Geriatric Nutrition

Toward better nutrition management for the elderly.

Nancy Presse worked as a dietitian at a hospital in an active geriatric care unit. The patients she saw suffered from severe nutritional problems which were only managed in their later stages. "We lack data regarding nutritional problems among the elderly. As a result, we pay little attention to them in clinical practice," said the new CdRV researcher, who has also become an assistant professor with the department of community health sciences of the faculty of medicine and health sciences at the Université de Sherbrooke.

The importance of nutritional care services

An expert in geriatric nutrition, Nancy Presse is also notably interested in the nutrition vulnerable elderly patients. For example, she is currently leading a research project which aims to counter malnutrition among residents in residential centres.

"Nutritional complications among the elderly may be the result of insufficient food intake as well as the result of side-effects from medications," said the researcher and member of the Ordre professionnel des diététistes du Québec. Even though they are known, globally very few studies have been led on the adverse effects of medication on the nutritional status of the elderly.

She cites as an example proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), a class of medications commonly prescribed to control stomach acid, which has among its suspected side-effects diminishing the body's ability to absorb vitamin B12. "Vitamin B12 deficiency can have serious consequences if it isn't managed in time, including neurological disorders," said the researcher who has put vitamin B12 deficiency at the centre of many of her research projects. It is estimated that vitamin B12 deficiency affects 5 to 15 percent of the elderly.

Intervening at earlier stages

"Nutritional problems among the elderly are underestimated," noted the researcher. "And yet they can have a major impact both on patient health and health care costs. The general goal of my research is to give health care professionals better tools so that they can identify seniors who are at risk. If we take the time to better identify them and to better manage their cases, we can make a difference in their health status and care trajectory."

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