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June 2nd, 2010
10:26 AM ET

Malnutrition killing elderly in U.S.

By Madison Park
CNNhealth.com writer/producer

In a nation where people die from complications of too much food, some die from having too little.  Although malnutrition is often thought of as a killer in the developing world, it's also a problem for the elderly in the United States, according to research published in the May issue of the Annals of Epidemiology.

Researchers from Louisiana State University examined data from 3,141 counties  and older adult malnutrition mortality using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.  Between 2,000 and 3,000 older adults die from malnutrition each year, according to CDC data from 2006.

Malnutrition is more prevalent among older adults, especially over the age of 70. They may eat too little, lack nutrition or have digestion problems related to aging. This can stem from certain medications, trouble chewing due to dental issues, problems swallowing or difficulty absorbing nutrients, according to the Mayo Clinic.

MayoClinic.org: Senior health: How to detect and prevent malnutrition

The rates of malnutrition mortality among older adults vary widely across communities.  The communities with higher levels of socioeconomic disadvantage, social isolation and disability are more likely to have higher rates of malnutrition-related deaths, wrote the author, Matthew Lee, a sociology professor at Louisiana State University.

"Communities where adults are living alone and are widowed have higher rates of dying from malnutrition," he said. "When people are embedded in strong social networks, they fare better."

Lee stumbled across statistics about malnutrition deaths in CDC reports.

"I never heard much about elderly mortality related to malnutrition," he said, because "it’s not an extremely common event."  The issue may attract little attention because of its demographic, he said.  "People get old, they’re expected to pass on and people don’t think much about the causes of it at that point."

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soundoff (118 Responses)
  1. JJ

    The instances of elderly people who refuse to eat due to some unresolved eating disorder are sad but far from the norm and far from the point.
    We need to take responsibility for the elderly in our communities and make sure they are receiving food and the companionship to go with it.
    If we live long enough, we will all be old one day and I hope we will be treated with greater compassion than we currently show the elderly.

    June 2, 2010 at 16:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Mona

    When I realized that my mother was loosing weight and not able to cook as well as she once had, I began buying her a Nutrional chocolate drink as a backup. Also when I cook a large portion entre' then I make her individual meal bags and freeze. If we go out to eat and can take her a "to go" meal then we do that as well. Now I ask her what she had eaten for dinner, etc. There are also prescription drugs that can increase appetite which I had her doctor prescribe.

    June 2, 2010 at 16:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Emily

    To the author:

    Obese people have an equally high – if not higher – risk of death due to malnutrition in this country due to the completely synthetic nature of compounds we pack our fattening foods with here. Next time you write an article, please do your research a bit more thoroughly rather than just rushing to meet your deadline. You didn't even spell-check your final product; frankly I'm rather horrified by the acceptance of your work by a news company I've always held in such high regard.

    June 2, 2010 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. terry

    one of the main causes i believe is the fact that food is far too expensive for a great many seniors. while we live in a society that promotes organic and fresh and all those other superlatives we use for our food, we don't pause to consider that a great many people cannot afford the inflated price that comes with eating healthy. i work on a seniors ward in a major hospital and we are constantly getting seniors who are malnourished cause they cannot afford the high price of eating well. they choose what they can, but most of the time fresh fruit and veggies are out of their reach. as a society that promotes good health and lifestyle choices, we have forgotten that many of there can't even afford a loaf of bread, yet alone the $$$$ for the privledge of eating healthy.

    June 2, 2010 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Sheila

    Another issue not mentioned is isolation. It can be depressing to cook and then eat by yourself. My mom eats quite heartily when she has her family around. She has used Meals on Wheels, but again, she was eating alone. Having special community meals in her senior apartment building helps this issue as well.

    June 2, 2010 at 16:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. ST

    Heather, you might try to be less myopic and self centered and recognize that just because your father is an a$$hole doesn't mean elder abuse, elder malnutrition and depression aren't oft-overlooked problems in need of attention.

