Nutrition and hydration are essential for health and quality of life.

For older people, adequate food and drink can help them recover from illness and surgery, remain independent, reduce their length of stay in hospital and help avoid readmission to hospital.

Malnutrition is common in older people. To identify people over 65 at risk of malnutrition, they should be screened within 24 hours of admission and at regular intervals throughout their hospital stay.

This topic gives an overview of nutrition and hydration and recommends actions that we and our organisations can take, in addition to health service policy and procedures, to provide quality nutrition and hydration care to our older patients.

All Australian hospitals are being accredited under The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare’s (ACSQHC) National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards. Each of the ten standards relate to optimising clinical care and better outcomes for all patients. While identifying and responding to issues of nutrition and hydration are not directly referred to within the NSQHSS, this topic highlights the need to approach the clinical issues older people face in hospital in a holistic and person-centred way to identify and respond to multiple modifiable risk factors throughout their stay. Doing this will improve our systems, clinical care and ultimately the outcomes for older people to prevent falls and harm from falls (standard 10), improve medication safety (standard 4) and prevent and manage pressure injuries (standard 8).