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How to take action during Malnutrition Awareness Week

The growing problem of malnutrition among older adults will be spotlighted during this year’s Malnutrition Awareness Week, an annual event held by the American Society of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN). The purpose of the week, which runs from September 18 to 22, 2017, is to raise awareness about malnutrition issues in both healthcare professionals and the public.

As part of the week’s activities, ICAA members are invited to  participate in a Twitter chat led by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) on September 19 at 1 p.m. EDT. The chat will be accessible from the""hashtag #MAW2017 and feature participants from NCOA, ASPEN, the Alliance for Aging Research, and Defeat Malnutrition Today discussing the crucial issue of malnutrition among older adults, which may affect up to one in two older adults.

Malnutrition Awareness Week also includes educational webinars, social media discussions, and programming ideas for institutions or other interested groups. Infographics and downloadable posters and flyers are available on the ASPEN website

What is malnutrition?

Malnutrition is defined as a lack of proper nutrients in an individual’s diet, which can be linked to inadequate intake of protein, calories or other vitamins or minerals. In older adults, this nutrition deficit can lead to loss of lean body mass, even in people who are overweight or obese. Lean body mass deterioration diminishes muscle strength, which can lead to falls, frailty, a greater risk of chronic illnesses or a potential worsening of chronic diseases.

Malnutrition in hospital patients can increase their healthcare costs by 300% increase and lengthen their hospital stays by four to six days. It can also lead to more complications and an increased risk of death.

Older adults are prone to malnutrition due to many causes and risk factors, including loss of appetite, inability to chew and swallow, dementia, isolation, depression or other mental health problems, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and food insecurity. The number and complexity of possible causes can make older adult malnutrition hard to understand and even harder to combat.

What can I do?

Awareness of the problem is crucial to preventing and combatting malnutrition in older adults. Professionals who work with older adults have a number of ways to get involved in raising awareness of the problem and seeking solutions.

Your agency or organization can join ICAA as a member of Defeat Malnutrition Today, a national coalition dedicated to fighting older adult malnutrition. Visit the coalition website for details about joining and to explore numerous other tools, including information for policy advocacy at the national and state levels, videos, toolkits and more.

Professionals who care for or work with older adults can look for warning signs of malnutrition, including loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, difficulty chewing and swallowing, and a need for multiple medications. If you suspect malnutrition, urge the older adult to talk to a doctor.

Older adult malnutrition awareness is crucial, and one goal of Malnutrition Awareness Week is to make more people aware of the problem. More discussion about malnutrition in older adults can lead to more screening and better prevention, which can help improve the quality of life of millions of people. In other words, with longevity on the rise, we need to ensure “active aging” for as many older adults as we can.

For additional tools and resources on malnutrition, visit the NCOA’s Community Malnutrition Resource Hub. And be sure to join the Twitter chat about malnutrition among older adults on September 19 at 1 p.m. EDT by searching for hashtag #MAW2017.

Note: This information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from research. The view expressed here are not necessarily those of the ICAA, we encourage you to make your own health and business decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified professional.

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