    June 2, 2010 at 17:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Logan

    For those in their 20's who have jobs that offer long-term care insurance as part of their cafeteria-style benefit package – PLEASE CHOOSE IT! You may think you don't need it, until much later in life, BUT if you end up in a wheelchair, with paralysis, due to a motocycle accident, ATV accident, lyme disease, etc., you NEED this insurance. Many older people have made the mistake of not obtaining this type of insurance. You younger ones need to be smarter than those of us older ones who made mistakes!

    June 2, 2010 at 17:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Grieving

    My mom died of kidney failure caused by malnutrition. She just refused to eat. I don't know if I'll ever get over it.

    June 2, 2010 at 17:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Linda

    Sometimes you are just following what your parent would want. My Mom has advanced PD with dementia setting in and sometimes has trouble eating. At times she is fine and we try to get lots of food in to her, other times we try to spoon feed baby food to her. I know she wouldn't want to be given a feeding tube so we do the best that we can and hope that she doesn't suffer too much

    June 2, 2010 at 17:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Sean Hater

    Sean's comments are stemming from ignorance. He should be ashamed of himself.

    I am going through this right now with my 83 year old grandmother. She's depressed and a little bit delusional. It's very sad and hard to deal with. When these elderly people are sick or have injuries, they feel as though their life is coming to an end. I just wish there was more research on this because the doctors have no idea how to deal with these types of issues.

    June 2, 2010 at 17:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Jen

    It is sad that we call our country the land of abundance. Our elderly do not get the nutrition needed because they do not like to cook for one or are to incapacitated or they just can't afford it after they pay all they have for meds and rent and utilities. My mother cuts her pills in half and barely eats due to financial woes. I invite her over for dinner and take food over for her, but she like many other seniors, will make a loaf of bread last two weeks, and a gallon of milk last a month by freezing it. Last time we had her over for dinner, she at about a half cup of mashed potatoes, and maybe 2 ounces of baked chicken and maybe a half cup of steamed broccoli. She drank water with dinner and did not even touch the dessert I made. She went home with a to go plate that would have fed my family of 4 for another evening, I found that plate 3 days later barely touched in her freezer and her fridge empty. Good thing I took over juice, coffee, healthy choice single serving meals, a loaf of bread and some lunch meat. You can bet her rent and utilities are all paid though.

    June 2, 2010 at 17:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. LAT

    Eating difficulties can also be caused by dementia, not just depression. Elderly people can have dementia and forget to eat or just lose interest. It may be time to take your loved one in for a complete physical and ask about dementia and other causes of failure to thrive.

    June 2, 2010 at 17:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Mri

    This is why I support "Wheels on Meals". It's a very important program for the elderly, and needs support in these days of massive county and state budget cuts.

    June 2, 2010 at 17:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Jerome

    This doesn’t surprise me. Without being negative, I’m sure I’ll be next. The rich have it all calculated out.

    June 2, 2010 at 17:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Norma Malott

    I am an 89 year old mother of three grown children. I am diabetic, have some chronic health problems, digestion is one of them. When I see my doctor, my blood sugar is normal and has been for years, my pacemaker works great, and my cholesterol is normal. I live with my son and do his laundry, cook, and maintain the house with some cleaning help. I still drive and if I could get some help with my IBS, I
    would be very thankful. My son is very good to me, and I'm blessed
    to be living this long. I thank God every day for every thing that works.
    I think that, in a way, diabetes has been a friend. It makes me eat
    on time and the right food. My weight is also normal. Also, I have fine doctors. I feel for those not as fortunate, and wish that I could help.

    June 2, 2010 at 18:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Lee

    We need to have different programs for different needs. Meals on Wheels is great, tired exhausted people need groceries which provide healthful foods already prepared, and those who are incurably miserable and very sick should be allowed to die if they wish. There is no one answer-but the choices need to be presented and no one should be ignored. To the dispirited relatives, if you are trying, great, just don't expect to succeed in every case.

    June 2, 2010 at 18:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. chicagoK

    When you let your president destroy the economy and jobs with big government that the common person must support with ungodly taxes, there is no money left to support the elderly. Obama is stealing from the rich and the middle class to pay for his Congress and money sucking programs and people have no money left to help the elderly. Socialism has killed several EU countries as they are going bankrupt! Socialism is threatening Canada's survival! When you elect a socialist, you are electing to kill innocent people, maybe your own family! We can't take care of our parents because Obama is stealing our money!

