Eastbourne dieticians raise awareness of creeping malnutrition among older people

Malnutrition awareness week at the DGH
Malnutrition awareness week at the DGH

Local dieticians are raising awareness of an overlooked condition which often affects older people as part of the first ever Malnutrition Awareness Week.

The nutrition and dietetic teams had stands at Eastbourne and Hastings hospitals explaining malnutrition – how to identify it, what the effects are, and what to do if individuals are identified as being malnourished in the community and hospital.

Staff encouraged people to undertake the British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition’s (BAPEN) Malnutrition Self Screening Tool, with an opportunity to win a food hamper donated by Nutricia.

Advanced specialist dietician Lucinda Silva said, “We were keen to promote the first ever national Malnutrition Awareness Week. We wrongly assume malnutrition and dehydration belong to the past – but the reality is that poor nutrition and hydration are often not recognised by older people, families or health care professionals.”

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“The risk of becoming undernourished increases significantly as people age and it is further complicated by the common myth that losing weight is a normal part of ageing, when it should actually raise alarm bells.

“We are all well aware that obesity causes serious health problems but there are also serious health consequences for older people who are at the other end of the scale and don’t eat enough. We want to help tackle these common misconceptions and raise awareness about the importance of eating well in later life.”

It is estimated one in 10 people over the age of 65 in the UK are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition. The vast majority (more than 90 per cent) of people who are malnourished are living in their own homes and yet for many people the signs and symptoms of malnutrition go unnoticed and unrecognised.

It affects every system in the body and results in increased vulnerability to illness, increased complications and in very extreme cases even death. Malnutrition is a major public health issue estimated to have cost £19.6 billion in just one year in England alone at the last estimate, about 15 per cent of the total expenditure on health and social care.

To find out more, visit www.bapen.org.uk