One in 10 elderly people in the UK are at risk from malnutrition, newly released research from the National Association of Care Catering (NACC) claims.
With almost a quarter (23%) of the UK population set to be 65 or older by 2033, and 3.2 million people aged over 80, the NACC predicts malnutrition among older sections of the community will only get worse, costing the NHS millions.
To tackle the issue, the NACC, alongside charity the Caroline Walker Trust, has today launched a single nutrition standard, which it wants to see adopted across the care sector.
The standard not only provides a clear benchmark for the nutritional content of food, but also gives guidance on hydration, food intolerances, special dietary requirements and food labelling.
The association believes current Government guidelines on nutrition do not give clear advice for older people, and with councils able to choose at present from two different sets of guidelines there remains confusion, which is leading to higher levels of malnutrition among the elderly than is necessary.
NACC chairman Derek Johnson said: "The nutrition standard will ensure consistency in the nutritional content of food provided throughout the care catering sector.
"The launch of the standard builds on the 10 Key Characteristics for Good Nutritional Care initiative launched last month. It is, however, still vital that Government supports this standard and is committed to providing care for the elderly."
Graham Russell, managing director of Community Meals at Apetito, said: "We welcome the proposal by the NACC and Caroline Walker Trust for a single Nutrition Standard for the elderly.
"Current estimates indicate 32% of those 85 and over suffer some level of malnutrition so action is urgently needed. The introduction of a single standard will provide much needed consistency for all involved in feeding the elderly and be a major step forward towards reducing the incidence of malnutrition."
The key findings of the Personalisation, Nutrition and the Role of Community Meals report, conducted in March of this year but released today (11 October), are:
â- Many who suffer from conditions such as Alzheimer's are seeing their illness deteriorate further owing to bad nutrition and lack of care.
â- Older people at risk from malnutrition aren't being identified early enough owing to lack of interaction with meal service providers.
â- Service providers are forced to have minimal contact with elderly people owing to budget constraints, leaving many at risk from malnutrition and further illness.
â- Many older people are forced into care homes as they become ill owing to malnutrition and aren't offered the support they need before they become malnourished.
â- Pushing older people into care homes is likely to cost the UK taxpayer more than if they were able to stay in their own home.
â- There are currently two sets of guidelines for nutrition in community meals services, making it hard for local authorities to compare service providers.
â- The lack of standard measures also means older people face a lottery of services throughout the UK.
â- There is a lack of awareness about the right nutrition for older people.
â- Many older people's safety is at risk as those hired by direct care do not need official checks, leaving them vulnerable.
By Chris Druce
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