Malnutrition awareness in the elderly

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According to research by the British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, one in ten people (1.3 million) over the age of 65 in the UK is malnourished or at risk of malnutrition.

It also found that 90% of people who are affected by malnutrition are living at home.

There is a common misconception that older people naturally lose weight. Many common causes of malnutrition, such as illness, loneliness and loss of mobility can affect older people more frequently.

Dr Simon Gabe, president of BAPEN, said: “The general advice for those with malnutrition or for those at risk is to maximise their food intake.

“You can have cream in your coffee instead of milk, fry instead of grill, add butter to your scrambled eggs, give that chicken an extra brush of oil before putting it in the oven and stock up on cakes.

“This approach could help prevent thousands of people suffering the catastrophic health consequences of malnutrition and relieve significant pressure on the NHS and social care.”

Tips for eating more:

  • If you or an elderly loved-one has a small appetite, eating small meals and snacks six times a day are as good as three main meals
  • Build regular snacks into your daily routine
  • Use full fat foods such as milk and yoghurt if you’re trying to put on weight
  • An easy way to add extra protein and calories without adding volume to food is to add butter, cheese or double cream to meals and sauces
  • Aim for 6 – 8 drinks per day, including full fat milk-based drinks and fruit juices

If you are a carer or regularly visit an elderly relative, neighbour or friend, you can look out for signs of malnutrition. If an elderly person is becoming malnourished their clothing may become loose fitting, dentures may not sit properly and jewellery such as rings will become loose.

You can check your own weight and the weight of an elderly person using the malnutrition self-screening tool here.