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Tackling Malnutrition in our Elderly

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Posted on 14th December 2012.

Malnutrition task Force is an independent group of experts across Health, Social Care and Local government united to address the problem of avoidable and preventable malnutrition (and dehydration) in older people.

Malnutrition and dehydration are a significant cause of many hospital admissions for elderly. Malnutrition is a major cause and consequence of poor health, and older people are particularly vulnerable.

There are over 3 million people across the UK either malnourished or at risk of malnourishment. Over 1 million are over the age of 65. The cost of malnutrition is estimated to be in the region of £13bn a year.

The objective of the Malnutrition Task Force is to actively influence behaviours across the NHS, residential care and in the community, developing mechanisms and collating examples of how to identify, prevent and minimise the risk of malnutrition, across all care settings.

Specifically to:

• Create products to influence the levers for change including practical case studies that demonstrate benefits where it is being achieved

• Mobilise action in the public sector, charities and companies to make the change happen

• Make recommendations to central and local government, and the NHS Commissioning Board

The workshop focussed on agreeing what best practice looks like for commissioning and delivering food and drink services and then applying these principles to the regulation of services and providers.

We identified the need to have care plans which record the nutrition and hydration needs accurately. We also felt that the nutrition and hydration provision should meet the clinical and cultural needs as well as individual preferences for the person being cared for.

Involving family was also seen as an important factor in ensuring that older people were eating and drinking appropriately. Helping people to eat and drink and making meal time an enjoyable time was also seen as important.

The discussion then moved to the difficulties in making people drink adequately, due to issues such as incontinence, reduced ability to feel thirsty and generally reduced importance to keeping hydrated.

A care workers role in enabling older people to eat and drink well is very important, however with the limited time spent by drop in care workers it may not always be possible to meet these objectives.

Our Helping Hands Live in Carers are in the best position to encourage and support the older people. They care for their clients by making meal preparation and meal times more enjoyable. They can also keep a watchful eye on the nutritional health and hydration to avoid the related consequences.

Sally Tomkotowicz