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Signs of Nutritional Risk

Malnutrition can affect an individual's physical, psychological, and psychosocial well being in a variety of ways and is extremely significant for adequate medical treatment and quality of life. Identifying and addressing common signs of nutritional risk has become more prevalent, particularly in home health settings. Results of nutrition screenings may include additional testing, diet or medication modification, or alternate feeding solutions.

Signs of nutritional risk vary based on individual and condition but may not be visible during an initial screening. Malnutrition is often identified as starvation, under or over nourished, deficiency, or imbalance. The most common causes of inadequate nutrition are physical condition, availability of quality meals, and psychological state. Malnutrition can affect health, healing, physical and mental capacity, or even lead to death.

The most common physical signs of nutritional risk are identifiable in regular medical screenings. Symptoms are known to include changes in appetite or weight, pain or discomfort of the fecal-oral route, changes in skin and hair, poor respiration or balance, and depression or confusion. It is important to note, however, that a malnourished individual may not show any visible signs of nutritional risk.

A patient displaying signs of nutritional risk should be referred to receive a nutritional assessment from a registered dietician. A proper nutritional assessment will determine if there is an imbalance and help to develop a treatment plan. Effective treatment may include enteral or total parenteral feeding, diet or medication modification, or nutritional supplements.

Organizations such as the American Academy of Family Physicians, National Council on Aging, and American Nurses Association are creating processes and urging the use of nutritional screenings and assessments to identify and treat signs of nutritional risk. Home Health Care organizations are required to include these examinations to identify patients at risk and develop care plans. Proper nutrition can aid in the prevention and healing of physical, psychological, and psychosocial challenges.

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