Charity urges families to check for signs of malnutrition on elderly this Christmas
The number of people over the age of 60 in the UK hospitalised with malnutrition has more than trebled in the last decade, a charity has warned.
Numbers have jumped from 1,405 to 4,988 between 2007-2008 and 2017-18, charity Age UK said.
Of the 12.2 million older people in the UK, over a million over the age of 65 are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition.
Malnutrition can place a strain on the health service as it is two to three times more expensive to treat someone who is underweight than someone of a healthy weight, the charity said.
The condition is predicted to place a £13 billion strain on health and social care by 2020.
Age UK is urging families to check if elderly relatives are struggling to eat enough to keep themselves well this Christmas.
Causes of malnutrition can vary from having difficulty with the physicality of eating such as cutting up food, or difficulty chewing and swallowing because of a dental condition.
The charity said younger relatives could help by organising trips to the dentist or GP, offering full-fat milk, yoghurt and cheese rather than skimmed alternatives, and soft foods like scrambled eggs.
It also recommended helping the elderly pick out foods in packaging that are easy to open and regular snack foods.
If eyesight is a problem, Age UK said switching to blue crockery makes it easier for people to see what they are eating.
Poverty in old age is also a risk – the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing found 360,000 people aged 50 to 64 and 29,000 people aged 65 to 74 had to skip or cut meals due to lack of money.
Dianne Jeffrey, head of Age UK’s malnutrition task force, said poverty, the inability to shop, eat or drink at home without help, loneliness and isolation and poor physical and mental health were all risk factors.
“However, whether you are slim or even if you are seemingly overweight, you can still be malnourished and a couple of days of not eating can have serious physical effects for older people,” she said.
“This is why we are appealing to everyone to look out for tell-tale signs at Christmas time that might mean an older person is not eating enough or needs help to plan, shop for, or cook meals.”
Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Pixabay.