About one in three patients enters the hospital with malnutrition, according to registered dietitians at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital of Loyola University Health System. This can lead to poor patient outcomes and longer hospital stays.
Malnutrition Awareness Week is Sept. 15-19. Gottlieb registered dietitians will educate staff on the signs of malnutrition and steps they can take to help patients affected by this disorder.
Malnutrition is often caused by a combination of physical, social and psychological issues resulting in the consumption of too little food or a diet lacking in nutrients. Older adults who are seriously ill and those who have dementia or who have lost weight are especially vulnerable to poor nutrition.
"Health-care workers are on the front lines of identifying malnutrition," said Lisa Shurba, RD, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital. "Raising awareness about what to look for and when to intervene will help to reduce pressure ulcers, patient falls, overall complications, readmissions and length of hospital stays in these patients."
Signs of malnutrition include fatigue, dizziness and weight loss. Factors used to diagnose inadequate nutrition include insufficient caloric intake, weight loss, loss of muscle, loss of fat and fluid retention that may mask diminished weight and functional status. Treatment includes replacing missing nutrients in the diet, caring for symptoms as needed and managing any underlying medical conditions.
Shurba also encourages health-care providers to better monitor food intake of hospitalized patients.
"Just because we deliver food to patients doesn't mean they eat it or consume an adequate amount," Shurba said. "Our job as health-care workers includes tracking nutrition and using interventions when necessary to better care for our patients."
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