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Malnutrition and COVID-19: What You Need To Know

Posted by Alexandria Hadley, MS, RD, LD on Nov 4, 2020 11:00:00 AM

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As countries worldwide grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, older adults remain disproportionately affected. Not only are they at an increased risk of infection, but they're also at a higher risk of malnutrition -- especially those 85 years and older. 

Risk of Hospitalization

In fact, older adults are hospitalized with COVID-19 at a rate of five to 13 times higher than those between the ages of 18 to 29, according to Today's Geriatric Medicine. Currently the death rate is 90 to 620 times higher, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As patients battle the illness, many are simultaneously fighting malnutrition. Though malnutrition is a preventable and treatable condition, two-thirds of older adults are at risk of becoming malnourished. Also, one-third of patients who are not malnourished will become so by the time they are discharged.

Because of the combination of a COVID-19 infection and malnutrition it can result in a catastrophic outcome, resulting in hospital readmissions and affecting older adults' recovery and quality of life.  It is critical to associate balanced nutrition in fighting against the virus.

Screening Is Vital

Although nutrition screening is common for hospital admission, it should be also be done in the outpatient setting. The Mini-Nutrition Assessment (MNA) screening tool is a useful tool for older adults. Of those screened, about 12% of those infected with COVID-19 will require hospitalization, while the remaining 88% can recover at home with adequate care and medically-tailored meals.

Next Steps

It's more important than ever before that health plans include home-delivered meals in their program. Many Medicare Advantage plans provide home-delivered meals to their members during an emergency, so contact your health plan to see if you, or your loved one, are eligible.

For more information, download this How-To-Guide to Home-Delivered Meals! 

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Topics: Home Delivered Meals, Nutrition Care, Malnutrition, Older Adults

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