VitalCare Technology Blog
A recently released study from Massey University in New Zealand reported that "almost 75% of older adults were at risk of malnourishment, or were malnourished when they were admitted to the hospital". The study, led by Associate Professor Carol Wham from the College of Health, looked to the malnutrition risk in older adults at the point of hospital admission. It follows an earlier pilot study which showed 23% were malnourished and 35% were at high risk of malnourishment at hospital admission. The average age of the 234 participants involved in the latest study was 84. The research was undertaken in Auckland within the Waitemata District Health Board region, between July 2014 and September 2015.
The study goes on to report that there is a connection between this and the patient's level of help needed with various daily tasks. The connection seems to be the overall deterioration of muscle strength as we age which also affect swallowing muscles and cause swallowing problems, or dysphagia. This can begin a negative feedback cycle where the person doesn't take in enough food due to weak swallowing muscles which then makes them weaker.
Early intervention through regular doctor visits with a referral to an SLP for dysphagia screening will help avoid more serious conditions. This can be difficult with cognitively deficient patients but family or professional caretakers should be aware of the signs and symptoms of dysphagia. A treatment intervention like the VitalStim Therapy protocol performed by a trained speech therapist or other exercise programs and techniques could be considered.