Are Individuals with Poor Nutrition Susceptible to Bed Sores?

Poor Nutrition BedsoresBed sores or pressure ulcers occur when an individual remains bedridden for too long in one position. As he or she remains stationary, blood pools in the lowest areas of the body, particularly around bony prominences like the joints, hips, and back. There are many additional medical factors that may increase an individual’s risk of developing bed sores, and malnutrition is chief among them.

A study of more than 480 elderly patients revealed that individuals who classified as “malnourished” on the Body-Mass Index (BMI) scale are more likely to develop bed sores than those who qualify as “well-nourished.” About 17% of the participants in the study developed bed sores during the course of the study and researchers assessed common trends among those who developed bed sores. In this study of subjects of an average age of 79 years old, 39.5% of the individuals who classified as malnourished developed bed sores compared to only 2.5% of those classified as well-nourished.

Benefits of Proper Nutrition

A good diet and proper nutrient intake do much more than reduce the chances of developing bed sores. Proper nutrition can benefit elderly individuals in a variety of ways and improve overall daily quality of life. Ideally, elderly individuals should consume at least 25 to 50 calories per kilogram of body weight each day to maintain a healthy BMI rating.

Nutritional supplementation is also critical. As we age, our bodies have more trouble absorbing vital nutrients from food, and other medical complications may complicate eating habits. Caregivers need to understand their patients’ unique dietary concerns and create nutritional supplementation plans to fill in any gaps from their typical diets and ensure a healthy absorption rate of vital nutrients.

Signs and Risks of Malnutrition

Elderly patients who have difficulty eating or who do not receive proper nutritional support may begin displaying signs of malnutrition.

  • Diarrhea. Patients who drink fluids but do not eat adequate amounts of solid foods may experience loose stools.
  • Disorientation. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can cause different neurological processes to struggle or break down. Poor nutrition impacts sensory processing and cognition in dramatic ways.
  • Muscle twitches. As the central nervous system struggles to keep functioning without proper nutritional support, a malnourished patient may begin experiencing musculoskeletal symptoms like twitching.
  • Goiters. An enlarged thyroid gland is a likely possibility for a malnourished individual and can interfere with other bodily functions.
  • Scaling and cracking around the lips and mouth. Poor nutrition has an intense effect on the health of hair, skin, and nails, especially sensitive areas like around the mouth.

Caregivers who identify any of these warning signs need to address them as soon as possible. Additionally, they should take extra steps to prevent the formation of bed sores in patients who suffer from malnutrition. For example, it may be necessary to start repositioning a bedridden, malnourished patient more frequently to prevent blood pooling and the formation of bed sores.

Addressing Individual Risk Factors

Some individuals face a higher risk of malnutrition and therefore a higher risk of developing bed sores. Additional risk factors include mouth problems, gastrointestinal medical issues, low diastolic blood pressure, and impaired respiratory function that may interfere with nutrition intake. Caregivers must pay extra close attention to high risk individuals and take steps to prevent bed sores.

Bed sores are one of the biggest dangers facing elderly nursing home residents. It is essential for nursing home staff to carefully review individual patient health concerns and risk factors and then take appropriate preventative measures to protect patients from bed sores. Nutrition plays a vital role in this, so caregivers should stay vigilant for the early warning signs of malnutrition and provide dietary support and nutritional supplements as necessary.

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