Nutrition Assessment and Older Adults

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Abstract

Nutrition assessment is the comprehensive evaluation of a patient/client for the purpose of diagnosing malnutrition and identifying related problems and potential interventions. Nutrition screening is a process that identifies the risk for malnutrition and the subsequent need for a nutrition assessment. Malnutrition is defined and categorized as starvation related or as related to chronic or acute disease. Malnutrition is more complicated to establish in older adults than in younger adults due to age-associated inflammation, organ/system senescence, sarcopenia, and frailty that make comparisons with normal standards of nutritional status difficult. Performing a nutritional assessment for an older adult encompasses a comprehensive approach that includes a health history and clinical diagnosis in addition to the following: determining clinical signs and performing a physical examination; obtaining anthropometric data, laboratory data, and dietary data; measuring functional status; and evaluating food insecurity. A number of nutrition screening and assessment tools have been applied to older adults. These tools can identify the risk for or existence of malnutrition but do not identify specific interventions. No one tool has been identified as superior to the others for use in older adult populations, and none can take the place of an individualized nutrition assessment to establish a diagnosis of malnutrition and appropriate interventions.

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