Preventing Malnutrition

Preventing malnutrition

Older people are at risk of protein/energy malnutrition. This is the when the body can’t get enough of the energy and protein from foods that it needs to work properly. This can have a major impact on a person’s health outcomes, quality of life and care needs.  You can’t always tell if someone is malnourished, just by looking at them. Anyone can be affected by malnutrition, regardless of their shape or size.

What causes malnutrition?

It can seem simple - malnutrition is usually either caused by not eating enough food, or a diet lacking in nutrients. But there’s often more to it than that. Social, physical and psychological issues can affect the amount and type of food that older people might eat. These can include:

  • Low incomes and limited access to transport can make shopping hard. This can affect the amount and types of foods older people buy.
  • Loneliness can be an issue, as mealtimes can be very social times. People who eat alone most of the time can lose the motivation to cook and eat.
  • Loss of appetite, hearing, sight, taste and smell can all impact on the desire to prepare or eat meals.
  • Issues with chewing or swallowing can make eating difficult and can be embarrassing - especially when eating in a group environment.
  • Grief, depression, low self-esteem and confusion can all affect appetite.
  • Older people with dementia can forget to eat (or forget when they last ate) and may no longer enjoy the foods they once did.

What to look out for

Chat to older people about any social, physical or psychological changes they have had since you last spoke with them. These could be red flags to keep an eye out for:

  • Unintentional weight loss e.g. looser clothes, or rings and watches
  • Low energy and feeling unusually tired
  • Muscle weakness or loss of strength
  • Depression and low moods
  • Memory loss
  • Trouble fighting off infections, or they have any wounds that won’t heal

How can you help?

You can suggest some nourishing foods that could help them.

Good nutrition is important for a good quality of life. If you would like to learn more about malnutrition and how to identify people at risk, access our free online training.

For more information about our free online training, download our online training factsheet