Failure-to-thrive is a decrease in mental and physical ability.
Failure-to-thrive is caused by more than one problem. It is not the same for each person. Long term health problems often play a role.
For example, mental health problems can make it hard for some people to eat well. This can worsen health.
Failure-to-thrive is more common in older adults. Other things that may raise the risk are:
- Having more than one long term health problem
- Taking certain medicines
- Physical or intellectual limits
- Having little or no social interaction
- Lack of financial resources
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Symptoms may be:
- Lack of hunger
- Losing weight without trying
- Being more tired than usual
- Feelings of depression
The doctor will ask about symptoms, past health, 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 will depend on the causes. Options may be:
To help prevent failure to thrive:
- Get medical help for problems
- Follow a care plan for a long term health problem
Treating Current Health Problems
Changes may need to be made to manage long term health problems. Sometimes a treatment can cause problems and may need to be changed.
A dietitian can help with meal planning and food choices.
Supportive care may be:
- Social workers who can suggest services to help with shopping, meals, and home care
- Physical or occupational therapy to help with movement
- Counseling to talk about emotions
Medicine may be given for depression.
Failure-to-thrive may be the end stage of an illness. Advance directives are important for a care plan. These documents can help guide a person's medical care. It is for people who cannot direct their own care. Other important documents are a living will and medical power of attorney.
- 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: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3671012.
- Roberton R, Montagnini M. Geriatric failure-to-thrive. Am Fam Physician. 2004 Jul 15;70(2):343-350. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2004/0715/p343.html.
- Nicole S. Meregian, PA
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