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."

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

soundoff (1,410 Responses)
  1. Pugsley G.

    Besides disgestive problems or little sense of taste, how about the women with eating disorders who have aged into elderly women with eating disorders.

    My 86 year old underweight mother doesn't want to gain even a pound. She is starting to look skeletal.

    June 2, 2010 at 10:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Cherie Jansen

    I'm not sure we are ready for "which organic vegetables to buy." The elderly have problems with shopping, cooking and prepaing healthy food. Therefore , it would seem that vegetables need to be chosen with emphasis on which may be most critical for health, easy to store, easy to prepare and easy to enjoy – or the elderly person living alone will not bother. . .
    Foods that make good "snacks" are essential. The story about the "little old lady who survives on her tea and toast" is not far from the truth. Cookies are a big hit as are single serving foods that can be easily prepared.

    June 2, 2010 at 11:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Mike Whitehead

    I am 61, and have sufficient funds to buy enough food. My problem is that with all my physical problems, of which I have many, I often do not have the energy to prepare meals, often settling for a sandwich, as it is quick to make.

    June 2, 2010 at 11:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Elizabeth Noneyerbiz

    My mother is 68 and has been on a diet since the 70's. She has flat out refused all help with meals she has been offered – we set up services, she cancels them. If family visits all she wants is chocolate and peanuts, anything else sits around until it's buggy or moldy. The pantry is packed, but she never touches it. I live in fear of facing elder neglect charges because of her life long eating disorder.

    June 2, 2010 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. marianna

    Depression may contribute to malnutrition in elderly. It often goes unrecognized in older adults since the symptoms of depression may be mistaken for the normal process of aging. If an older person is not eating enough one of the first steps that may be helpful is making sure that they are not depressed and if depression is diagnosed making sure that it is being addressed and treated.


    June 2, 2010 at 12:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Jackie Benard

    Ah the elderly! Thank you for this wonderful article. so few are aware of the issues of the elderly never mind the lack of food in an abundant "land of plenly". If each one of us could be aware of an elderly person who needs to be checked on and truley took the time to check on them our society would be truely blessed. A society is judged by their commitment to their young and old.......thank you!

    June 2, 2010 at 12:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Andrea

    I deliver meals for Meals on Wheels. It is a GREAT organization and serves people all over the US. Not only does MOW provide nutritious meals, but the people who deliver also serve as another set of eyes to check up on people who may not receive many other visitors or have family nearby to monitor. If you need meals or have an elderly family member that you think might need meals delivered (along with a smile) consider looking into a local MOW program.

    June 2, 2010 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Marcie

    I'm 61, divorced, and my children are grown. I still work two jobs. While I can easily afford the food, which is not the issue, by the time I get home, I relly don't feel like cooking for one. It was one thing to cook for my family, another to cook just for me. Too much bother. I have a lot of raw vegetables, and occasional carryout; I can be happy with that.

    June 2, 2010 at 13:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Lucy Ga

    My elderly mom worries about the cost of food, so she saves scraps of food in the fridge and eats the same stale, dried out food for days. Every time she goes out to eat, she bring home a to go box, which can last her for a week. Though she is financially secure, she fears the cost of a care facility, so she obsessively saves every cent she can, even if it means eating poorly.

    June 2, 2010 at 13:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Kat

    Don't leave out intentional malnutrition. My 87 yo aunt became depressed after all her friends had died and she couldn't see well enough to read or sew. She deliberately starved herself to death.

    June 2, 2010 at 13:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. annie

    I wish someone would study this. I contact a lot of elderly in the rural community and NONE of them eat balanced meals. I have nutritional analysis on daily menus for them to show them why they need more protein or whatever was glaringly absent from their diet. They refuse to change or alter what they eat. I have pondered about how much dementia is actually malnutrition and how much is actually dementia.

    June 2, 2010 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. mango

    I try to buy everything on sale and use coupons, but if the utilities bills get higher than I will have to cut back.

