Malnutrition is a growing problem among our older population – over one million people in the United Kingdom that are malnourished are over the age of 65, most of whom will live at home. Malnutrition can be difficult to recognise and treat in older people, predominantly those suffering with dementia.
Weight loss is not the only indicator and you should look out for other malnutrition symptoms such as feeling cold, loose dentures, and increased weakness. Mental symptoms like depression, confusion, and irritability may also occur. Hospitals and care homes, like B&M Care, will know how to recognise and treat this, but with the right support this can also be treated at home.
Poor nutrition is simply the lack of proper food which can be a result of either not eating the right diet, or not eating enough at all. This is particularly common in people living with dementia, as eating and drinking can become more of an issue as the illness progresses.
If malnutrition goes untreated, it can lead to severe consequences such as increased vulnerability to infection, prolonged hospital stays, falls, and heart failure. It can also lessen the effect of prescribed medication, so it is important to take preventative measures, and be conscious of any symptoms that may appear.
A reduced appetite is one of the more common causes of malnutrition. This can be because our taste buds reduce with age, impacting our enjoyment of food. Stronger tasting foods, unfamiliar foods, and more liquids will help with this.
Multiple small meals a day may be easier to manage than three large meals, with the addition of nutritious snacks and lots of water.
Malnutrition Diet Plan
Once malnutrition has been noticed, the best thing to do is maintain regular weight checks, and implement a personalised diet plan. Social workers, carers, and your GP will know what to look out for, and can help you begin to deal with this. A diet plan will introduce proper nutrition over time, before the situation becomes worse. Experts, such as the SALT team, or community dieticians, can also offer support and guidance.
A malnutrition diet plan should aim for at least three meals a day, with fortification that takes into consideration the nutritional needs of older adults. The addition of at least two snacks containing high energy ingredients, and specialist supplements, will also support good nutrition.
B&M Care believes that a “person should feel as good as what they eat and drink”, which is emphasised in our Rose Model of Dementia Care. Our B&M carers are provided with in-depth training on how to recognise malnutrition, and will provide the support required. Nutritious grazing stations are provided in each home to ensure food is always readily available, and our menus are hand crafted to boost nutrition and make sure that food is easy to manage and delicious. Read more about our care home nutrition here.