I receive a number of recommendations to add multivitamin, vitamin D, vitamin C, and calcium supplements to the diets of elderly patients in long-term-care facilities (even those in hospice care). Given the risk of overdose, why is it that so many dietitians recommend that elderly patients be placed on vitamin supplements? — Rhonda White, FNP, ANP, Gainesville, Fla. 

As an individual ages, he or she can experience a loss of taste, a lack of appropriate appetite, chewing and swallowing issues, and decreased physical activity that can reduce the normal, healthy intake of food. Without a well-balanced diet that incorporates each of the food groups, elderly patients may need vitamin supplements to avoid missing key nutrients. 

Vitamin D, vitamin B12, vitamin C, and vitamin A have been shown to be beneficial during the aging process. To prevent hypervitaminosis, patients must be instructed to never take more than the recommended daily allowance of any vitamin or supplement. Elderly patients should provide a list of all prescription and nonprescription medications they are taking as well as all vitamins, herbal, and natural remedies. — Abimbola Farinde, PharmD (188-3)

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