    June 2, 2010 at 13:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Daniel

    I am speaking only of my parents who are from WWII era. I don't see my parents eating healthy usually at all. That tens to extend to the rest of the siblings as well. Basic S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) diet consisting of meat and potatoes along with high carbs and sugar.

    June 2, 2010 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Norm

    I'm surprised they didn't mention the psychological aspect of the elderly that have lost a loved one or just feel too old and weak to take proper care of themselves. Some seem to give up on life and stop eating and taking care of themselves because they don't want to be here anymore.
    Another factor not mentioned might be the financial aspect of some elderly not being able to live properly off their pensions or social security. They might be cutting back on proper food in order to pay their bills. I would rather starve to death in a nice warm home with the lights on than prolong my waning life in a cold dark apartment.

    June 2, 2010 at 14:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Lynn

    My mother is 76. Four years ago she got dentures and decided not to wear them. This really limits her diet. She does drink an instant breakfast powder mixed with milk at least once a day and a V8. It amazes me what foods she does manage to eat, but still, I'm concerned about her nutritional needs.

    June 2, 2010 at 14:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Linda in Los Angeles

    This is not a new problem. As a child in the 50's, heard about two sisters in TX who died at almost the same time. Autopsies revealed they were trying to stay alive by eating paper. Further, dementias will all to this problem, as well as aging boomers. There is no way to contain this burgeoning crisis.
    I can identify with the 60 + yr olds who work long hours and are to tired to prepare a good meal for one when finally home. Our way of life does not promote healthy life styles. Give me the old farm days ...

    June 2, 2010 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Dr Bill Toth

    There is a product called "Vitameal" which was specifically designed to be absorbed by the intestines of those suffering from malnutrition.
    I'm not permitted to post a link here but you can call me 8888914878
    and I can give it to you. No one should ever go to bed hungry in America
    and unfortunately many do.
    Live with Intention,
    Dr Bill

    June 2, 2010 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Heather

    My father refused to eat anything except coffee and cookies. He was also extremely abusive verbally to his adult children, and physically to the caregivers we tried to send into his home to care for him, after he absolutely REFUSED to go into assisted living.

    Frankly I'm tired of the liberal-tilted articles about elder abuse, elder malnutrition, how terrible life is for the elderly. How about some articles about when elderly people are themselves abusive? You can't find a peep in the social science literature about that, but in fact it's very common.

    June 2, 2010 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pat

      Hi Heather:

      I have been verbally abused by my mother my entire life. She is now elderly and requires constant care and it has become a living hell for me. She verbally abuses her caregiver and expects me to quit my job and take care of her. She is almost 86 years old and has had multiple falls over the last two years. No one else in the family wants to deal with her. Although she keeps passing compentency tests, she is clearly irrational about her state of health. The more I try to help her, the more she abuses me.

      Although I have many people who care about me and provide me support, I cannot deal with the guilt I feel – – I just wish she would die, so I could enjoy my life. Her behavior has made me physically and mentally sick and taken a toll on my marriage.

      Are there are any support groups out there to help people like us?

      November 21, 2010 at 19:22 | Report abuse |
  19. Marlayna

    My mother is 92 years young and since it was her station in life to be a home-maker, she worked outside of the home very little. As a result, her SSI check is a mere 400 dollars per month. I have her living with me, gladly, but her medical, food, clothing and extras reach much further that the 400 dollars. Where would the elderly in the so-called riches nation be if we children did not care for our parents–and who will care for me as I was unable to have children?
    The government cares little about our youth–education and less for the elderly and dwindling middle class!!!

    June 2, 2010 at 14:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • AJ

      First the practical: Is your mother's SS amount based on her lifetime earnings? You do know she's entitled to her late husband's benefits (or perhaps a high percentage)? Even if she was divorced, she's entitled to 1/2 the amount of her ex-husband's benefit (and it doesn't decrease the amount paid to him by so much as a penny!).