    June 2, 2010 at 18:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Donna

    My own mother doesn't get enough calories per day, it's not that we don't feed her. It's just that she doesn't want to eat. And try to get a vitamin down her, good luck. We worry all the time.

    June 2, 2010 at 18:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Marie

    My 93-year-old Mother-in-law thinks she is getting plenty of nutrition when she eats 4 crackers with peanut butter for dinner! We can't convince her she needs to eat more vegetables and fruit. I have looked all over for a book from a reliable source on elder nutrition and can't find it. Please, is there a source for this information that would make sense to my Mother-in-Law?

    June 2, 2010 at 18:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Chalupa

    Our health system ignores dental health in the elderly. Try eating well if you have painful or no teeth.

    June 2, 2010 at 18:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Donna

    And, Mom doesn't like the cost of buying food, if we try and buy it, there is an argument. Anothe reason she doesn't eat!,
    She doesn't want to get fat, so she saves her calories for ice cream.

    June 2, 2010 at 18:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. kay

    I appreciate the comments & Dr. Gupta's article. I see I am not alone in my situation which has been beyond frustrating & very sad. My father died 7 years ago and came from a generation where he did most everything for my mother. She struggled to live alone and after her crying tears of lonliness every night on the phone with me, four states away, I convined her to move in with us. I have always been very close to my mother. But this move has not gone well- now for four years. Eating is the HUGE issue. She has lost over 30 lbs in four years. She refused antidepressive medications, calling her doctor "a quack", she will only eat about 500 calories a day and mostly in the form of cereal and skim milk.
    I cook and cook, very healthy, wonderful organic foods that mostly I grow. Things she used to love. We take her out to eat- same thing- two bites and then boxes it to come home. She comments she doesn't want to look fat and often obsesses about what to wear to church- for hours beforehand so she looks slim. She refuses to go to a wonderful area university gerentology center for a full assessment of everything. She is more and more withdrawn from social activities, refusing to go. Her memory is worsening, she is frail with minimal endurance. I am so so sad for her. I try to help in a nonargumentative manner but it matters not what I say or do. I have contacted an active senior group to try getting her involved- she refuses. I am now merely watching my lovely mother wither away, physically, mentally and spiritually before my eyes every day. Extremely sad.

    June 2, 2010 at 18:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Chalupa

    There is a point at which an elderly person may have made their peace and decide to stop eating as a way of terminating their life. Others may try to treat this in an attempt to reverse the process. Sometimes this prolongs death rather than prolonging life. I have experience with an 85 year old brought to the hospital with a diagnosis of failure to thrive. They subsequently required intubation and mechanical ventilation for hospital acquired pneumonia. This was followed by a tracheostomy for continued machine breathing and a tube in the stomach to feed. They never went home.

    June 2, 2010 at 18:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Norma Malott

    I would like to add, that elderly people need to be with others of their own generation, as it is easy to become depressed. I intend to rejoin the senior organization in town. I am the last living person of my husband's and my family.

    June 2, 2010 at 18:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Isolda

    My mother is only 73, but she says she really doesn't feel hungry, so she eats very little. She can afford enough food and what she eats is high quality–veggies, fish, whole grains–but her appetite is diminished. At the end of the day, she is tired and will often choose rest over food. Her doctors say she is in good health for someone her age, but after reading this article, I wonder if this is how malnutrition begins in some elderly people.

    June 2, 2010 at 18:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. KM

    It's a sad state of affairs when Seniors in America, who helped make America great, can't afford to put food on their dinner plate. We all have to look out for each other. We must look out for those who cared for us.

    June 2, 2010 at 18:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Lauren

    The only thing my ungrateful 86 yr old WW II Vet father DOES do is eat. He can't walk (is able but won't), refuses to wear his custom made hearing aids and really and truly believes the world owes him everything b/c he was drafted in 1942. They say the Boomer generation are selfish. Not so. It has been my experience that the most selfish, narcissistic, self righteous bunch of all Depression Era babies. They put Boomers and Gen Xer's to shame. I love my dad and will take good care of him as long as I can but it's getting more difficult to listen to his never ending sarcasm, diminishing comments, defiant behavior and pervasive negativity. Thank G-d my mother isn't like him.

