Age UK is warning families to check if their elderly relatives are earing well this Christmas, as the number of people being hospitalised due to malnutrition has dramatically increased in recent times.
The new figures show that the number of people aged 60 and older in the UK that have been admitted to hospital with malnutrition has more than trebled over the past ten years – rising from 1,405 to 4,988 between 2007-2008 and 2017-18.
To keep this number from rising even more, Age UK is urging families to check on their elderly relatives this Christmas and check if they are eating enough and eating well.
Malnutrition can have different causes, from struggling with cutting up food, difficulty chewing and swallowing because of a dental condition.
So what can you do?
To help an elderly relative or neighbour, the charity has suggested the following:
- Organise trips to the dentist or GP
- Offer full-fat milk, yoghurt and cheese rather than skimmed alternatives, and soft foods like scrambled eggs
- Help the elderly pick out foods in packaging that are easy to open and regular snack foods
- Switch to blue crockery if eyesight is a problem as it makes it easier for people to see what they are eating.
Poverty in old age is also seen as a big cause of the malnutrition problem in the UK, as 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, listed poverty, the inability to shop, eat or drink at home without help, loneliness and isolation and poor physical and mental health as risk factors, and reinforced that people could be malnourished no matter their weight.
“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.”