Care UK has chosen nutrition and hydration week to launch a new advice booklet which will give families, neighbours and friends the knowledge they need to help frail, older people that they may know to avoid developing health-threatening malnutrition and dehydration.
The Eating as we age booklet has been written by care home chefs, managers and Care UK’s in-house dementia experts and is aimed at family and friends who have loved ones living alone who they suspect or know are not eating properly.
Last month a report by the Malnutrition Task Force indicated that over a million older people could be at risk of malnutrition. New research commissioned by Care UK suggests part of the problem is mobility and safety around the home, with responses suggesting that almost a third of frail older people, or those living with dementia, do not cook for themselves because they can’t reach or use their kitchen safely. A similar number also need help with being able to shop for good, wholesome food.
The Eating as we age guide provides information on how to overcome common problems associated with these issues, such as other ways to access meals without cooking from scratch, restoring an older person’s interest in food and encouraging those with a diminished appetite to eat, making every mouthful count, and advice on how to create an environment that supports older people to dine with dignity.
It’s packed with practical tips including how to adapt meals so that they contain more calories and nutrients, how to tackle the cravings for salty or sweet foods that are common in many people with dementia and solutions for those who live alone and do not always bother to cook.
Pauline Houchin, a nurse with 30 years of experience in older people’s care and who works for Care UK, said: “There is so much coverage of the prevalence of obesity in our communities that it is easy to overlook the fact that many older people living in their own homes can be in danger of malnutrition. We see many people who, when they arrive at our care homes, are in a malnourished state – often because they’ve been living in their own home and dementia or their declining health means it has been hard for them to get access to nutritious meals.
“Apart from the obvious loss of weight, older people suffering from poor nutrition or hydration are more prone to pressure sores and urinary tract infections, find it much harder to recover from illness, infections or surgery, are more likely to have a fall and can often experience confusion.
“We often find that, once our chefs and carers have worked with new residents to get them properly nourished with plenty of fluids, their other conditions such as urinary tract infections or difficulty with walking can become less severe or even clear up altogether. I hope that by sharing our expertise with the wider community, we will be able to help people living in their own homes to avoid developing some of these conditions in the first place.”
Care UK’s study of 1,000 people with parents over the age of 70 shows 38 per cent have reached a stage where they’re not fully using their entire house and almost a third aren’t using their kitchen as they cannot get to it safely.
Respondents also noticed how older relatives need more support around the home, with a third saying even the smallest household tasks are harder now than they used to be.
General cleaning of the house has become too much of a task for a quarter of those over the age of 70, and a further 41 per cent haven’t got the strength to maintain their garden. Over half need help with general cleaning around the home, while a third needs help with food shopping.
Eating as we age is the fourth free advice booklet produced by Care UK using their in-house expertise gained by running over a hundred care homes. The other three are:
• As Easy as ABC – a guide to activity based care
• Listen, Talk, Connect – to help everyone to communicate better with people living with dementia
• Good to go – to help family carers of loved ones living with dementia to get out and about
Copies of all of these can be downloaded from the Care UK website.