HEALTH AND WELLBEING
HOW MUCH IS MALNUTRITION COSTING YOUR CLIENTS AND YOUR ORGANISATION? are compromised. In addition to this, under-nutrition is also associated with confusion, depression and anxiety, and reduced quality of life in our older adults. Malnutrition also costs the health service, with clients more likely to be admitted to hospital, and stay in hospital longer. With our growing population of older adults, improving the quality of nutritional care will be pivotal in optimising the health of older adults and minimising the burden of care placed on aged care providers and our health systems going forward. So how can we improve our nutritional care? Luckily, there are a few simple things aged care service providers can do to help ensure they are looking after the nutritional status of their clients, both living at home and in residential care.
Provide a nutritious menu Nutrition Australia sends a strong message about the health and economic costs of poor nutritional care of seniors.
t’s no secret that Australia’s population is ageing. The proportion of people over 65 years is expected to increase from 14 per cent in 2011 to approximately 20 per cent in 2031.
However, just because we’re living longer, doesn’t necessarily mean we are healthier or happier. Recent studies have estimated that between 20–65 per cent of older adults living in residential care are malnourished, and nearly 75 per cent are at risk of malnutrition. For older adults living at home, up to 10 per cent are likely to be malnourished, and a further 35 per cent are at risk. These statistics should not be ignored. The cost of malnutrition is high, both for the health and wellbeing of our older adults, and our health systems, not to mention the costs to providers’ health care services. When clients are undernourished they are at much greater risk of illness, injury, and premature death. Falls are more likely with reduced strength and physical function, wounds will take longer to heal and are more susceptible to illness, and immune systems
As a first step, residential services should ensure their menus provide the minimum nutrition requirements and variety that older adults need to maintain good health and pleasure at meal times. Having your menu assessed by an accredited practising dietitian will ensure you get high quality support from a clinically trained and qualified nutrition professional. They will provide you with practical and relevant recommendations to improve the nutritional value of your menu/s, such as modifying recipes, changing portion sizes, and texture considerations. And sometimes just a few changes can have a huge impact, such as fortifying mashed potato with butter or cheese to increase the energy and protein content, which is essential for anyone at risk of malnutrition.
Invest in staff training There are many early signs of malnutrition. Commonly overlooked signs of malnutrition include feeling tired, poor concentration, delayed wound healing and lack of appetite or interest in food. Training all care staff in older adults’ nutritional requirements, and common nutritional conditions, is important to ensure they can identify these early signs, and initiate an action plan to prevent further complications. After all, prevention is much better than cure.