As a person ages, appetite can decline and physiological functions slow down. A person aged over 65 in the UK is at a greater risk of malnutrition if they have a disease or condition which limits their mobility and ability to cope by themselves. Over 10% of people aged over 65 in the UK are therefore thought to be malnourished.
Ensuring that residents of care homes do not suffer from malnourishment means that care and attention should be paid to both the diversity of needs individuals may have within a care home environment and respecting their needs and preferences. Whilst it can be difficult and challenging, wherever possible, food and nutrition should be tailored to the individual rather than the wider ‘care home community’.
It is therefore essential to consider the following:
- All sector professionals should ensure that each individual receives all the nutrients they need to sustain general good health
- Meals and snacks are planned ‘by individual’ and supports those with reduced appetites (e.g. those who have limited mobility, those who are using long-term medication which can affect their appetite; those living with chronic conditions which can affect their appetite and/or their ability to eat and drink)
- Alternative provision of nutrition is made available to those living with other chronic conditions such as dementia, as they may need support with eating and drinking as their condition progresses
- Food should be made available all day and not simply just at ‘meal times’
- Food should be prepared using fresh and quality ingredients
- Foods should be made available for ease of digestion (e.g. homemade soups, smoothies and stews)
- Crockery and other utensils should be dementia or disability friendly to support independence.
There are of course, many other ways of supporting people in residential settings but it is important to remember that good nutrition can make a difference between a good quality of life and a poor one.