Hidden hunger and malnutrition in the elderly

By Agencies
January 23, 2018

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger has published a report on hidden hunger and malnutrition in older people, revealing that the number of older people diagnosed with malnutrition after being admitted to hospital has more than trebled in a decade.

Responding to the report, Margaret Willcox, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), said, “The thought of older people going hungry because they are isolated, have limited mobility, or are depressed is appalling, and social care staff do what they do because they are keen to do anything within their power to help.

“Hunger is a serious issue for older people, but it’s often just one symptom of wider issues, which is why it is our view that social care solutions should be personalised, and focus on the individual needs of the person in question.

“Imposing a further duty on social care providers is the wrong approach. The way forward is to deliver more personalised care, and that requires more resources, not more rules. Placing more duties on already-pressured social care staff to tackle one issue, rather than providing the funding needed to address the underlying care crisis, will hinder rather than help.

“If new duties are imposed, then as a bare minimum social care providers must be given adequate funding to ensure they are effectively carried out, otherwise sorting out one human tragedy will create another, as resources are pushed from pillar to post.

“However, social care is in the midst of a funding crisis, with a £2 billion funding shortfall by 2020 making it extremely challenging to provide individualised care. The Government must seize the opportunity of the forthcoming green paper on social care to deliver a long-term, sustainable funding solution, and provide emergency funding in the meantime. Only that can deliver the personalised care we need and tackle the root cause of this crisis.”

Also responding to the report, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said, “Significant funding pressures on councils are already threatening services that elderly people and their friends and families rely on, particularly meals on wheels and luncheon clubs.

“The fact that the number of older people diagnosed with malnutrition after being admitted to hospital has more than trebled in a decade is deeply concerning, as is the estimated £11.9 billion cost to our health and social care services of this malnutrition among the older population – a cost forecast to rise further in forthcoming years.

“Councils and providers are doing all they can to provide good care and support, including nutritious meals, however any proposed duty on providers to provide at least one hot meal every day will lead to increased costs and exacerbate significant current pressures on providers. Our social care system already needs an estimated £1.3 billion immediately, and in future years, and faces a £2.3 billion funding gap by 2020.

“Increased demand on social care services, underfunding, and the retention and recruitment of staff, have been linked to short care visits, which may not allow care workers enough time to help prepare a hot, nutritious meal.

“Loneliness, which is placing an increasing burden on health and social care, is also a problem which may be a factor in malnutrition in older people. Councils have programmes and initiatives in place to tackle loneliness and work closely with voluntary organisations and faith groups to support isolated people in the community.

“Urgent extra funding for social care – key to effective prevention work - will help protect older people from malnutrition and save the NHS money.

“Government needs to address this in the forthcoming final Local Government Finance Settlement before the social care green paper, which is months away and is likely to take a long time for its promised reforms to be implemented.”

In the report,  Michelle Carruthers of The Food Train said, ‘The solution to malnutrition is not complex. We do not need new approaches, we need a national scaling of approaches that are well tested and proven to work.

"Getting nutritional food to older people is straightforward, the Meals on Wheels service used to provide a comprehensive range of fresh hot meals to older people, available in the community and publicly funded. Community transport, subsidised travel on regular routes and food as part of care packages used to be available.

"We need to replace social care provision that was withdrawn, not because of efficacy concerns, but as a cost saving measure. The cost of removing so many community based services is a resurgence of malnutrition among older people." 

Read the report Hidden hunger and malnutrition in the elderly here

* ADASS https://www.adass.org.uk/home

* LGA https://www.local.gov.uk/


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