    June 2, 2010 at 19:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Patudi

    This story is very sad. I've watched the donations at the soup kitchen and food pantries dry up over the last two years–especially bad during the holidays when many elderly are left alone. Even the bins in the local supermarkets which collect food donations are down significantly.

    Part of what I've observed during this recession is the affect that an out of work man or woman has on their aging parent. The parent is jockeying for the dwindling resources of their child who simply doesn't have enough (food, money or time) to spread around. Some elderly are left alone to fend for themselves, or as I saw during Thanksgiving, the entire family shows up for the donated meal at a shelter or soup kitchen. Hunger in America lives on.

    Since losing my job more than a year ago, I have had to cut expenses to the bare bone including what and how much I eat. For the first time in my 54 year life, my refrigerator is not full and there are weeks–like this one, where there is no more money left to buy food or anything else until I get a few dollars from a PT job that will pay me Friday. In spite of this, someone, somewhere is hungrier than me and that includes children and the elderly. Shame on us America.

    June 2, 2010 at 19:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. zann

    @Heather – elderly people are often abusive when they suffer from the early stages of dementia. And a lot of WW II men suffered from untreated PTSD (which often results in anger management issues), which they self-medicated with alcohol. You sound very bitter, I am guessing you had a tough life. But the elderly – like children – need to be protected because they are weaker than the rest of us. One day you will walk in their shoes, and hopefully you will benefit from the protection against elder-abuse the law provides.

    June 2, 2010 at 19:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. TimMIchigan

    Older people are just that. PEOPLE. Yes, they are dinged up from age and have pain. But they want to keep living. Breathing. They want life.

    My folks are in their 80s. My mother has Alzhiemers. She has somewhat accepted her fate, but mostly she just wants to keep living.

    As for older folks who are having nutrition issues, they do need help from family or the vast network of social services available to the elderly.

    June 2, 2010 at 19:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Marge

    I am 77 and going thru breast cancer treatment. I have lost 25 lbs. And it is mostly because I just don't feel like fixing food. I didn't do to much when I wasn't sick. Besides it is a chore to prepare meals for just one or two people. And then you have the clean up. Like the other poster. I could just grab a sandwich, peanut butter is my choice and I know I should eat more veggies but I don't want to fool with meals.

    June 2, 2010 at 19:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. leslie

    Alot of elderly in our community make use of the deli's at the local groceries, where they can puchase any number of sides, salads, or soups in small one meal sized portions and meat to go with them for reasonable prices. Even picking up several meals worth at a time. Around lunch and dinner time the deli counter is always packed!

    June 2, 2010 at 19:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Moth

    Donna – my grandmother saves her "calories" for ice cream too!

    She is obsessive about not gaining any weight and, I believe, depressed as well. We'll cook food and have her over for dinner and she will claim that she ate before coming over and isn't hungry. Her fridge and freezer are packed with food, but she just won't eat it. One of the only things she's ever interested in eating is ice cream. She's on antidepressants and has been in to the hospital to confirm there's no medical reason she can't eat. She gained 6 pounds before her last check up and told us afterwards that she'd been eating peanut butter and crackers to try to gain that weight so the doctor would be happy and that she was now going to try to lose it again.

    We've talked until we're blue in the face and tried suggesting Meals on Wheels and such, but she told us outright that she would throw the food away and lie to anyone who came to check up on her. At this point, we've just about given up. We cannot force food down her throat if she refuses to eat. We'll take her to get ice cream whenever she wants just because we figure it's better than nothing.

    Last time she was in the hospital (for an unrelated surgery) they transfered her to the psychiatric ward because she was saying she wanted to hurt herself and she was trying to starve herself so she could die. It kills me to see this happening because she's pretty young still (71) and otherwise in good health. She could have a lot of good, active years ahead of her, but right now she can hardly handle a trip to the grocery store because she's tired all the time from malnutrition.

    I too would like to see CNN do an article on eating problems in the elderly as, looking at these comments, it seems like it is a large problem.

