Which one of these people is at risk of malnutrition?

October 5, 2023
October 4, 2023
A group of five older people laughing and smiling together in a park

Answer: All of them could be. Which is why BlueCare’s Allied Health experts from its Statewide Dietetic service are raising awareness so that you can spot the signs.

Shockingly, up to 40% of older people in the community have malnutrition or are at risk of it in Australia.

It’s an alarming statistic, and one that the dietetic team is determined to bring down in Queensland via awareness, education, and tackling misconceptions around the condition.

Because malnutrition is serious. Defined by the World Health Organisation as: “deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients,” it causes physical decline which stops people being able to do their normal daily activities, thus losing their quality of life. It can increase risk of falls, serious disease, illness and even death.

“Contrary to what many think malnutrition does not discriminate between body types and can also affect those who are overweight or obese due to not getting enough of the right foods – and we all need to be vigilant in not overlooking this,” says BlueCare’s Allied Health Statewide Dietetic Lead, Caitlin Fulford.

“In fact, whatever someone’s weight they could have hidden deficiencies in certain micronutrients which can be tricky to assess and could be overlooked.” On the flip side, weight loss is not a normal part of ageing.

“And, actually, seniors need to eat more protein, calcium and vitamin D than younger adults,” she explains.

And there are many reasons that someone can become at risk of being malnourished without you – or them – realising.

This ranges from poor appetite, gastrointestinal issues (nausea, constipation for example) illness, cancer, Chrohn’s disease, mental health issues, certain medications and texture modified diets. Read more about the causes of malnutrition here.

What you can do to help:

  • If you’re not sure if they’re eating properly, talk to them about how they’re feeling, what their appetite is like and if they’re having any problems with eating or drinking.
  • It would also be helpful to start a food diary to track food and to identify any nutritional gaps:
    • Also get them to note down separately, any reactions they’ve had to certain foods, like indigestion, stomach pain, headaches, nausea etc.
    • It’s helpful for them to also note when they took any medication as this can affect appetite.

If you’re concerned about yourself or someone else, read more about how our Allied Health Dietitians can help, and call BlueCare on 1300 258 322 to request additional information and support with accessing a Dietitian.

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