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Elderly Care and Vitamin B12 Deficiencies -
Common Undiagnosed Senior Ailments
December 14, 2010--Vitamin B12, also known
as cobalamin is the most complex of B
vitamins, and required for DNA synthesis,
RBC’s (red blood cells) and many other
A vitamin B12 deficiency is not uncommon in
the elderly population (an estimated 5%-20%
of the elderly are B12 deficient). This
deficiency is gradual, taking a few years to
develop and directly affects
gastrointestinal, neurologic, and
The common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency
is poor food absorption (or food
malabsorption) which is responsible for the
cause of approximately 70% of these cases.
An actual dietary deficiency of B12 is very
rare because many foods are fortified and
supplements are readily available.
Elderly Care and B12: A Brief Overview of
As mentioned, vitamin B12 is required for
DNA synthesis in many tissues, primarily red
blood cells. Vitamin B12 deficiency rarely
occurs due to dietary reasons, but rather
from inadequate B12 absorption, in some
cases a very strict vegetarian diet, limited
food intake, alcohol abuse, or general
Vitamin B12 deficiency has also been
attributed to surgery or other diseases,
particularly Crohn’s. It should be noted
that drugs can also interfere with
absorption as well. This vitamin is derived
from meat, dairy, and other animal products,
though very little is actually needed the
body stores B12 in the liver and can store
supplies for up to ten years.
Elderly Care: The Dangers of Limited B12
Intake and Absorption
Red blood cells formed when the body is
deficient in B12 are abnormal and an
individual is more likely to become anemic.
Signs and symptoms your loved one may be
suffering from a lack of B12 include
fatigue, listlessness, pallor, and a lack of
energy. In worst cases, there are
irreversible neurologic consequences,
parenthesis of extremities (particularly
lower extremities). If you’re providing
elderly care for a loved one, family member,
or parent, be aware of the following signs
of a B12 deficiency.
Providing Elderly Care: Signs and Symptoms
of a Vitamin B12 Deficient Diet:
Has your loved one lost his/her appetite?
Do they frequently suffer from fatigue,
weakness, or shortness of breath?
Have they complained about a sore
Do they often experience numbness or
tingling in the hands or feet?
Do they appear pale?
These symptoms may not always be present and
tend to subside when B12 is replaced—but can
resume periodically. In worst cases, severe
deprivation of B12 results in death due to
anemia or heart failure.
Vitamin B12 can cause a change of mental
state in very advanced cases, and is often
confused with dementia. However,
deficiencies of B12 and folic acid may
contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s or
other similar dementias.
B12 rich foods include eggs, cheese, meats
such as lamb and beef, shellfish and seafood
(crab and lobster), fish, and liver. B12 is
found in most animal products and vitamin
supplements are largely available.
Elderly care services, provided by
experienced caregivers are available 24
hours a day for elderly individuals to
remain in their own home and improve the
quality of their lives. Elderly care
services provide aging loved ones with meal
preparation and diet monitoring services to
ensure health and well being.
Erica Ronchetti is a freelance writer for
Visiting Angels, the nation's leading,
network of non-medical, private duty home
care agencies providing senior care, Assisted
Living facilites, personal care,
respite care and companion care to help the
elderly and adults continue to live in their
homes across America. Visit the Visiting
Angels website to find out more information