The Reality of Malnutrition and Older Adults

Presenter, Bob Blancato

Bob Blancato is the President of Matz, Blancato and Associates, in Washington, D.C.  He is the National Coordinator of the bipartisan Elder Justice Coalition. He also serves as the Executive Director of the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs. 

Bob has more than 20 years of service in the Congressional and Executive branches, including the senior staff of the U.S. House Select Committee on Aging and an appointment by President Clinton to be Executive Director of the 1995 White House Conference on Aging.

Bob’s volunteer leadership includes serving as the Chair of the Board of the American Society on Aging and on the National Board of AARP. He also serves on the Board of the National Council on Aging. In September 2015, Bob was appointed to the Advisory Panel on Outreach and Education of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services.

Bob has also served as volunteer State President of AARP Virginia and as president of the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse.

Bob is a contributing blogger to the Huffington Post and Next Avenue, writing on aging issues. He holds a BA from Georgetown University and an MPA from American University. Bob has won numerous awards for advocacy. In 2011, he was knighted by the Italian Republic.

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What is Malnutrition?

Malnutrition is defined by the WHO as deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients.  The term covers two broad groups of conditions – undernutrition and overweight. 

Specific to Older Adults
  • 1 in 2 older adults are at risk for malnutrition
  • 300% increase in healthcare costs for those with poor nutritional status
  • 4 to 6 days longer in the hospital
  • $51.3B in annual costs for disease-associated malnutrition in older adults
  • 60% of older adults in hospitals may be malnourished
Problems caused by Malnutrition
  • Weak immune system, which increases the risk of infections
  • Poor wound healing
  • Muscle weakness and decreased bone mass, which can lead to falls and fractures
  • Higher risk of hospitalization
  • Increased risk of death
How to Spot Malnutrition?
  • Observe eating habits – spend time during meals.  If an older adult is living alone, find out who buys their food. 
  • Watch for weight loss – help older adults monitor their weight at home.  Watch for other signs of weight loss, such as changes in how clothing fits. 
  • Be alert to other red flags – in addition to weight loss, malnutrition can cause poor wound healing and dental difficulties.  It may also cause weakness, which can result in falls. 
  • Know your loved one’s medications – many drugs affect appetite, digestion and nutrient absorption. 

Caregivers and Professionals Who Should Attend

Social work practitioners, medical, psychologists and mental health, legal/judicial, law enforcement officials and personnel, home care placement agencies, court-appointed guardians and conservators, community-center board staff and clergy. All of the above – whether paid or unpaid.
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