Malnutrition: It’s a Weighty Issue


Elderly lady food eating care

Good nutrition assists in the maintenance of independence and supports the overall health and wellbeing of residents.  Despite the value placed on good nutrition, the prevalence of malnutrition in the aged care setting is alarmingly high. Australian studies show a malnutrition prevalence rate of between 40-70% within residential aged care facilities (RACF).

The good news is there are a range of simple measures you can  employ to aid in the identification and reduction of malnutrition rates within your resident population. It can be as simple as 1, 2, 3!


STEP 1: Weigh your residents regularly; record accurately!

Ensure residents weights are taken and appropriately documented upon admission and, as a minimum, on an ongoing monthly basis (or more frequently depending on your facility policy and for residents identified malnutrition risk).  Tracking residents’ weight aids in identifying small (or large) weight changes and following weight trends. Identifying these trends may aid in the early identification of malnutrition risk and indicate the need for nutritional intervention. In addition, the use of an appropriate malnutrition screening tool (such as the Subjective Global Assessment (SGA), MINI Nutritional Assessment (MNA) or Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool (MUST)) can also be useful in identifying residents who are at risk of nutritional deficiencies and malnutrition.

Elderly man eating


STEP 2: Monitor Appetite and Intake!

Appetite can fluctuate on a daily basis due to a variety of reasons including the weather, mood, pain, energy levels and individual food likes/dislikes. Monitoring and recording changes in a resident’s appetite and/or oral intake can be extremely beneficial in identifying residents with a reduced or declining oral intake who may be at risk of malnutrition. Signs and symptoms to monitor surrounding  residents’ appetite and intake include:

  • Interest (or lack thereof) in food
  • Attendance at meal times, difficulties in chewing and/or swallowing
  • Proportion of total meals eaten/not eaten at mealtimes
  • Difficulties with using cutlert/crockery


STEP 3: Refer to your Dietitian!

If you notice a resident has lost significant weight and/or has a reduced appetite and difficulties at mealtimes, refer the resident onto a qualified Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) for a full nutritional review. APD’s are able to:

  •  Assess the resident
  • Plan interventions
  • Aid staff in integrating interventions
  • Monitor residents progress post intervention.

Having a strong Dietitian referral pathway within your facility is paramount in the fight against malnutrition. As a valued ACNAS member you are able to gain access to discounted consults with a fully qualified NAQ Nutrition Dietitian. For more information on how you can develop or enhance your Dietitian referral pathway contact NAQ Nutrition for more information on the services we can offer.