Keeping nutrition on the radar

Keeping prevention of malnutrition and dehydration at the top of our agenda when caring for older people.

Keeping prevention of malnutrition and dehydration at the top of our agenda when caring for older people.

Picture: Alamy

Age UK and the Malnutrition Taskforce have published a new report, The State of the Nation: an overview of older people and malnutrition in the UK today. This report helps to untangle the multiple challenges that contribute to the malnourishment of older people and goes some way to highlight the scale of the problem.

The cost of malnutrition to healthcare services is significant. It is two to three times more expensive to treat someone who is malnourished than someone who is not. Only a small majority (51%) of health and social care professionals believe that tackling malnutrition is a high or medium priority. The increase in the ageing population, combined with the huge drop in social care spending, present a growing problem.

And it’s estimated that one in ten people over the age of 65 are at risk of or are malnourished. Altogether, it’s extremely worrying.

Nutritional standards in hospitals and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines on screening mean that most hospitals and care settings are now routinely checking whether someone is malnourished in their admission assessments. However, there remains a challenge to translate screening into care interventions.

There continue to be concerns with continuity of care after a hospital discharge. In a recent survey, we learned that 80% of patients were not followed up by their GP or anyone else about nutritional needs. This presents a risk to older people being quickly readmitted to hospital.

Therefore, the prevention and treatment of malnutrition must be a priority for all health professionals who come into contact with older people. By keeping nutrition on the radar, we can ensure that people eat well, stay nourished and stay independent for longer.  

About the author

Lesley Carter is a registered nurse and currently head of health influencing for Age UK and programme lead for the malnutrition task force.


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