Malnutrition a big risk for elderly

Over two thirds of elderly hospital patients were found to be malnourished or at risk of malnutrition in a recent Massey University study.

One third were at risk of dysphagia (swallowing difficulties), making them significantly more likely to be malnourished.

Routine nutrition screening upon admission to hospital, plus screening for dysphagia risk, may greatly assist with shaping interventions to improve nutrition, the researchers wrote.

“Malnutrition and swallowing difficulties significantly affect quality of life and are costly to individuals, families and the community. Simple intervention measures to manage under-nutrition, can make a substantial difference,” study co-author Carol Wham says in a press release.

Intervention to improve elderly patients’ nutritional intake may prevent or delay health problems at least partially attributed to malnutrition, Dr Wham says.

Use of a screening tool at the time of hospital admission has been shown to improve the identification of malnourished, frail individuals and reduces the length of hospital stays, she says.

The research published in Nutrition & Dietetics studied 88 patients over 85 years of age admitted to Auckland hospital wards.

First published: October 2017

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