The COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to place older Americans at an increased risk for poor nutrition and its negative health impacts, according to a national coalition of more than 100 organizations and stakeholders working to defeat older adult malnutrition.
“Many older Americans are newly homebound and isolated due to COVID-19. In light of this, we are encouraging Americans to become aware of the risk of malnutrition to older Americans and how they can help to protect them from it,” said Bob Blancato, national coordinator for Defeat Malnutrition Today.
In communities nationwide, senior centers, congregate nutrition programs and adult day care centers are closing. Blancato notes that older adults who are now homebound by COVID-19 may not have access to the food they need. Social isolation and mental health issues, which can be prompted or intensified by the pandemic, are also known to increase older adults’ malnutrition risk. In turn, studies have found that malnutrition impacts immunity, which may impact the ability to fight and recover from infections and acute illnesses like COVID-19.
In response, Defeat Malnutrition Today has launched an update to its website to provide critical information about avoiding malnutrition. Resources on the Defeat Malnutrition Today website include answers to frequently asked questions about older adult nutrition, advice on staying connected and combating social isolation, and links to federal nutrition programs that assist older adults and their families.
“Malnutrition leads to more health-related complications and falls for older Americans, while protein malnutrition in particular contributes to longer hospital stays and higher rates of death,” Blancato noted. “Working together, we must all do our part to protect the older adults in our lives from becoming malnourished during this crisis.”
PROTECTING OLDER AMERICANS FROM MALNUTRITION DURING COVID-19
Defeat Malnutrition Today has some simple advice:
- Check in on the older adults in your life, including family, friends, and neighbors, to ensure they have an adequate supply of food
- Offer to bring groceries or drop off homemade or restaurant takeout meals
- Bring them oral nutrition supplements, which are easy to store, require no preparation, and can provide much-needed protein and vitamins and minerals
- Encourage healthy eating to support immunity
- Help refer older adults to federal nutrition programs for support
Defeat Malnutrition Today also recommends ways to keep older adults connected, mentally healthy, and willing to seek help if needed:
- Regularly check in with a call or video-chat
- Ask how they are feeling and whether they are able to manage the stress
- Encourage them to stay active doing the things they are still able to do during the pandemic, such as walking outside, gardening, listen to music, reading, etc.
- Help them to seek support or medical care if they are experiencing emotional or mental health issues
SOURCE Defeat Malnutrition Today