Commencing 1st October
How can you support Malnutrition Awareness week?
One in ten people over the age of 65 are malnourished, or at risk of malnutrition. Despite these statistics, the majority of healthy eating messages focus on weight loss and obesity.
The British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (BAPEN) and the Malnutrition Task Force are leading the inaugural UK Malnutrition Awareness Week, which began on October 1st to raise awareness about the risks and prevalence of malnutrition among older people.
In Hertfordshire, BAPEN has partnered with local organisations to encourage people to conduct screenings using the Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool and to upload the results via the BAPEN website.This will help monitor malnutrition and hopefully demonstrate improvements over the coming years as people are more aware of the risks of malnutrition in older people.
Who is at Risk?
Anyone can become malnourished but it is more common in people over 65, particularly if they have the following risk factors:
- A long-term health condition (such as diabetes, kidney disease, chronic lung disease, Crohn’s disease, with ulcerative colitis)
- A progressive health condition (one that can get worse over time) such as dementia or cancer
- A physical condition affecting the ability to source food, or eat it (issues such as poor mobility, poor dentition or ability to chew and swallow, sight or hearing loss, and many other physical factors can make it difficult to get to the shops, prepare and cook food or eat independently)
- A challenging social situation (such as living on a low income, becoming a carer, bereavement, social isolation or loneliness)
What is Malnutrition?
Malnutrition (i.e. literally poor or bad nutrition) can mean a number of things but for many older people it is characterised by low body weight or weight loss, meaning simply that some people are not eating well enough to maintain their health and wellbeing. The weight loss is usually unintentional and often goes unrecognised until it starts to seriously undermine a person’s health and wellbeing.
Malnutrition can affect every system in the body. It can lead to a weaker immune system, increasing risk of infections, poor wound healing, muscle weakness, and reduced ability to perform normal tasks, which can result in falls and fractures.
How can you spot Malnutrition?
The most obvious sign of malnutrition is unexpected weight loss. It may be sudden or gradual, because of illness, or just unexplained. But there are often other more subtle signs to look out for including:
- Loose clothing, dentures or jewellery
- Low mood, as being malnourished will also have a negative effect on a person’s quality of life and may result in depression
- Frequent illness and generally feeling under the weather
- Recent illness or bereavement, these can be triggers for unintentional weight loss
Quick tips to help prevent, or beat malnutrition
Check out our Scan and Share flyer ‘Malnutrition Mythbusting’, use this as a fun quiz to teach other people about the importance of good nutrition for older people.
- Six small meals are as good as three main meals a day
- Build regular snacks into the day, e.g. around a favourite TV programme
- Full fat foods like milk and yoghurt can help with healthy weight gain
- Add butter, cheese or double cream to meals and sauces to increase protein and calories
- Pick out favourite foods and eat regular small portions of these
- Aim for 6-8 drinks a day. Try full fat milk-based drinks like milky coffee, and drink fruit juices
- Check teeth or dentures to make sure they fit, as this can affect the ability to chew and swallow properly
What to do if someone is identified as at risk of malnutrition?
There are plenty of simple changes that somebody at risk of malnutrition can make.
Malnutrition is treatable and you’ve done the best thing to help, which is detecting it as early as possible.
Make sure the person at risk fully understands what the ‘MUST’ Score means. Anyone who is very concerned about their weight should go to their GP to be referred on to a registered dietitian. Use the resources in this pack to find out more and contact other services that can help.
Try to understand the root cause of the weight loss in order to find lasting, effective solutions. Could it be due to a recent bereavement? Financial worries? A particularly stressful period, such as a house move or a recent illness? Have they recently undergone surgery or are they currently being treated for a medical condition?
Resources to download:
Malnutrition Screening Pack – contains instructions for doing the screenings and general information about the campaign.
Now you have your ‘MUST’ score… What Next? Information about your ‘MUST’ score and what it means:
High MUST score
Medium MUST score
Low MUST score
Scan and share ‘Malnutrition Myths’ flyer – this can be used as the basis of a group activity or just for information.
Access the ‘Official Screening Point’ posters – these can be stuck up to indicate that this is an official part of the campaign and invite people to be screened.
Simply by using the online calculator mentioned in the step-by-step instructions in the screening pack, BAPEN will be able to collate and analyse the prevalence of malnutrition. Every screening will contribute to increasing our knowledge of the number of people at risk and measure the impact of initiatives such as this one.
Thank you to everyone for taking part in this first ever Malnutrition Awareness Week. We would love to receive news of how the screenings go and any feedback on the screening pack. If you would like HILS to share any photos on social media, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.