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Do not forget to eat. Malnutrition amongst the elderly

January 31, 2015


Do not forget to eat

Malnutrition among older people is a significant public health problem.

In England, 1 in 10 older people are at risk of malnutrition, which can lead to hospitalisation and sadly death in some cases.

Malnutrition costs more than £7.3bln per year, with a greater proportion of this expenditure spent on those aged 65 and over. Awareness and education on malnutrition among the elderly is the crucial factor in tackling the problem.

Growing thinner is sometimes believed to be a normal part of the ageing process. However, this is not the case.

Whilst some weight loss might happen as people grow older, it should not be accepted as being part of the process, and more importantly it shouldn't be ignored.

Factors such as social isolation and poor mobility are more prevalent among those in later life, and also contribute to malnourishment.

An older person with reduced mobility will find it harder to go out shopping.

Similarly, the will to eat can be diminished in a lonely older person, who may feel there is no need or point in cooking a meal for themselves.

Loss of appetite can also follow a "trigger" event such as a bad fall, illness or grief.

However, there are a number of things that older people can do to improve their appetite and diet, and avoid malnutrition.

Change your eating routine

Instead of opting for 3 main meals each day - which some may find too much at once - break up the food intake into 6 smaller portions/meals or snacks.

Enjoy yourself

Think about the foods/meals you like to eat, and include these within your diet in moderation.

Eating with company, family or friends - will also improve your appetite.

Additionally, if you look for local social opportunities, including lunch groups, where you can enjoy a hot, cooked meal and make new friends.

Introduce a snack around a favourite TV programme, which may mean you enjoy your food even more.

Shop clever

If you buy fresh produce, this means regular shopping trips to the supermarket, which can be hard for those with mobility problems.

Frozen and canned fruit and vegetables keep their vitamin and mineral content and last for a long time, if stored properly.

Online shopping is also an option, especially during the winter months, when it is always harder to get out and about to do things.

If you are worried that you or an older person you know is or even maybe at risk of malnourishment, information and advice is always available from your local health authority, hospital, voluntary organisations and of course your own GP or nurse.

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