Nutritional management of the older person
Brownie, S & Myers, SP 2003, 'Nutritional management of the older person', Journal of Complementary Medicine, vol. 2, no. 5, pp. 28-33.
A growing body of scientific evidence in the field of geriatric nutrition supports the notion that appropriate age-adjusted strategies for the older person can reduce the morbidity associated with ageing and enhance quality of life. The elderly represent a vulnerable population at risk of nutritional deficiencies due to chronic illness, heavy use of medication and periods of lengthy hospitalisation. Lifestyle factors, immobilisation and isolation and physiological factors associated with ageing compound these risks. Poor nutritional status of the older person is associated with increased hospital admissions and is an important determinant of morbidity and quality of life. It is therefore important that practical measures aimed at addressing the nutritional needs of the older individual should be routinely implemented in clinical practice. GPs, complementary therapists and nurses are perfectly positioned to play a leading role in the nutritional management of the older person. Studies have shown that, among older individuals, poor dietary intake — coupled with physiological changes associated with ageing — leads to inadequate levels of several nutrients, namely protein, calcium and B-group vitamins (including vitamin B12, vitamin B6 and folate) and vitamin D. However, we outline a three-step nutritional management strategy for the older person, including recognition of risk factors, nutritional assessment and management of these ‘at-risk’ nutrients.