More than 40 per cent of older Australians living in community housing are “malnourished or at risk of malnourishment,” according to a new study.
The Melbourne-based report, published in the Dietitions Association of Australia’s journal, Nutrition and Dietetics, was the result of a three month study.
Community nurses in Victoria assessed the malnutrition of 235 clients aged 65 and older and found one in three were identified as being at risk of malnutrition, while eight per cent were classified malnourished.
Only 41 per cent were in a healthy weight range, with 40 per cent overweight or obese and nineteen per cent underweight.
The average age of the participant was 82, with a range from 65 to 100.
Most of them were living on a pension and had an annual income of less that $30 000.
They lived at home, either alone or with a spouse, or with other family.
While the federal government recently released a 10-year plan to improve aged care throughout the country, Dietitians Association of Australia chief executive Claire Hewat said more attention needs to be paid to older people living within the community.
There have long been calls for the aged pension to be increased, with both qualitative and quantitative data showing that it is almost impossible for an older person to cover expenses and properly feed and clothe themselves on the current amount.
Previous Australian research has also found one in three hospital patients and almost 70 per cent of residents in aged care facilities are malnourished, Hewat pointed out.
Accredited Practising Dietition and leader of the study, Georgie Rist, said malnourishment is particularly problematic for the elderly, and those with regular contact with older people need to be aware of the signs and impacts.
“Malnutrition is linked with poorer health, meaning increased GP visits, more admissions to hospital and longer hospital stays, and early admission to nursing homes,” she said.
“Community nurses are ideally placed to pick-up nutrition issues in older people as they are at the forefront of client care in the home.”
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