The risk of malnutrition often occurs even before hospital admission. More than one-third of patients are malnourished when they enter the hospital. It’s no surprise that malnutrition can negatively affect their clinical outcomes and increase costs.Malnutrition is common for older adults also when they return home from the hospital. It may be challenging for them to leave their homes to shop and prepare nutritionally balanced meals. Even busy caregivers may not know what meals are best for their loved ones.
Signs of Malnutrition
- Unplanned weight loss – This is usually a loss of muscle, not fat.
- Chronic illness – Those on special diets for diabetes and hypertension may need help managing their diets.
- Recent hospitalization – Lack of appetite is common after an illness or injury. Members may not feel like eating or have the energy to cook.
Members who are malnourished face several risks:
- Increased risk of pressure ulcers
- Decreased wound healing
- Higher rates of infection
- More hospital readmissions and higher healthcare costs
Undernourished individuals have an increased risk of falls and injuries, impacting their ability to live independently. Nonfatal falls cost the healthcare system over $19 billion in health care costs annually.
Food as Medicine
Proper nutrition can be like medicine for those suffering from a chronic condition or recovering from an illness or surgery. Individuals with diabetes and cardiac conditions need to adhere to diets low in sugar, fat, sodium, and cholesterol.
Referring your members to a home-delivered meal provider will help to ensure they will be eating nutritious meals. Medically-tailored meals after a hospitalization can help reduce malnutrition and improve results in managing chronic diseases and conditions. Post-discharge meals significantly impact both short-term recovery rates and the long-term health of members.
Six out of eight studies found that home-delivered meals significantly improved diet quality, nutrient intake and reduced food insecurity and nutritional risks among participants.
To learn more about the impact of nutrition on your members' health, download the infographic below!