Failure-to-Thrive—Adult

Failure-to-Thrive—Adult

Definition

Failure-to-thrive is a decrease in mental and physical ability.

Causes

Failure-to-thrive is caused by more than one problem. It is not the same for each person. Chronic health problems often play a role.

For example, mental health problems can make it hard for some people to eat well. This can make a chronic health problem and overall health worse.

Risk Factors

Failure-to-thrive is more common in older adults. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Having more than one chronic health problem
  • Taking certain medicines
  • Physical or cognitive limits
  • Having little or no social interaction
  • Limited income

The Brain

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Symptoms

Symptoms may be:

  • Lack of hunger
  • Confusion
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Less activity
  • Being more tired than usual
  • Feelings of depression

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. You may also be asked about your diet and activities. A physical and mental health exam will be done.

Tests may be done to look for physical causes. It may take some time to find all the issues that are causing the problem.

Treatment

Treatment will depend on the causes. Choices are:

Treating Current Health Problems

Changes may need to be made to manage chronic health problems. Sometimes a treatment can cause problems and may need to be changed.

Diet Changes

A dietitian can help with meal planning and food choices.

Supportive Therapy

Supportive care may be:

  • Social workers who can suggest local services to help with shopping, meal delivery, and home care
  • Physical or occupational therapy to help with movement
  • Mental health counseling to talk about emotions

Medications

Medicine may be given for depression.

End-of-Life Care

Failure-to-thrive may be the end stage of an illness. Advance directives are important for a care plan. These formal documents can help guide medical care for people who cannot direct their own care. Other important documents include a living will and medical power of attorney.

Prevention

Get medical help for problems staying on a care plan for a chronic health problem.

RESOURCES:

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
National Institute on Aging
https://www.nia.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The College of Family Physicians of Canada
http://www.cfpc.ca
Public Health Agency of Canada
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

References:

Kumeliauskas L, Fruetel K, et al. Evaluation of older adults hospitalized with a diagnosis of failure-to-thrive. Can Geriatr J. 2013;16(2):49-53. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed November 25, 2019.
Roberton R, Montagnini M. Geriatric failure-to-thrive. Am Fam Physician. 2004 Jul 15;70(2):343-350. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed November 25, 2019.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD
Last Updated: 11/25/2019

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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

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