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4 ways to help fight malnutrition in aged care

Weight loss is NOT a normal part of ageing! It is popular belief that weight loss is normal as we age. This is a myth and is largely related to the high levels of malnutrition among older people. Around 50% of residents in Aged Care are at risk of malnutrition or are malnourished. The risk of malnutrition becomes more acute for people as we age.

4 ways to help fight malnutrition in aged care

Malnutrition can occur if nutrition requirements are not met over time. How does one become malnourished? Not eating the right types of food, if nutrient absorption is impacted or if not enough food is eaten.

What is Malnutrition?

Malnutrition is defined as two or more of the following characteristics: insufficient energy intake, weight loss, loss of muscle mass, loss of subcutaneous fat, localized or generalised fluid accumulation or diminished functional status

​Malnutrition Symptoms

​Who is at risk of Malnutrition?

  • ​Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Muscle wasting

  • Hair loss

  • Pale skin

  • Fatigue or mental confusion

  • Poor wound healing

People with…

  • Poor appetite

  • Gastrointestinal symptoms

  • Nausea

  • Constipation

  • Illnesses that increase nutritional needs

  • Kidney failure

  • Cancer

  • Illnesses that lead to malabsorption

  • Crohn’s disease

  • Eating disorders

  • Impaired swallowing

  • Oral dysphagia

  • Impaired mobility

  • Parkinson’s disease

  • Dementia

  • Increased nutritional requirements for Older people, among many other reasons..

Why are older people at increased risk of malnutrition?

As we age, it is common for our physiology and lifestyles to changes, in return this will have an impact on our appetite and our ability to source, prepare and eat food. Our nutrition requirements and demands for certain nutrients also change as we age, and this is related to the natural decline in lean body mass and basal metabolic rate as we get older. Increased risk also comes from dental problems, psychological distress and/or dementia, certain medications, social isolation, and financial, shopping or cooking difficulties.


• Increased risk of falls

• Infections

• Pressure injuries

• Skin ulcers

• Dental problems

• Muscle wasting

• Impaired wound healing

• Decline in mental health

• Increased hospital admissions

• Longer recovery from illness

• Less able to carry out day-to-day activities

• Reduced quality of life

• Possible confusion

• Higher chance of illness

• Greater mortality

• Costs increase across the aged care sector and the broader healthcare system

Larger bodies can also be malnourished too


Did you know that it is possible for larger bodies to ALSO be malnourished? Any weight loss at a later age can significantly impact lean body mass and therefore immune capacity, wound healing ability and more.

4 ways to help fight malnutrition in aged care

Malnutrition Screening within Aged Care

1. Malnutrition Screening

Using a malnutrition screening tool is so important – it allows for malnutrition risk to be identified and to allow for a preventive management plan. There are many screening tools available, including the MST and the Mini Nutritional Assessment (MNA). Each made up of a set of questions that have been proven to identify malnutrition risk. Once risk is identified, a referral may be made.

2. Refer to a Dietitian for support

If it is identified someone may be at risk of malnutrition or malnourished, refer to a Dietitian for support. An OSCAR Care Group Accredited Practising Dietitian will conduct a thorough nutrition status assessment and will provide personalised recommendations to minimise the risk. Dietitians can offer practical dietary advice to assist with nutritional requirements and improving overall health.

3. Use the Food First Approach, Food Fortification and the High Energy High Protein Diet

A food first approach is the best step in improving the taste of food and beverages as well as quality of life. Food variety is important and eating well includes important vitamins, minerals, fibre, protein and antioxidants.

Energy (kilojoules) is important to help minimise weight loss and promote health. Foods high in energy include oil, butter, Ice-cream, Full cream milk, cream, cheese and yoghurt.

Protein is important to build and repair body cells. Foods high in protein include eggs, fish, chicken, meat and full cream milk, cream, cheese and yoghurt.

Food fortification is making the most of every mouthful. Each mouthful may have more energy and protein, but the overall volume of food to be eaten is not increasing. You can add the above ingredients to all meals and snacks where possible for extra energy and protein. This is highly recommended to minimise weight loss and risk of malnutrition.

More tips:

  • Aim to have Breakfast, Morning Tea, Lunch, Afternoon Tea, Dinner and Supper - Eat regularly and include energy and protein with each meal and snack.

  • Great HEHP snacks: Peanut butter on toast, hummus or cheese and crackers, yoghurt, fruit and custard, nuts and dried fruit

  • Milk-based drinks are fantastic in between meals – milkshakes, milky milo, smoothies, milk

  • Avoid sugar-free and low-fat items.

  • Scrambled eggs fortified with butter, cheese, full cream milk are a brilliant part of breakfast.

  • Add cheese and butter to vegetables and mash potato – so much more delicious too!

4. Spread the word – education is key to fighting malnutrition!

Help health professionals and carers identify and treat malnutrition. This includes older people themselves, carers, nursing, medical, allied health professionals, food service managers, aged care staff and management.

We have the following training sessions, but will gladly organise sessions tailored to you and your teams’ requirements. Train staff on malnutrition screening and malnutrition prevention plans. Ensure all staff have had malnutrition training and that your kitchen staff and chefs have had thorough food fortification training.

For more information or personalised support, speak with your Accredited Practising Dietitian, like us! Reach out now via email: dietitian@oscarcaregroup.com.au or (03) 9560 1844


Kiarra Martindale, Accredited Practising Dietitian, BBiomedSc, MDiet, Lead Dietitian (APD) & Allied Health Manager for OSCAR Care Group. Kiarra Martindale is a Gut Health, IBS and FODMAP-trained Dietitian. She is a nationally recognised Aged Care Dietitian, Sports Dietitian, Anthropometrist, Nutritionist and Presenter.


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