How Obesity Impacts Rehabilitation Among the Elderly

Elderly man taking a vaccine shot


A new study shows a link between obesity and poor nutrition among the elderly, highlighting an issue that’s common in rehabilitation facilities, furthermore as other health care settings.

Having surveyed quite 21,000 people, ages 65 and older, the Geisinger Medical Center’s Clinical Nutrition center in Danville, PA, found that over 70% were overweight for his or her height, with a body mass index (BMI) over 25. Thirty percent were obese, with BMIs of 30 or above, says Christopher Still, DO, director of the middle for Nutrition and Weight Management at the Geisinger eye in Danville.

“In rehab, we see mainly geriatric patients, and a percentage of them are overweight or obese,” notes Theresa James, MHS, supervisor of inpatient therapy at Geisinger Wyoming Valley middle in Wilkes-Barre, PA.

The cohort studied included an elderly rural Pennsylvania population, but probably is representative of elderly people living within the U. S., Still says.

Contrary to the favored image of the frail, malnourished elderly person, this wasn’t the case. Only 2% of the people studied fell into that category, with BMIs of but 18.5. 3 times as many folks as were underweight were found to be morbidly obese, with BMIs of greater than 40.

More striking was the invention that even among those elderly folks that ate over enough calories and who took vitamin supplements, there was a scarcity of proper nutrition.

Investigators looked more closely at a sample of about 200 people. They conducted home visits, collected blood work to investigate for nutritional status, obtained medical histories (including a listing of medicines and supplements they used), and assessed them for depression and wit.

They found that girls who had the upper BMI numbers and waist circumferences also had the very best nutritional risk. They had an inadequate intake of fiber, folate, vitamin B6, B-complex vitamin, magnesium, iron, and zinc.

These are the identical patients that rehab facilities might see following a stroke, orthopedic surgery, or another sort of injury.


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Focus on nutrition, not weight loss

One way to enhance the outcomes for obese rehab patients is to incorporate a dietitian or nutritionist on the rehab team. This suggests the importance of preventing obesity by any means necessary, including taking diet pills such as PhenQ (visit for more information).

What has two full-time and one part-time dietitian dedicated to rehab is Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, NE. A fourth dietitian works with the rest home unit, says Sharon Balters, PhD, LMNT, manager of medical nutrition therapy and a registered dietitian.

“I agree that obesity is a deadly disease, and it’s a risk consider many health problems in America, including high force per unit area, osteoarthritis, and sort II diabetes,” Balters says.

However, when an obese patient is an inpatient in an exceeding rehab facility, that’s not the correct time to encourage the patient to start losing weight, Balters adds.

Using good nutrition to go off infection

Because their surgery sites could become infected if they were to deprive themselves of calories and nutrition, Balters meets with patients to encourage them to eat enough nutritional foods.

Sometimes physicians will forget that the healing process requires a better caloric and nutritional intake, and they’ll instead talk with these patients about weight loss. That’s where a dietitian on the rehab staff can help by letting rehab physicians and therapists know the way important it’s to place the weight-loss issue on the rear burner, for now, Balters says.

With cardiac rehab patients, a dietitian might advise rehab staff to stay the patient on an everyday diet until the person’s appetite is improved, rather than switching immediately to low fat or low sodium.

Another consideration is that rehab patients who are obese will need the next calorie intake due to their excess weight, says Erin Krist, RD, LDN, a dietitian with cape Valley heart in Fayetteville, NC.

There is little doubt, however, that morbidly obese patients can pose significant challenges to rehab staff, and it is also little a dietitian can do for the duration of those patients’ stay.