Screening to identify all people over 65 at risk of nutritional decline and malnutrition is essential within 24 hours of admission and at regular intervals throughout the hospital stay.
As we age, many physiological factors can affect our ability to maintain optimal nutrition and hydration, such as:
- changes to taste and smell can decrease appetite and interest in food
- hormonal changes can affect weight and mood
- musculoskeletal changes can impact on a person’s mobility and ability to feed themself
- underlying disorders can reduce our food and fluid intake and affect the absorption of important nutrients and vitamins
Changes to a person’s routine can affect nutrition and oral intake. For example, losing a spouse, moving house or entering residential care can mean usual eating and drinking habits are disrupted and this can lead to poor nutrition and hydration.
For older people in hospital, poor nutrition and hydration care can result in a loss of functional independence, delayed recovery from surgery, falls, infection, slow wound healing, delirium, frailty and increased mortality1.
Hospital provides an ideal opportunity to identify existing or potential nutrition problems and focus on preventative measures to help patients achieve good nutrition in hospital and when they leave.
1. Ahmed, T., Haboubi, N, Assessment and management of nutrition in older people and its importance to health. Clinical Interventions in Aging 2010. 5: p. 9