A: Malnutrition is very prevalent among older adults and it’s a very important issue.
Data from the Nestle Nutrition Institute puts overall prevalence of malnutrition of people over the age of 65 at 22.6%. The percentages of elders either malnourished or at-risk are even higher in hospitals (40%), rehab centers (50%) and nursing homes (67%). So it’s definitely out there and growing.
It also often goes undiagnosed and untreated, causing health problems, so it’s important to be aware and prevent that from happening.
Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) offers several program to help people who are having challenges with access to food, such as Meals on Wheels, congregate meals sites, our monthly Brown Bag program, and reduced-cost nutrition drink supplements.
As a registered dietitian working at SCES, a big part of my role is helping people make small changes over time with nutrition and healthy eating that best meets their individual needs.
I often do nutrition counseling in the home of our clients and it’s great because they’re conformable, all of their food is there—and they can show me what they’re eating. It’s a very hands-on kind of experience to get gather information to best help them.
So from there we work together to come up with small goals to make changes over time, so they become lifestyle habits. It really depends on their needs.
The most common issues I hear about are diabetes, high blood pressure and healthy weight, but many referrals just want to know more about nutrition and to see how they’re doing and learn ways they can eat better.
Typically it’s a one-hour visit, followed up by a phone call, but we can do another visit if needed.
This Q&A was drawn from discussion on a recent episode of Aging Well, a monthly production of SCES. Click here to watch the segment on the SCES Youtube channel.
Andrea Svartstrom is a registered dietitian for the Nutrition program at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES), a non-profit agency that supports the independence and well-being of older people in Somerville and Cambridge. For more information, visit eldercare.org, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or contact the SCES Aging Information Center at 617-628-2601 for free advice and guidance.