This blog was contributed by Margit Physant, Project Manager for the Malnutrition Task Force.
The Duchess of Windsor is reported to have said that you can never be too rich or too thin. I don’t know about the first but you can be too thin.
Malnutrition refers to low body weight and/or recent weight loss and it is still with us. It is far more common than most people think. It affects all ages, but older people are particularly at risk and more than a million people over the age of 65 are affected.
It is common but it is not a normal part of ageing and it has serious health consequences. Malnourished people are more prone to infection and take longer to recover if they get ill. It causes misery to older people and their families and is costly to the health service.
There are many factors that contribute to older people becoming malnourished including not being able to afford as much food as you need, difficulties in shopping and cooking, having a poor appetite and little interest in food, and illness.
Much malnutrition can be prevented. The Malnutrition Task Force – an independent group of experts from health, social care and local government – was set up about a year ago to combat this.
We wanted to ensure that prevention and treatment of malnutrition is embedded in all care and community support services. Over the winter we worked with a wide range of stakeholders to identify good practice and set out how to implement it in health and care settings.
We have now published a series of guides to implement good practice in nutrition and hydration care for providers of care in hospitals and care homes, for food and beverage providers, for commissioners of care and for local communities working together to reduce malnutrition.
On a related note, the Dairy Council recently launched their Bring it Back campaign for older people who may not be eating and drinking enough. They have produced some useful information materials with practical suggestions for people who have a poor appetite. The materials can be downloaded and printed copies are available free of charge.