      Contrary to your statement the government does care for the elderly and the young, but you need to make an effort to find out what's available. It doesn't knock on doors with a goody basket. But SocSecAdmin not only will not hide info from you, they will ask you if you know about this & such that's available, and more.

      That said, I wish you and your mother well. By the age of 92, my mother was so deep in dementia and the assorted ills of Alzheimers that she couldn't feed herself, could barely swallow the pap we had to give her, etc. I hope that you find good friends to enjoy your later years with. I have three far-flung children (New York, Alaska and Texas) and face the issue of not wanting to burden any of them as I was burdened.

      September 25, 2010 at 17:48 | Report abuse |
  20. Heather

    And .. oh yeah ... two local churches brought my dad "meals on wheels" several times a week. Not only did he refuse to eat them (put them outside for a local dog to come and get) he refused to give them any charitable donations in appreciation for their acts of kindness. When asked, he would come up with something disparaging to say about them. This is a man with $2 million in the bank so none of this is financially motivated. Not only that, this is a man who by all accounts was gentle, meek, and sweet. He could be very sweet. But the WWII generation were also hard-a$$ and unforgiving bunch. He drove us all to distraction and I'd like to see the soft-hearted liberals address that issue once, just once.

    June 2, 2010 at 14:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Steve

    My mother is 85 and is in a nursing home after starving herself for the last several years until she finally hit a low of 75 pounds and couldn't walk any more. She used to be 150 pounds in her 70s. As she got older she just steadfastly refused to eat much of anything other than crackers and fruit juice. She got angry when my brother or I would buy her food–which we did all the time–saying she'd throw it away and she usually did. She really believed that food was making her sick, first meat, then vegetables, then grain, milk, eggs, until she was down to crackers and grape juice. She isn't otherwise crazy, she just developed this mania about food making her sick. It was full of bacteria, bugs, you name it. She insisted that her weight loss had nothing to do with too little food, that instead it was some more exotic ailment that her "stupid" doctors had so far failed to recognize. But she refused to keep a record of her intake for her GI doctor.
    She's now is getting three meals a day put in front of her in the nursing home and is up to 100 pounds. They also had her on appetite stimulant Megase for a while. They also drastically reduced her intake of hydrocodone which may have had a lot to do with her loss of appetite. Her health seems better but now it's too late. Her legs have atrophied and she'll probably never walk again. (She's also angrily refusing physical therapy. Be glad you don't have a mother like mine.)

    June 2, 2010 at 14:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Jay

    People from stigmatized minorities often cannot avail themselves of the services and social opportunities that are available for the elderly. Over half of senior centers report that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender seniors would NOT be welcome at their centers, by either staff or other clients. These seniors are at high risk for all the problems of isolation, depression, neglect, untended illness, and malnutrition. Stigma and discrimination kills, and makes people's lives miserable before that.

    June 2, 2010 at 14:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Carrie

    This has been an issue in the U.S. for years. Especially, for the more rural areas. And many elderly people don't want to ask for help afraid they will bother people. It's sad!

    June 2, 2010 at 14:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. HB

    Pugsley G – I can relate. My grandmother died 10 years ago. She was anorexic, though no one ever named it as such. She was under 100 pounds and developed pneumonia, and didn't have the strength to fight it off. Pneumonia can be deadly for anyone, so who knows, but I believe her undiagnosed/untreated eating disorder contributed.

    June 2, 2010 at 14:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Sean

    What a joke. I hope our tax payer money doesn't fund research of this worthlessness. With over 60+% of adults overweight and 41% obese the last thing we need is to waste money looking at a few people not eating enough. This is why Obama wants free health care, to help the large fat population who shovel too much in and move too little.

