The investigation conducted by the present researcher reveals that although malnutrition and dehydration among the institutionalized elderly are complex and multi-factorial problems, they are nonetheless a preventable one. There is little doubt that malnutrition and dehydration are indeed the “silent epidemic” studies have depicted it to be. It claims the lives of millions annually and puts millions of frail elderly at risk for both mortality and morbidity. Undernourishment reduces immunity from diseases, increasing affected residents vulnerability to infection and reducing their recovery rate from other illnesses.
As a widespread health threat among the elderly population, malnutrition and dehydration must be addressed in the most efficient manner possible. While malnutrition and dehydration among the elderly are physiologically triggered, some of the risk factors associated with the diseases are psychological, social, and environmental in nature. A significant factor that puts elderly people at risk for these diseases is the adequacy of care being provided in the nursing home setting. Although the quality of care in nursing homes have improved relatively over the years, fiscal limitations have created problems in understaffing and management.
There is also the lack of knowledge or weak implementation of organized and systematic approaches of prevention related to these diseases. The investigation delved into the problems and challenges faced both by residents and caregivers in addressing malnutrition and dehydration. There is certainly a gap between the needs of elderly residents and what is being provided by caregivers or offered by the institution itself. Factors like food preparation, feeding assistance, and the environment are modifiable, but are not being paid attention to.
There is also the lack of proper training especially on the part of caregivers to handle difficult-to-feed patients and manage assessment or screening techniques. These are unmet needs that make elderly patients more susceptible to malnutrition and dehydration. There are also public policy problems that affect the improvement of the elderly population’s condition. Understaffing, mismanagement, and lack of administrative will to carry out effective intervention programs exacerbate the problem of malnutrition and dehydration in the elderly.
Leaning on the conclusive evidence pointed out by many gerontologists, the present researcher is convinced that a multidisciplinary approach is needed in order to address undernourishment among the institutionalized elderly. The research done in this investigation leads the present researcher to conclude that further study needs to be conducted. Due to several constraints, the scope and methodology of the present study embraced a limited population and topic. It is apparent that further investigation into the problem of malnutrition and dehydration in the elderly should apply the following recommendations:
a. Broaden the targeted population in order to come up with a more in-depth and more thorough analysis of the conditions and experiences of elderly nursing home residents and caregivers; b. Include the nursing home management in the scope of the investigation and identify administrative efforts being made in order to resolve the problem of undernourishment among the institutionalized elderly; c. Evaluate forms of intervention being implemented by the nursing homes in order to objectify their effectiveness in resolving malnutrition and dehydration among the frail elderly; and d. Examine the institutional barrier related to the application of recommended and/or legislated actions for the improvement of care and conditions of nursing home residents.
The wealth of information gained from this paper has facilitated in the present researcher a heightened awareness of the problem of malnutrition and dehydration among the elderly population and an increasing appreciation for the efforts being launched by health care providers and nursing institutions all over the country. The problem faced by our frail elderly is not merely clinical in nature.
It is and always has been a social issue that requires the involvement of the government, the nursing home industry, and the general public. The tragic situation faced by our elderly population has developed in the present researcher an obligation to become involved in helping address it. It is an unfortunate situation that millions of elder people die out of a condition that is preventable. Out of sheer humanitarian reasons and a respect for those who have outlived most of us, the present researcher considers tackling the problem of undernourishment among the elderly a significant task.
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