Call For Mandatory Malnutrition Testing in Aged Care Facilities

By Ryan Mccann
Thursday, 30 May, 2013

Research presented at the Dietitian Association of Australia’s national conference has shown one in five ACT aged care residents are malnourished.
The research, presented by Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) Jane Kellett was undertaken by assessing 100 people living across five residential aged care facilities last year and found 22 per cent were moderately or severely malnourished. Ms Kellett has called for mandatory malnutrition screening introduced for aged care saying malnutrition screening was a quick, simple and validated tool that could catch malnutrition in its early stages and prevent malnutrition in people at risk.
“People think it (malnutrition) is a part of ageing but it’s not. It’s a separate thing and it’s not a part of ageing,” Ms Kellett said. “Older adults are nutritionally vulnerable and we need to make sure there’s early recognition.”
Ms Kellett added while the nation focused on overweight and obesity issues there had been little attention paid to malnutrition, which is rife across all states of Australia. She said there was ample research on malnutrition in hospitals but there was little data to prove malnutrition was occurring in aged care facilities. With government statistics forecasting the number of Australians aged over 65 is set to double to almost 7 million people in the next 30 years, Ms Kellett said it was more important than ever to address the debilitating health condition placing strain on our hospital system.
“We know that when people are malnourished they are more likely to be hospitalised and have longer recovery times,” she said. “It would be a really cost-effective measure to implement mandatory screening.”
Ms Kellett said residents found to be at risk or malnourished could then be referred to an APD who could provide a nutrition assessment and implement an appropriate
strategy to reverse or treat the condition.  “It’s really simple to fix,” she said. “It would be great if we could have mandatory malnutrition screening as part of national aged care standards. “Older adults are nutritionally vulnerable and we need to make sure there’s early recognition.”
Dietitian Association of Australia’s Chief Executive Officer Claire Hewat said with more than 230,000 Australians now in permanent residential aged care it was vital the government act now.
“If the government is serious about the health and well-being of our older generation – and keeping money in taxpayer wallets, a national program for screening, assessing and treating this preventable health problem is a must,” Ms Hewat said.

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