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Nutrition for Active and Healthy Aging

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The silent killer: 1 in 3 patients at risk of malnutrition

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Feb 22, 2019 in Aged Care, Malnutrition, Research

One in three hospitalised adults in the US is at risk for malnutrition, a major analysis has found. And patients’ poor food intake is having a significant impact on their healing and recovery, compounding their risk of death.


“Nutrition is easily overlooked as healthcare professionals often focus on a patient’s primary diagnosis,” lead author Abby Sauer told NutritionInsight.


“It may come as a surprise to some that when patients don’t get proper nutrition, it can significantly put their health and lives at risk,” she adds, explaining that nutrition is more important than ever when someone is sick or injured.



The invisible malady


The researchers screened around 10,000 patients from 2009 to 2015 to assess malnutrition risk and links with mortality.


They found around one in two patients were eating half or less of their meals. This low food intake was linked to higher risk of mortality, and those who ate none of their food had a nearly six-fold higher risk of dying than those who ate at least some.


The findings support previous studies that have identified hospital malnutrition as a global public health problem, including Australian research which also found that this “silent epidemic” affects one in three hospitalised patients.


Despite this growing awareness, it is still not given the attention it deserves.


“Malnutrition can be invisible to the eye and is rampant in US hospitals because it’s not always top of mind,” said Gail Gerwitz, president of nutritionDay, an organisation which was involved in the study.


Loss of muscle mass and strength takes the brunt of poor nutrition, leading to sarcopenia, an age-related disease of accelerated muscle wasting that results in a downward spiral of poor health and mortality.



Taking action


Some Australian hospitals are taking action by implementing basic malnutrition and sarcopenia screening tools. Relatives can also look for key signs of malnutrition.


These include unexpected weight loss, tiredness, low mood, poor appetite, unhealthy teeth and gums, listless hair and brittle nails, constipation and poor wound healing.


Hospitals and aged care facilities can take several measures to boost patients’ food intake, by using patient-centred service models, introducing mandatory nutrition standards, addressing obstacles to eating like poor dentition, and providing a choice of meals that are tasty and appealing.


High protein, high energy meals are the first line of defence to prevent or address malnutrition and promote healing. This can be achieved by adding extra cream or butter to food. Where necessary – especially with poor appetite – supplements can be used between meals to boost protein and calorie intake.





One more meal a day could save lives

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Feb 14, 2019 in Aged Care, Malnutrition, Nutrition

Many older adults don’t eat enough to meet their nutritional needs, and this can impact their healing and recovery from injury.


In support of this, a 2-year pilot study has shown that giving one extra meal a day to older adults who were hospitalised with hip fractures halved their risk of dying.


The study, conducted by the NHS in the UK, was instigated after staff noticed that patients with hip fractures struggled to get enough nutrients. In the program, nutrition advisors across six sites brought food from the hospital’s canteen and sat with patients as they ate their extra meal.


As a result, mortality rates fell from 11 to 5.5 percent, and medical authorities are considering whether it should be introduced countrywide.


Often, busy staff overlook patients’ food intake, noted chief orthopaedic surgeon Dominic Inman. Commenting on the findings to The Telegraph, he said, “If you look upon food as a very, very cheap drug, that’s extremely powerful.”



A downward spiral


Hip fractures are the most common, and most serious type of fracture in Australia, with new fractures resulting in 50,900 hospitalisations and 579,000 bed days throughout 2015-16.


The health of adults over 50 often rapidly declines after a hip fracture, exacerbating poor outcomes. For three months after fracturing a hip, older adults are at five to eight times greater risk of dying, and one in three adults over 50 dies within 12 months.


Aside from that, a hip fracture can sorely impact mobility, independence and quality of life, and many patients are transferred to another facility for ongoing care.



On the bright side


Falls can be prevented by maintaining good muscle mass and strength. Failing that, patient outcomes after a fall can be improved with rehabilitation aimed at getting them moving as soon as possible, and with good nutrition.


Malnutrition, although widespread, is often overlooked, so it is important to be aware of the signs.


Addressing this, Queensland researchers have tested a patient-centred food service model in a public hospital setting and showed that it increased patients’ energy and protein intake – key requirements for healing and preventing malnourishment.


The model has been used in private acute care settings for 15 years. It revolves around providing room service to patients on demand – so they get to choose what they eat and when. (Who wants dinner at 5pm if you’re not ready for it?)


This food revolution was led by Sally McCray, who says, “This innovate model demonstrates the importance of patients being able to order flexibly, both in terms of the type of food items that patients feel like eating, as well as ordering food at a time of day that they feel like eating.”


The researchers showed that, not only can it improve nutrition intake, it also results in happier patients and reduced food waste.





Four-legged therapists

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Nov 1, 2018 in Aged Care


In 2017 Nikki took her mini foxie Daphne for regular visits to Bupa Aged Care. They were “pet therapy” volunteers.


Every week, Nikki would have to reintroduce herself and Daphne as many of the residents didn’t remember who they were.


But after a few months some residents started recognising them…well not so much Nikki – they would remember Daphne.


Residents would join them in the living room for cuddles, pats and doggy licks. Or if they preferred to stay in their rooms, Nikki and Daphne would pay them individual visits.


