasn't hungry any more and lost 50 pounds. After working with a nutritionist, she's put on four pounds and hopes to gain more with a little help from her favorite food.

Many nursing homes around the country have ice cream parlors to encourage seniors to eat what they like. Dr. Wilson says you shouldn't wait until an elderly relative starts losing weight to seek help. Make an appointment with a geriatrician at the first sign of appetite lost.

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