    June 2, 2010 at 15:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Donna A MacDonald

    Very good article. And I think more common than we think even in more affluent areas. Of late, there is a Vitamin D awareness that I think may also add to the mortality. When people are older they do not as a rule go out and get sun; therefore deficiency of D possibly. Also they probably do not drink milk or have enough calcium and D due to the fat in milk and other foods (they were told not to eat fats more than likely). I think other articles about Vitamin D should be forthcoming from CNN and the lovely Dr. Gupta. I really think there is something to this....donna

    June 2, 2010 at 15:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Dena

    While there are many, many problems contributing to a decrease in appetite in the elderly (the aging process itself, medications, lack of energy and the ability to cook for oneself, the cost), I have to also agree with the many posts who said that often it's simply a personality issue. Many elderly people are depressed and suffer the full range of symptoms. Unfortunately most antidepressant medications add to loss of appetite and dementia. Many elderly came through the Great Depression and refuse to spend a dime on themselves for what they think are trival, which oftentimes is food. Many want to save as much as they can to give to the children when they die when in actuality, the children would be much happier if they spent it on themselves. And also unfortunately, there are many cases of elder abuse in communities, with grown children living at home with elderly parents, spending their checks and savings on drugs and alcohol so that there is truly no money to spend on food. The is no good solution to these problems other than constant vigilence between families and healthcare providers to monitor the elderly and intervene when possible. This however can also fail at times when the elderly resent the intrusion into what they consider their personal business. When this is the issue, sometimes it takes "tough love" interventions to save the elderly from themselves.

    June 2, 2010 at 15:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Ellen

    I plan meals for my mother 88 and my father 87. I visit their house everyday to make sure they are eating properly. This includes going to the grocery store. I mention to them that it is super important to eat protein to keep their minds alert. I also point out that by eating properly, the longer they will be make decisions for themselves. I feel I owe it to my parents to help them out in their old age even though it is very hard day in and day out. Another part of keeping parents healthy, is taking the time to visit them and also take an interest in their life. Not just stopping by to do daily chores.

    June 2, 2010 at 15:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. NoWay

    One doesn't need to be poor or destitute. My 89 year old Mother was in a well staffed nursing home for about 7 months. Early on I frequented at meal times and began to notice that Mother wasn't eating much while I was around. I talked to her caregivers and found that arthritis in her hands made it extremely difficult to hold a fork or spoon. She said 'I'm full' very quickly.

    She didn't want me to see that she could no longer feed herself.

    I had to go at the end of meals and share a milkshake.

    June 2, 2010 at 15:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. maryam

    I am not surprised by this article. My husband's uncle just died of malnutrition and being underweight while the cause of death was intestinal occlusion. My father is also underweight and so is my mother both are in their late 70s and mid 80s.

    June 2, 2010 at 15:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. James

    Steve – we had the exact same thing with my grandmother. I'm glad we're not the only ones.

    In the later years of her life, my grandmother almost never ate. We felt powerless an ashamed that we couldn't change it. I don't know what the reasons were. Maybe it was because she had eating disorders all her life (remember, this is a generation of pride) and it became clinical in her later years. Maybe there's a physical problem similar to temperature awareness that kills so many each summer and winter – i.e. the hunger process is broken. We'll never know.

    In her final years, she stubbornly only ate only crackers and an occasional slice of bread. I remember saying to her, "you really need to eat" and she would reply "I'm just not hungry"

    Short of a forced feeding tube, we were horribly powerless to do anything about it. I'm convinced this weakened her substantially, and contributed to her death from multiple strokes within a week's time.


    June 2, 2010 at 15:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Kelly Heyn

    Senior hunger is not a joke, nor is it tolerable in decent society.

    As mentioned by a previous poster – If you are elderly and in need of nutritious meals, please contact your local Meals On Wheels program. Good programs have no waiting list for service, work to provide whatever special diet you require, run background checks on their volunteers, and work diligantly to help seniors remain safely in their own homes.

    June 2, 2010 at 15:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Jesse

    Marlayna – Take care I know what you feel – To ALL – It's hard to understand that our parents still have the spirit of their youth, my mom does – just as I do. Who is that old person staring back at them in the mirror!? They have that independent soul but their body has faded.
    It's hard dealing with our parent(s) sometimes – but I imagine its hard for them to deal with themselves – growing old daily !

