Charity says cases are being vastly under reported
Money pressures are being blamed for one in five people over 65 being at risk of malnutrition.
Lothians charity Food Train, which provides meals and grocery deliveries to older people, said that cases of malnutrition are being under reported.
Around one in 10 older people are officially thought to be at risk of malnutrition. However the charity says the figure is far worse.
Research undertaken as part of Food Train’s Eat Well Age Well project - in partnership with other organisations across Scotland - has screened 2,756 over-65s for signs of malnourishment since January 2019.
It found that 467 (17%) were at risk, but that even this is probably only the “tip of the iceberg”.
Michelle Carruthers, Food Train chief executive, said: “The fact that almost a fifth of the older people who we and our partners have screened were at risk of malnutrition is bad enough.
“Until screening is stepped up across the country, we will not get an accurate picture of those at risk, let alone the numbers of older people who are actually malnourished.
“We’re talking about peoples’ health and lives here. With the cost of living crisis and the further risks that brings, we need swift and practical action.”
Food Train has repeatedly called for malnutrition screening to become mandatory for all statutory agencies that have a role in supporting older people.
By identifying those at risk sooner, the charity says support can be given to stop people becoming unwell, easing pressure on NHS and social care services which are already overwhelmed.
Jen Grant, project dietitian of the charity Eat Well Age Well, said: “Malnutrition is largely preventable and treatable through early intervention and screening.
“Carers and care organisations have a vital role to play in both identifying those at risk of becoming malnourished and supporting older people living at home.
“If everyone working in community settings with older people better understood the signs of malnutrition, we could spot and tackle issues sooner.”
The latest findings come after a recent survey by Food Train found that a quarter of its members nationally said they were already buying less food in order to save money to heat their homes this winter amid the surge in energy prices.
Six in 10 respondents also said they planned on heating their homes less to make their finances stretch further.
Food Train’s grocery shopping service has faced sustained record-high demand across Scotland since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, making more than 60,000 shopping deliveries across Scotland in the last 12 months.