    June 2, 2010 at 19:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Colleen

    I am the primary caretaker for my 87 yr old grandmother. It is a daily struggle to get her to consume enough calories to maintain her weight, keep her active enough to maintain the ability to support her body and to balance her need to stay independent vs my need to be sure that all her needs are met. Heart problems, digestive problems, respiratory problems, dental issues and mild dementia. The list of things she CAN eat, versus the list of the things she WON'T eat are mind boggling. It makes for a difficult situation. She is not depressed, but as she gets older she gets more demanding and, conversely, evasive about her needs because she doesn't want to be a burden. It's hard to explain, but it is somewhat similar to taking care of a 2yr old in an 87yr old adults body. You love them, do the best you can, but find that it is very challenging and draining more often than it is rewarding. For those who say that care givers of the elderly are hateful because they speak their truth of exactly how it is taking care of an elderly person who is opposed to nursing homes but equally oppositional to the in home care giving by loving relatives..step off. We do the best we can under very trying circumstances more days than not. Clif bars, Ensure, smoothies, limiting sweets and pushing fresh vegetables and fruit of a mushy consistency ( enhanced with liquid vitamins ) and MorningStar vegan food for protein has had some limited success. They are all easy to chew, swallow and digest without overly upsetting the digestive system. Best wishes to all those who take care of their elderly loved ones.

    June 2, 2010 at 19:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Mary

    I am 71 years young and only recently have found that I have problems with digestion and find it uncomfortable after I eat. Have had all the necessary tests and all is well. Which is great! My plan is to keep a record of those foods that bother me and just not eat them which means I will probably have a bland diet but it will be a healthy diet of fruits, yogurt, chicken etc. Those that have been married and lose a spouse are the people that you need to keep an eye on especially if the wife never worked or was not involved in community activities. The trick is to stay busy and to stay active. That is what I have done since I retired at age 62. A note to Heather who seems to be so angry and upset with liberals for the being concerned about what is happening with some of the elderly. If her father once had a sweet disposition and now has a totally different personality have they tried to determine why this is? Does he have dementia or alzheimers, my oldest sister passed away 2 years ago after 8 years of going through all the stages. She was an incredibly self sufficient, independent woman with three sons and very opinionated and became this very sweet quiet soul. Totally different person. I feel sad that Heather is so angry about her father's situation. It is very difficult to see parents change and to not be healthy but help is out there.

    June 2, 2010 at 20:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Bill

    I'm 80 years old and in recent months have had severe elimination problems. A colonscopy found no problem (whew!) but no solution, requiring use of laxatives (not a good idea). I lost more than 20 pounds and have no appetite. I find the medical community indifferent, probably because of my age. The Doc merely said as we get old systems slow down. That's all the help, so far

    June 2, 2010 at 20:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. godiva de maus

    It is distressing to hear the comments that tend toward blaming those who are elderly and may not be eating well. Perhaps there are people who are older who have residual eating disorders, but I do suspect those persons are an extremely small minority, and is not the issue discussed here.

    This article is pointing out that there are significant numbers of elderly who are on limited incomes, are isolated and alone, may suffer from depression, and frankly may be forced to make choices between medication and food. The elderly are particularly at risk for depression, because they experience higher percentages of illness, isolation, and also, have high numbers who are on very fixed incomes.

    Often what appears to family members as resistance to assistance or a choice, may actually stem from generational values resting in self-reliance, resistance to receiving charity, inability to recognize and obtain treatment for depression. Before you blame the person, what might be helpful is to ask the person their views on how they could best meet needs of social interaction. When you simply sign them up for something, without including the person in the process, you are, in effect, dismissing them as though they don't exist. In this sense, you add to the problem that may already exist.

    Often, conversations with elders can be difficult if you ignore the need to respect their opinions and wishes. When you meet with resistance, perhaps the response is to ask, "What do you think would work the best for making sure you're getting what you need (food, medicine, aid). Even if the elder can't tell you immediately, as you continue to ask the questions, you may be surprised at the answers!

    Elders need social interaction and to be included, just like you and me. If they've been alone a long time, they may not realize this need, or even recognize they are depressed. Any conversation leading toward "helping" an elder should always ask for their input first, with you listening.

