Weight loss in the elderly is common. It is frequently associated with undernutrition, which itself is often underdiagnosed and undertreated. To determine the cause of unintentional weight loss, a full assessment and work up of the patient is necessary.
- Weight loss of more than 5% body weight in six months in the elderly is significant and suggests undernutrition.
- Measure weight routinely.
- Confirm that weight loss is occurring by recording and monitoring a patient’s weight.
- Look for low serum albumin and/or prealbumin levels.
- Consider depression, dementia, and drug interactions as potential causes of weight loss.
- Perform a full assessment and work-up of the patient to determine the cause of weight loss.
- For nonmedical causes of weight loss, consider referring patients to a dietitian, speech pathologist or dentist.