    June 2, 2010 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. charls

    Surprise, the elderly have malnutrition problems. Most people in the US have malnutrition problems too. Even the ones that are overweight are probably suffering from malnutrition. From the children in school who are given terrible food to the adults who eat fast food every day, Americans are probably the most overfed and malnourished people in the world. It is very sad and it probably killing more Americans than anything else.

    The real sad part is that we probably spend more on medical care than on food. According to this article Americans spend about 10% of their income versus 15% on medical care:

    June 2, 2010 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. L Anonymous

    My mother, 89, just died, partly from malnutrition a few months ago. After a lot of her friends died, she became depressed and that, combined with a heart condition made her lose her appetite. Every week I bought her food, tried to get her to eat and she wouldn't. We argued about it all the time and no matter what I did, or what I bought for her, she wouldn't eat it. Finally, a few weeks before her death, she realized she had a problem and tried to eat, but physically couldn't (she had been hospitalized and was in rehab by then) and the Ensure they kept giving her was nauseating. After she died, when I went to her apt to start cleaning it out, I opened her fridge and it was filled to the brim with food, which was heart-breaking. I realized that in some way she was trying to eat, she just couldn't (either emotionally or physically.)

    Like another poster wrote, this is nothing new, but I'm glad it's getting some attention.

    June 2, 2010 at 16:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. ALB

    Sean, I hope when you hit your elder years someone is more compassionate than you who has to take care of you, when you've lost what little brain you have left, someone else is going to have to take care of you. Think about that for a minute...This is hardly worthless research.

    The elderly in this country, regardless of how much they contribute to society, still deserve to not live out the rest of their days starving to death, depressed, ignored or neglected. I do agree that some elders choose, quite lucidly, to ignore their own health b/c they have given up on this life. It's a choice they make. However, others are not getting appropriate care or attention necessary to help themselves.

    June 2, 2010 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. michelle

    If someone is 86 years old, they have done something right. Leave them the heck alone.

    June 2, 2010 at 16:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Jean V

    This is very interesting and sad, too.

    My great-grandmother (born in 1884) had a stroke at 75 and lived to 90. During those fifteen years her daughter (my grandmother) took care of her (no nursing home for her) and had to do backflips to get great-grandmother to eat anything.

    This is the literal truth: the only things she would eat during the final years were cream of wheat cereal, milk and vanilla ice cream. My grandmother deviously whipped raw egg yolks into my great-grandmother's milk (this was before the salmonella fears) and then carefully strained the milk-egg through a fine strainer and put it back into the milk bottle so my great-grandmother couldn't see that she was getting "fortified" milk.

    We were sworn to secrecy; if great-grandmother had known, she would have refused to drink her milk.

    She also took ONE multi-vitamin daily, but my grandmother had to nag her for about two hours, off and on, before she'd finally take it. I can still remember her sitting in her padded chair in her slippers and robe, toying with that big blue pill forever before she'd finally gulp it down with the last of her milk.

    She was like a withered, skeletal child to my young eyes; she seemed to enjoy irritating my grandmother by being "naughty". What a lesson in love that my grandmother gave her mama such tender, loving care despite her own advancing age, exhaustion and exasperation at great-grandmother's ever-more-childish whims and antics.

    June 2, 2010 at 16:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. michelle

    Marlayana, you should blame your father who obviously failed to take care of his wife and children with a decent thought to her care after he was gone, not the government!

    June 2, 2010 at 16:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Donald Jurivich, DO

    As an academic Geriatrician dedicated to healthy longevity of elderly, we frequently see a range of senior nutritional disorders ranging from epidemic Vitamin D deficiency to Failure to Thrive syndrome. Geriatric programs help seniors and family members address these and many other problems not usually identified in the usual practice of medicine.