    June 2, 2010 at 20:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. sylvia petronio

    I agree whole heartedly with your report on malnutrition in the elderly. My husband and myself are in our seventies, and eighties. When living on a fixed income, the cost of medications and other health related issues eats into a large bite of the monthly expenses. substituting pasta dishes rather than meat, and going without fresh fruit and seafood become the normal of day to day living. Because of lack of funds the food choices become limited. It's a sad situation and one that I have no answer for. The government could step in an issue seniors 60 and older with a discount card for food and medications, gas etc. We certainly deserve it. We're a forgotten lot though, always put on the back burner.

    June 2, 2010 at 20:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Dr. G. Kadar

    Elderly people have problems with swallowing solids whether they have their own teeth or not. The majority of elderly these days do not have most of their own teeth. Oftentimes their dentures are ill fitting and useless for mastication. When the muscles of mastication atrophy due to lack of use (with good dentures a person can only apply approximately 20% of the chewing pressure that a person with their own teeth can apply), the opposing muscles in the neck and back also atrophy. (Adductors and abductors: think biceps and triceps.... ). Elderly people choke easily on their food due to neurological deficits and postural problems (kyphosis due to muscle weakness and eventually skeletal changes: humpbacks, Then of course there is vitamin D deficiency, lack of calcium absorption, lack of magnesium in the diet etc) Furthermore poor vision and lack of motivation for cooking when the sense of smell is disabled results in few home prepared meals. Elderly people cannot oftentimes detect the odor of spoiled food. They buy discounted items in the grocery store and cannot distinguish if they are fit for human consumption especially when they do not cook the food immediately after purchase. Hence they tend to consume starchy or sweet foods instead of balanced meals.

    Many elderly people are put off consuming anything other than 'tea and toast' .

    Furthermore, as people age the gastric mucosa also atrophies. This means that digesting proteins becomes problematic. Without stomach acid and enzymes, protein foods sit in the stomach undigested for extremely long periods of time. Rotting food creates gas, abdominal distension, discorfort, pain and regurgitation. If the person has had their gall bladder removed, the fat in the diet, is not absorbed. This results in abdominal pain and diarrhoea.

    Elderly people are often frail. It doesn't take much to endanger their lives.

    Medications tend to dry out the mouth, aggravate sores, create 'bruising' of the oral tissues, encourage the growth of Candida albicans in the oral cavity and throat. Oftentimes elderly people are put on anxiety relieving drugs by their medical healthcare providers. These drugs cause confusion so that people do not know if they've eaten or when they've eaten.

    Malntutrition has adverse effects on mentation.

    When denture wearers do not wear their dentures at night, their faces collapse, their tongues fall back into their throats, their muscles are lax and they experience sleep apnea. This results in a lack of oxygen to the brain, a panic response by their sympathetic nervous systems, spiking of heart rates, spiking of blood pressures, heart enlargement, congestive heart failure, kidney failure, strokes, cognitive deficits and eventual death. The medical profession increases the number and amount of medication to counteract these problems, inadvertently making the situation worse in an effort to keep the patient alive and 'comfortable'.

    If I had to somehow balance plastic plates in my mouth and chew food at the same time and then swallow the stuff, I'd probably prefer to starve myself as well.

    It's all very difficult. We do what we can to educate but the importance of the orofacial complex seems to be less important than bigPharma's profits for their shareholders.

    June 2, 2010 at 20:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. tiredofit

    I agree with Heather, no one reports on how abusive some of the elderly can be. Also, while Meals on Wheels is an option, has anyone taken a look at them? I have told my children that if they ever sign me up for this program, I will prompty disinherit them. My parents signed my grandmother up for this program, and she never ate them. I never blamed her. They looked awful. If one is still capable of using a microwave oven, frozen meals are fine. Or fruits and vegetables. I am in my 50's, and I often eat a meal of some raw vegetables, whole grain crackers and some string cheese. Who says we have to have a five-course meal? By the way, my grandmother is still alive at 102.

