Malnutrition is becoming increasingly common among the elderly

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More and more seniors are suffering from deficiency diseases

Malnutrition is obviously a growing problem for seniors in Germany. As the German employee health insurance (DAK) in Hamburg announced, the number of senior citizens who had to be treated clinically with malnutrition has increased massively in the past two years.

According to the DAK, the number of seniors with malnutrition has increased by 53 percent since 2008. Those affected were on average seventy years old and overall, significantly more women than men suffered from malnutrition to be treated clinically, reports the DAK. In its statements, the health insurance company refers to 17,091 hospital treatments throughout Germany from DAK insured persons for whom malnutrition was billed as the main or secondary diagnosis.

Malnutrition as the main and secondary diagnosis during hospital stays The DAK figures reflect a significant increase in malnutrition among the elderly. In 2008, 5,918 fewer DAK insured (11,173 cases in total) were treated for malnutrition in hospital than in 2010. Most of those affected were found to be lacking in protein or vitamins as the cause of the clinical treatment. Often the original reason for the hospital stay was another illness and the deficiency illness of the patients was only discovered on site. The actual reason for the hospital stay in such cases was, for example, frequent diabetes, a weak heart or a broken femur neck, whereby the treatment of the main disease was often made significantly more difficult or delayed by the deficiency disease, according to the DAK.

Probably 21,000 clinic treatments for malnutrition in 2011 Overall, significantly more women suffered from a corresponding deficiency disease than men. But there was also a massive increase in malnutrition in need of therapy among men. In view of the current figures, DAK hospital expert Peter Rowohlt explained that the development was "frightening" and unfortunately continued in 2011. Rowohlt estimates the number of hospital treatments this year “in the course of which a lack of nutrients will be diagnosed” is more than 21,000. Deficiency diseases are not only a risk for the patient, but also entail considerable additional financial burdens for the health insurance company. According to the DAK, the diagnosis of malnutrition increases the cost of hospitalization by an average of 3,000 euros. Overall, the DAK therefore expects additional costs due to malnutrition of around 60 million euros in 2011. According to the experts, most of these costs would be avoidable if the first signs of malnutrition were reacted to.

If there are signs of malnutrition, urgently consult a doctor. DAK hospital expert Rowohlt also pointed out that "malnutrition is not a fate of old age", which can be easily accepted by those affected and their relatives. Rowohlt explained that seniors who "lose a lot of weight" and are "significantly less resilient" than usual should urgently be "medically examined" in order to avoid possible health consequences. The first goal of the subsequent treatment should be to restore the nutrient uptake to normal. Different methods are also used to stimulate the appetite of malnourished patients. Those affected are recommended a particularly high-energy diet with a high nutrient density, such as potatoes, vegetables, high-fat milk and milk products, fruit, whole grains, fish and meat. The chronic loss of appetite that many patients experience can be counteracted, according to the experts, by taking several small snacks, while drinking a glass of water or tea at the same time. (fp)

Also read:
Unhealthy nutrition in Germany's clinics

Image: Rainer Sturm /

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