    June 2, 2010 at 16:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Wzrd1

    HOW is this news?
    This has been known and ignored for many decades.
    In the late 80's I worked repairing home electronics in peoples' homes.
    Many of our customers were elderly.
    Many, many were making a choice between their medication and food.
    For some, it was the insane choice between insulin and food. Since one won't work for them without the other, to permit such people to be in the situation of having to choose such things is shameful!
    To permit the elderly to hurt themselves is shameful. If they're causing harm by deliberately starving themselves or by other means of self-harm, they should be commited to state care for their own good.
    But instead, we as a society discard them and disregard their worth.

    It's amazing considering what I saw in third world countries, where the elderly are respected and cared for, even to the point where family, friends and even their local governments become improverished.
    And we're a shining example for the world. A glaring example for how NOT to treat our aging citizens!

    As for the elderly who become the curmudgeon, there can be a number of causes. Sometimes it's due to pain, other times psychological pain of being incapabile of accustomed activities. Still other times, due to fatigue performing simple tasks and frustration from that. Still others, due to physical disease.
    My father becomes QUITE unpleasant, to put it mildly when he's extremely fatigued or when he goes into congestive heart failure.
    What I've learned and what my oldest daughter has learned in her nursing career is to listen to the elderly FIRST before intervening. You'd be amazed how often they actually say what is wrong but is misinterpreted. Analyze what is going on and see what is causing their angst. When that fails, try talking to a health care professional who is WILLING to listen and advise (way too many are McMedicine types these days), the local clergy or even a local senior center. Even if your elder isn't interested in the senior center, said center can frequently give advice.
    Also, remember one important thing when considering those who grew up in the great depression and WWII, while they were growing up, medical care facilities were mostly hospitals. And in their mind, due to unfortunate experience in their early lives, hospitals weren't places to go to get healed, more often hospitals were places people went to die in.
    Fear and frustration can frequently be expressed by abuse. BEFORE things escalate, try deflecting their attention from the cause to something else that interests them (ask for advice that you don't need, help with a problem that may or may not exist, etc).
    In short, when an elder is being difficult, use your head, your mind and your heart.

    June 2, 2010 at 16:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Fran

    Depression is epidemic among those over the age of 80 and too seldom diagnosed. It's brushed off as "part of aging". It isn't NORMAL! Side effects from drugs that can bring on depression or suppress the appetite should not be ignored. You wouldn't ignore it in your spouse or partner nor with your best friend – so why are we brushing malnurishment off just because someone is 'old'? I don't know about you, but I want to die old, and I want to die happy and I'd like to die a pound or two over my desired weight. To do that I'll need people around me who are patient, can pick up on red flags that I'm not eating properly, make sure I get daily exercise-which is essential (!) to build an appetite, and am not socially isolated. I used to joke that I wanted my obit to read, "as was her wish she was left on life support until down to a size 6"...I don't feel that way anymore. Being too thin leaves one susceptible to osteoporosis, at risk of illness, and especially at risk of bone fracture from falls (a number one killer of older women). Aging is, for the most part, a women's issue....sorry, guys, we outlive you and aging well needs to be researched and addressed if we're to maximize our own independence as we age. There is a network of aging services available nationwide. If you know someone in need please call the ElderCare Locator at 1-800-677-1116. http://www.eldercare.gov That...and don't hesitate to ask us if we need volunteers....step up, be part of the cure.

    June 2, 2010 at 16:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Regina

    My mother died last year at age 95. For years she refused to accept Meals on Wheels, fired the housekeeper I hired, and insisted that she could and would prepare her own meals. She went into assisted living against her will and complained about others telling her what to do, when to eat, etc. She was difficult, refused to take her medicine, and behaved like a little bully to the very end. I made sure care was available for her and paid for it, but in order to survive, I had to distance myself. Sometimes, there is not a lot that can be done. . . .