    June 2, 2010 at 20:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Angela Ohanian

    My mom is 87 and has congestive heart failure and she is almost totally blind from glaucoma. She cannot see well and so she cannot cook. And, the elderly have difficult chewing if they have dentures, which she does. So I now go there and prepare meals for her in advance so all she has to do is heat them up. And, I would like to add that there should be more facilities for the elderly and sight challenged. The spices are difficult to read, as are directions on any package even if she wanted to prepare something. She cannot go shopping and so my sister and I do shopping for her. Unfortunately, my sister lives with her but she is not a cook so I do it unless its something simple, because she likes to be independent and do things for herself. The supermarkets should be more senior friendly too, some things are difficult to read and items way up on top cannot be reached and forget about the check out – that is a disaster. People are so mean and impatient with the elderly, its just not safe for them. Society, in general, does not cater to the elderly so all the baby boomers, be forewarned – we had better start making some changes because pretty soon, we will be there too!

    June 2, 2010 at 20:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Kaya

    In many cases, a bit of dementia, and bit of depression, along with waning taste buds, and meds that make things taste strange, drive many elderly to not eat right. Even those given the food and opportunity. Another result of our long life spans. We may be getting older, but are we really living better? Sometimes not. Isolation doesn't help either. We need more places between home alone and a nursing home. Socialization makes a lot of things better, but so many older people do not want to give up their homes, and it becomes an obsession so that they can not be persuaded to do what is better for them. And if you force them, they wither and die. Everyone should make a plan a long time before they need it, some that when the time comes to leave your home out of necessity, it will already be figured out. Your kids don't have to do things you don't want. But the elder need to not be too stubborn about getting help. From one that is pretty near that point.

    June 2, 2010 at 21:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Howard Guyer

    I'm 60, in reasonably good health, feel like I am responsible for me, and prepare meals that would put local restaurants to shame. And my meals are healthy – as far as I know today. But seriously, every age-class has those who need to be taken care of.

    June 2, 2010 at 22:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. marla

    Assisted living has helped a relative by providing three meals a day and taking care of medicines, clothing, etc. All assisted living places are not created equal. You have to monitor without offending the caregivers who are doing their jobs well. My relative used to be hard to get along with when she lived at home. I was accused of mis-placing her hearing aid; she had put it in its pouch. On her 90th birthday , she misplaced her birthday money and looked me dead in the eye and asked me if I had taken it. I was at my last straw and to keep my sanity I even considered just removing myself from the situation, I didn't. She had and has a good appetite. She is a diabetic, and sometimes if she didn't feel like cooking she would eat cereal. Now that she has her meals on time and medications she seems to be doing well. It seems that some of the stuff that went on was mild dementia, and control issues of not wanting to let someone else be responsible for managing her small funds. The elderly don't lke to give up control of their lives, especially after being in control and in charge for decades. She complained of not seeing people except at church and a cleaning person about three days a week. Now she seems much more sane and she has plenty of people around for company. Last year when she was in a nursing home for rehabilitation, I saw and tasted the food. Somethings were not cooked up to standard, I believe that some of the people who cook food for the elderly are not hired for the ability to cook well. Food has to taste as good as it looks and vice versa. A lot of food for the elderly at some senior centers come from restuarants that cannot sell the food the way it looks to the public.
    One thought that I have had for a while is that churches should donate money to assisted living homes and/or nursing homes for more nourishing food. Sandwiches with a slice of cold cheese is not nourishing. Or some farmers can donate vegetables.

    June 2, 2010 at 23:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Fran

    Most of you posting are sharing some really tough and heart wrenching stories about your role as caregivers for parents or other relatives and loved ones. A follow-up piece by the author, or a guest like Gary Barg (google him), on the need for caregivers to care for themselves would be helpful. Care providers statistially are known to often ignore their own well being and not getting the respite or break needed so they can keep doing the wonderful work they're doing to help their relative, spouse or partner stay independent. There's a wealth of material out there for caregivers and many area agencies on aging within the aging network offer services and support. Want to make sure the financial support is there for local aging services? Please support Reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (google it). Then take a well deserved break.

