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Malnutrition in Older Americans

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Sep 16, 2014 1:09:00 PM

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Most people know that malnutrition is prevalent in developing countries, but most don’t realize malnutrition is also common among the elderly in the United States. This is a growing problem, as the Census Bureau predicts there will be 92 million people over age 65 by 2060. Malnutrition in our elderly population is a serious issue, due to the associated adverse outcomes.

 The causes are multifactorial, but studies have shown nutrition care leads to better outcomes and saves money. 

At-risk individuals that receive nutrition care during and after a hospitalization are 3 times less likely to die.1

Nutrition care can reduce hospital stays by two days.2

Maureen-GarnerIndividuals with weight loss are at a higher risk for avoidable hospital readmissions. The greater the weight loss, the greater the probability of readmission.3

Malnourished patients have 2-3 times more complications than those not at risk for malnutrition.4

Malnutrition was found in 1/3 of inpatients and resulted in poor hospitalization outcomes and survival.5  

59% percent of patients identified with malnutrition risk, were unable to be discharged home with self-care.6

Hospitalized patients discharged with malnutrition are older and sicker. Their inpatient care was 2 ½ times more expensive than those without malnutrition.7

Being underweight is the strongest predictor for hospital readmissions.8


Post-discharge meals reduced hospital readmissions by 39% in a CMS pilot in Florida.9
MCO paid $12,000 per month less for HIV/AIDS members receiving home-delivered meals than comparison group without home-delivered meals.10
Nutrition care is an essential element to support the independence of older Americans, reduce their hospital admissions, and postpone nursing home placement. Home-delivered meals have shown to be effective in preventing and treating malnourished individuals. Something to consider when the cost of a single day in the hospital is 200 times the cost of three home-delivered meals.

1 Feldblum I, et al, J Am Geriatr Soc, 2011;59(1):10-17. 
2 Barker LA, et al, Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2011;8(2):514-527.
3 Friedman JM, et al, Am J Clin Nutr, 1997;65(6):1714-1720. 
4 Sorenson J, et al, Clin Nutr, 2008;27(3)340-349.
5 Lim SL, et al, Clin Nutr, 2012;31(3):345-350.
6 Chima C, et al, JADA, 1997;97(9):975-978.
7 Corkins, MR, et al, JPEN, 2014;38(2):186-195.
8 Mudge AM, et al, J Hosp Med, 2011;6(2):61-67.
9 FMQAI, Florida’s Medicare Quality Improvement Organization, under contract with CMS.

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Topics: Nutrition, Malnutrition in Elderly, Home Delivered Meals

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