Malnutrition in elderly people under care remains an “overlooked” problem for the industry, a national body of sector professionals has warned.
About 1.3 million people older people in the UK are estimated to suffer from malnutrition, but in a survey of health professionals only 51% thought malnutrition was a priority in their organisations.
Furthermore, just 47% felt confident that their knowledge and skills were sufficient to help people most at risk, according to the poll by the Malnutrition Task Force.
The statistics come as a concern given that nearly one third (32%) of older people admitted to hospital or a care home from the community are already at risk of malnutrition, as are half of patients admitted to hospital from care homes.
Dianne Jeffrey, chair of The Malnutrition Task Force and chairman of Age UK, described malnutrition as a “really knotty” problem.
“While many of the interventions are relatively simple, to be really effective they require a wide range of services to come together, recognise the problem and each make a contribution towards tackling it.
However, at the moment the sad fact is in too many areas this isn’t happening. Malnutrition is often overlooked and isn’t tackled very effectively at any point in the care journey, so many people slip through the net and never receive proper help.”
Malnutrition is associated with several long term conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancer, dementia and swallowing problems (dysphagia) as well as physical disability and social factors which can affect people in later life, such as bereavement, loneliness and isolation.