    June 3, 2010 at 11:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Jackie Grover

    As a senior citizen myself (I'll be 67 shortly), I am pleased with the MLRC (Multi-Level Retirement Community) in which I live in southern CA. Someone named "Jay" wrote about how GLBT folk often are mistreated in these kinds of facilities. That may be true with the ones he knows but that's not true here. I am "out" here to all: staff as well as residents and feel included and appreciated for my contributions.

    Yes, in the past six years here, I've had the occasional Biblical "jab" used against me but I use another part of the same Bible to "jab" right back. Usually they stay away from me after that. But I find the opposite usually is true: the people at my dinner table feel comfortable with me because they feel comfortable talking about their GLBT relative whether it be son, daughter, etc. Just thought you'd like to know that some facilities get it right!

    June 4, 2010 at 18:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Jeremiah Ramirez

    you will really need a lot of protein foods if you like to build some huge muscles.~'~

    July 27, 2010 at 22:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Pam Leaberry

    My dad is 76 years old and over the past 3 months he has had a weight loss of 3-6 lbs a week. He is now only 93 lbs with a 5 foot 10 1/2 inches in height and very malnourished. This is all caused my refusal to eat and the little bit he gets in has kept him alive. He is now in the hospital for UTI. He always had dysphagia, but it has progressively worsened and I am assuming it is because he is not exericising is mouth to eat.c He is alert and oriented with for confusion occasionally but keeps stating that he can't eat...he is too full. All test have come up negative and it is more a mental issue on refusal to eat. Now this is the catch. Medicare will not pay for PEG tube nutrition unless there is a permanent deficiency. There are a lot of diets of dysphagia but my dad has dysphagia because he loss control of muscles because he refuses to eat. Medicare should pay for peg tube feedings in this case. My dad is willing to get a peg tube. Any suggestion on getting medicare to pay?

    August 28, 2010 at 17:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. albert M. Perez

    I have just read all of the postings on this page because I am a proffsional caregiver of many yearsw. In my resume : I was a Navy Hospital Corpsman attached to the marines in Viet Nam. After the military I worked in several hospitals as a NA in (ICU-CCU-ER). Then I dcided to go to cooking school and become a proffesional chef. I am a master chef & self taught nutritionist.When my mother was diagnosed with . Lymphatic cancer , I became her caregiver.She died 8 mo. later. Then my father came down with pneumonia and I became his caregiver. Three years later a military friend asked me if I would go to California to take care of his Dad who was third or fourth stage Alzheimers. Mr. Frank was 86 yrs. old and had lost a lot of weight. His daughter was buying him cart loads of frozen tv.dinners . He was picking through parts he liked and throwing the rest away. I knew Frank as a teenager and he was a hulk of a man that probably weighd 190 lbs. and stood 5'9" tall . He now weighd 98 lbs. soaking wet. One day I asked Frank what he missed most after his wife passed away. He said what I miss most is her Italian cooking. She made the best fron scratch, Italian meat sauce. The next day I went to the super market and bought Stewed tomatoes and all the fresh herbs needed to make a n italian sauce to die for. I created familiar aromas in the home and tears of joy rolled down his cheek and he said " Al you have no idea of what this meal means to me. I looked at him and I said, Now I do Frank, Now I do. Frank continued to enjoy many Italian dishes that I prepared at home and he regained 55lbs. His energy levels went from couch potato to " Hey Al , Lets go to the mall and check out the Babes. Frank died 14 mo. later. The last stages of Alzheimers finally got him. I learned somethin from this experience and I became a highly solcited Caregiver in Southern Cal. For the next 5 yrs. I read everything that I got my hands on about Alzheimers/Dementia and Nutrition for the elderly. During the course of the next 5 yrs. I helped a lot of my clients to (eat better-live better=move better) I am now in the process of trying to share and make aware the why's and wherefores of Elder Malnutrition in America. I have given many lectures on the subject and soon I hope to start a program to teach Caregivers , Family or Proffesional; how to overcome all the problems I have just read. CARE CHEF aL

    August 29, 2010 at 15:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Lone dream

    Elderly people needs good food and exercise. The website http://lonedream.blogspot.com/ helps elderly people to be active both mentally and physically and shows how they can be inspirational.

    September 9, 2010 at 07:55 | Report abuse | Reply
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