Malnutrition Quietly Stalking Our Elderly

Up to one in ten older Australians is malnourished and at risk of serious ill health or even death, according to health authorities.

Director of Public Health, Dr Roscoe Taylor, said malnutrition was a significant health problem that often went unrecognised and untreated in Australia, and an important issue to highlight as part of National Nutrition Week (October 12-18).

"In a developed country like ours we don't think of elderly people being undernourished so malnutrition is often overlooked and untreated," Dr Taylor said.

"This is despite malnutrition significantly increasing the chances of falls, infection, prolonged hospitalisation and early death."

Dr Taylor said people at risk included those eating alone most of the time, those with a condition that changes the type or amount of food they eat and those having difficulty shopping, cooking or feeding themselves.

Dr Taylor said the community had a role to play in identifying and helping vulnerable people.

"If you suspect your parents, friends or neighbours could be at risk please seek support from a health service in your area."

Dr Taylor said community aged care workers and volunteers were well placed to identify those at risk and act to prevent or reverse malnutrition's serious health effects.

"Many Tasmanian aged care workers are now successfully using a malnutrition screening process developed by Population Health Services to help identify people at risk and prevent malnutrition," Dr Taylor said.

"With this simple screening process community services are now picking up malnutrition warning signs earlier and acting to quickly address risks."

A short summary of this work and its impact is available.

TasCarepoint provides an information and referral service for older people seeking support in their local area on 1300 769 699. Service information is also available at the My Aged Care website.

Online nutrition information for older people is available at "Appetite for Life".