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Project aims to tackle malnutrition in older people in England

8 January 2014 - 4:40pm

A project to raise awareness of tackling malnutrition in older people in the community was launched this month.

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One million people aged over 65 suffer from or are at risk of malnutrition. Photo: Malnutrition Task Force

The Malnutrition Prevention Project, funded by the Department of Health in response to the Francis report’s recommendations, aims to increase the diagnosis and treatment of malnutrition as well as improve care and support for older people.

One million people aged over 65 in England either suffer from or are at risk of the condition, making them susceptible to poor health, according to charity Age UK, which is part of the Malnutrition Task Force leading the project.

The aim is to raise community-based professionals’ awareness of the signs of malnutrition and how to respond. Another aim is to boost local support for people at risk through the use of volunteers. Two pilots got underway this month in south London and Salford and three others will follow.

Adequate provision of services

Bhanu Ramaswamy, project officer for the CSP’s older people network Agile, said any effort to raise awareness of malnutrition in older people was welcome. However, she said attention also needed to given to ensuring that community services are adequately resourced, with, for example, dieticians being available.

She said physiotherapists working in the community are generally aware of the signs of frailty that can be linked to poor diet, but that systems for referrals are not always in place.‘ We can see it, but we are not sure how to tackle it,’ she noted, adding that the issue can be better managed when physios work in interdisciplinary teams.

Ms Ramaswamy, who recently helped train to physios in identifying malnutrition in older people, said it is important to consider why people are malnourished so they can be referred appropriately.

‘Part of good awareness should be about what is causing poor appetite, for example. If it is isolation and low mood, it could be a social need requiring social services to get involved, as opposed to someone who cannot physically feed themselves or is eating the wrong foods and not getting a proper diet, in which case a dietician could help.’

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