Importance of Nutritional Support in Elderly Patients
Dietary management can play an important role in the recovery of these patients. Ensuring that nutrient requirements are met, and excessive weight loss has avoided the chances for a patient's return to health are significantly increased.
However, in many cases, patients may have increased requirements for nutrients that they are unable to meet from a reduced food intake. For example, surgery patients often have high energy requirements, but very low intakes. This may be due to a long-term, debilitating condition such as carcinoma or malabsorption or an inflammatory condition such as ulcerative colitis. The pain and anxiety such conditions cause may also affect a patient's appetite. Before surgery, many patients will also have to undergo tests that have to be performed after a period of starvation. The 'nil by mouth' or 'NPO' sign is a familiar sight in surgical wards. For some patients, it may not be possible to make up for these periods afterward by increasing the amount of food eaten. It is therefore not uncommon to find them suffering from malnutrition after surgery.
Why provide nutritional support?
Patients who are malnourished are at increased risk of morbidity and may take longer to recover from illness or surgery.
To understand the nutritional requirements of these patients it is necessary to be aware of the changes that occur in the body as a response to surgery and injury (trauma), starvation, and fever.