Lucy was a huge dog lover with dog stuffed toys and ornaments in her room. She would always thank Nikki for remembering to visit her.


Many residents would share stories about their dogs and cats, usually from childhood.


One resident didn’t know that it was her birthday the next day. But seeing Daphne reminded her all about her beloved childhood dog – a mini foxie called Kimmy – and how her dad taught Kimmy to do tricks like sit up and shake hands.


Another lady who was confined to bed asked if Daphne could sit on her lap. “Daphne curled up and the lady started crying tears of joy because she just loves dogs so much and missed her dogs,” said Nikki.


“The pure gratitude and love that I witnessed between Daphne and the residents brought me to tears a few times,” she says. “I can’t even put it into words how it made me feel, it was just so special for everyone involved.”



A multitude of benefits


Pets can boost emotional and physical wellbeing. As well as being social catalysts, they offer social support and unconditional love, reducing loneliness and feelings of isolation.


Owning pets has been linked to lower risk factors for heart disease, like reduced blood pressure. Pets can reduce stress levels, and cancer patients have reported that their pets helped them during treatment.


They can also make people laugh, says Janette Young, pet researcher at the University of South Australia, which has known health benefits. “You can’t be depressed when you’re laughing.”


Furry companions can help older adults make the transition to aged care. “We know that people’s depression increases when they go into care, because there’s all these losses,” says Young.


As well as providing comfort, pets can give people “a reason to wake up in the morning,” Young says. The sense of purpose, “that something in the world would miss you,” she adds, “that’s actually protective.”


In interviews with older adults, Young surprisingly uncovered a strong theme of suicide prevention, with people suggesting that without their pets, “they wouldn’t be here”.



Taking pets seriously


“Not taking pets seriously in how we consider and support ageing means we may be condemning some older people to isolation and loneliness,” Young wrote for The Conversation.


She argues that we need to find ways to support older adults to keep their pets when they go into full time care.


Some aged care centres – like Bupa – are welcoming pets because of their demonstrated health benefits. Weighing up the challenges, evidence suggests that the benefits are well and truly worthwhile.


Perhaps pet therapy should be included in new standards for aged care?


Young points out, though, that it’s important to consider the pets’ welfare. Research shows that dogs can be stressed, for instance, but people are unaware of the signs – like looking away, lip licking and yawning.


Some breeds are more anxiety-prone than others. “So we just need to be conscious of the animals as well.”





Shining the spotlight on aged care

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Oct 3, 2018 in Aged Care


Welcome news for the aged care sector – the Australian government has announced that a long sought-after royal commission will investigate an “industry in crisis” amidst harrowing reports of older adults being subjected to substandard care.


This follows revelations of horrific conditions at the Oakden facility last year, resulting in a national Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, streamlining of complaints and crackdown on departures from quality care.


Since then, the Department of Health has reportedly closed one aged-care facility nearly every month, and another 17 centres have sanctions enforced.


Complaints to the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner increased to 4,300 for residential aged care in the last financial year, while 5,780 complaints were lodged for home and community care.



People speaking out


In a time-honoured example of ordinary people spurring action, the commission was announced as courageous aged care workers spoke to Four Corners last month.


They were just some of the 1300 aged care workers and more than 4,000 family, industry and staff members who contacted the show from across Australia for its crowd-sourced initiative.


It’s not just the stories that have grabbed media attention, like the 70-year old resident who died after being assaulted by another patient or the 99-year old female patient who was sexually assaulted by a male carer.


More broadly, it’s “the everyday stories of neglect and inattention, poor quality food, lack of personal care, boredom and heart-breaking loneliness,” according to presenter Sarah Ferguson.


Stories include residents – who have complex care needs – getting a quick face wipe in lieu of a shower, being left in bed all day, overmedicated for easier management, left in a hot room with no fan, and having a commode full of faeces left next to their bed.





Not only that, but malnutrition is a pervasive issue in older adults and particularly those in aged care.


“There were people that were in bed that needed to be fully fed, they couldn’t feed themselves at all,” said one worker.


“And you’d see staff members just quickly go in, offer the resident a bit of food, and if they didn’t take it immediately, just go out and ditch the lunch. You can see these people are so hungry.”


Even if they had time and support to eat, the food quality leaves much to be desired. With a reported spend of $6 per day per resident, the food was “very ordinary,” according to a worker.


“Dinner time was like a couple of patty pies and a scoop of mashed potato,” she said.


“We would get sausage rolls, curry puffs, and marshmallows for dessert,” said another.



Moving forward


The program revealed that the growing ageing industry is currently worth more than $22 billion each year.


Glossy advertisements promote residential facilities like luxury hotels. But, a personal care assistant said, “They’re being sugar coated. They’re being fed a picture, a story that in reality is very untrue.”


“Often it’s the quality of the building, the amenity of the grounds, that’s what’s being sold,” reported an aged care consultant. Often what’s not clear is the quality of the people in the building.”


Low staff numbers are a fundamental issue. One enrolled nurse reported that between her and a registered nurse, they had to look after 72 residents.


And 70 percent of personal care attendants have had only six weeks’ training.


Hopefully, now that the heat is on, the royal commission will act quickly – not only to prevent further neglect but to enhance quality of life. That includes putting mandatory nutrition standards in place.







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