A toolkit developed by Bournemouth University to help health and care staff diagnose and treat malnutrition in people with dementia has won a national award.
The Nutrition and Dementia Care toolkit for health and care staff is a practical guide, comprising workbooks and a film, which aims to develop knowledge and skills around nutrition and hydration to provide best quality care for people with dementia.
It won the Nutrition Resource of the Year award at the Complete Nutrition Awards, which recognise the achievements of those whose work has made a significant difference within the nutrition industry.
The toolkit was developed by the Ageing and Dementia Research Centre at Bournemouth University and has been used by over 1,000 health and care professionals to date, across the UK and as far afield as Australia.
“Malnutrition is a big issue for people with dementia. Alongside issues with memory and forgetting to eat, as we age we lose our sense of taste, smell and ability to sense thirst – which is a particular problem in dementia,” said Professor of Nutrition Jane Murphy, who was part of the team who developed the toolkit.
“People might also be less able to eat independently or they might have difficulties swallowing, so there could be a need to modify the food.”
She added: “We are delighted to receive the award and to be recognised for the work that we have undertaken with the support of a great team. It has been great to see how the work has been implemented and used across the community and how well people have responded to it.”
Malnutrition is also an issue for older people living at home – it is estimated that around 1.3 million people are living with malnutrition or are at risk of being malnourished, with 93 per cent of these living in the community.
Professor Murphy has launched a nutrition wheel with the Wessex Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) and the Patients' Association to help early identification of people likely to be at risk of malnutrition. The wheel asks specific questions and then provides advice or signposting to services depending on the answers given.
Warning signs of undernutrition include unintentional weight loss, difficulty preparing or eating food, loss of appetite or thirst, and feeling tired or dizzy.
“By using this, people can identify malnutrition earlier and can then do something about it. It’s about having that conversation starter and a framework to phrase those questions,” said Professor Murphy.
“If people are poorly nourished, they are more likely to get an infection or have a fall and end up in hospital. It is about trying to support people within their own environment to keep as well as possible for as long as possible.”
Professor Murphy is an Associate Member of the Malnutrition Task Force and is supporting Malnutrition Awareness Week, which takes place this week.
Organised by the Malnutrition Task Force and BAPEN, a charitable organisation that raises awareness of malnutrition, the week aims to increase understanding of undernutrition and dehydration in the UK.
Professor Murphy said: “It’s something that we should talk about not just within one week, but we need to have a period of time to focus people’s minds as to the issue, to raise awareness and to know how to respond to the issue.
“It’s about eating for health, not healthy eating – people who are at risk need to make sure that they are taking on board more calories, fortified foods and protein to ensure that they are getting what they need and are able to maintain health and wellbeing and quality of life.”