    June 2, 2010 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Chuck

    As a medical professional, I have on numerous occaisions been told by an elderly patient that they cannot afford their medication and eat too. If they are afraid not to take their medications, then that comes right out of their food budget. One lady told me she got her pills from the pharmacy, and because she is in the doughnut (thanks Bush administration for this joke on the elderly) that she would have to make and eat soup for a couple of weeks. This in a country that spends BILLIONS on hair care products. Shame on America. Much poorer countries take care of their elderly.

    June 2, 2010 at 16:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Marilyn May

    What great advice from Dr. Bill Toth. I looked up the product and will try it for my mom. I think sometimes the elderly are scared because they are at the end of the life wether it be 5 years 10 years or whatever.

    June 2, 2010 at 16:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Hate Nursing Homes

    My father has been given an appetite increaser, we've fixed his teeth and yet since he went to the Dementia unit he's down 65 lbs since Sept 09. All we can afford on Medicaid/care/VA (not a wartime vet by 4 months) is a crap hole called Meadowbrook in Tucker, GA. The food looks like crap and tastes like it too! He ate a wonderful meal with us when we picnicked with him outside and brought our OWN food. Wish there were more options for him, but he's 50 miles from where I live. He's wasting away and no one cares. They say just to let him go.

    I just miss my daddy.....

    June 2, 2010 at 16:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Carol

    There are many wonderful natural shakes that can be make with bee pollen, barley, alfalfa, spirulina, chorella ,etc that will provide all the nutrition needed. For those who only want chocolate they will never know they are consuming healthy ingredients. Whole foods, Trader Joe's, heck even Walmart sells many of these product. EmergenC is a wonderful way to give the elderly vitals.

    June 2, 2010 at 16:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. jack

    To Steve who said "be glad you don't have a mother like mine"

    Steve, you moronic pig.
    Your Mother is the woman who wiped your tears and your behind when they needed it.
    What a thoughtless, ungrateful ass to write a comment like you did.

    June 2, 2010 at 16:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. DCchick

    I understand some of the viewpoints above. Verbally abusiveness during earlier years; a mother who was mentally unstable for at least the last few years of life, if not her whole adult life. Eight years ago my parents asked to move to my property with me. It was not an easy time. In fact, I kicked them into a senior residence once because of their refusal to understand my status as a nearing-retirement-aged adult. When they begged to come back, I held the line with rules as I had while raising my son, and they finally learned to respect me as an adult, a wage earner, and a property owner with rights to make my own decisions and to reach compromises. My father and I finally needed a foster care to help us with my m other, and we saw her every day until her death. It was a horrible time, but we managed to make it a healing time. Since then, my father has learned to communicate well, relax with me as an adult rather than his child, and much more. I have turned down job promotions to continue working from home in order to see him through the remainder of his life. As a result, I am able to ensure that he eats well and has good medical care. I realize this is not possible for all people, but there are many who choose to not take the hard road of parents living with them, for one reason or another. For a child who was abused, I can understand if the parent remains that way their whole lives. But for me, I wended my way through the thorns, and when times were tough, I told myself that this is my final gift to my parents–now father–and to myself. This is a difficult subject and one that is not explored nearly as much as it should be.

    June 2, 2010 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Jayne

    After perusing some of the comments – think we need some more facts:
    *Over 11 million older Americans struggle every day to make ends meet, with the economic downturn only worsening their precarious situations. Consider this:
    * 31% of adults aged 65 and older get by on an income below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) (200% FPL = $21,660 for an individual). Those numbers rise sharply for seniors aged 75+.
    * Women fare worse than men, and communities of color are disproportionately represented amongst those living in poverty. For example, almost 50% of elderly African-American women have incomes below 200% FPL.
    * 96% of Americans aged 65-69 with an income below poverty have retirement savings of less than $10,000.
    *133 million Americans have a chronic condition like heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, or cancer.
    *Every 35 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
    *One in five older adults is caught in the grips of depression, anxiety, or substance abuse.
    source: ncoa.org

    June 2, 2010 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29

Leave a Reply to pharmacepticacom


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.