Support for those aged 65+ will help with earlier intervention to stop physical and mental health problems from under-nourishment deepening
A charity leading the charge to tackle malnutrition among older people in Scotland has launched an advice line as part of efforts to ensure swifter support.
Food Train’s Eat Well Age Well project team are manning the freephone Malnutrition Advice Line - 0800 13 88 220 - with a focus on those aged 65 and over.
They are providing crucial advice and practical information to older people themselves - or anyone concerned about an older person’s wellbeing - on how they can stay well nourished.
The line’s national launch is among measures being taken to support healthy ageing and help people better understand the signs of malnutrition among older people so that action can be taken early before problems deepen.
It follows a pilot project in Edinburgh and the Lothians late last year where registered dieticians and nutritionists from Eat Well Age Well fielded calls on queries including those surrounding reduced appetite, weight loss and confusion about what to eat in order to stay well.
Laura Cairns, Food Train’s Eat Well Age Well project manager, said: “Worrying numbers of older people across Scotland suffer from - or are at risk of suffering from - malnutrition. We are pleased to launch this line to support older people, their carers and others with this important issue.
“We need everyone to start simple conversations with friends and loved ones about food, cooking and their appetite. These conversations are key to discovering the problems people are experiencing and what steps can be taken to ensure there are no further problems with eating. Our advice line allows exactly that.
“Any over-65s with concerns about their own nutritional health - or a friend, relative or carer worried that someone is not eating and drinking enough or experiencing barriers or challenges around food - should get in-touch. Our advice can support older people to live better lives.”
Basic pointers are food-first - how to boost calorie and protein intake - while finding out more about individual circumstances so people can be pointed towards agencies and organisations which may be able to help further.
In October, Food Train called for a significant step-change in health and social care to intervene earlier to prevent malnutrition among older people in Scotland. This followed research by the University of Glasgow in partnership with Eat Well Age Well.
Its calls to action to improve the lives of older people included a requirement for all agencies working with older people to carry out community screening for early signs of malnutrition and to recognise that poor mental health also places the older adult at risk of malnutrition and food insecurity.
Greater screening, the organisations said, will not only save lives but also rising NHS and social care costs linked to the falls and fragility associated with the one in 10 older age adults in the UK who are malnourished or at risk of malnourishment.
Dietitian Jen Grant took calls on the advice line as part of the pilot project, speaking to older people and family members.
She said: “We gave food-first advice, including tailored person-centred pointers around how to increase their intake through more nourishing meals and snacks, tips around simple food swaps and food fortification.
“We also gave advice around managing mealtimes and strategies they could use to make eating easier or more enjoyable, while also signposting local services which can provide further help.”
A loss of appetite, unplanned weight loss, difficulties eating and drinking and a lost motivation to cook can be among the signs of malnutrition among older people.
The Malnutrition Advice line (0800 13 88 220) is open from 9am until 4pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays or alternatively email email@example.com at any time. More details are available online.
This is not an emergency line. People with immediate concerns about health and wellbeing should phone their GP or NHS 24 on 111. The service is operating in all of Scotland’s NHS regions, apart from Tayside where a regional advice line is already established.