Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Nov-Dec 2016 Contents Anutritious diet is important
at any age, but is particularly
important for older people to
maximise independence and
quality of life.
Consuming adequate nutrients
can be challenged by illness, social or
economic factors. It's important that older
Australians choose the right foods to
optimise intake and avoid malnutrition.
In an effort to prevent malnutrition
and to ensure the elderly function to their
peak, the following elements are essential
in their diet.
ENERGY AND PROTEIN
Consuming a diet with adequate energy
(kilojoules) and dietary protein can
assist older Australians with weight
maintenance. Energy requirements can
be increased due to underlying medical
conditions (e.g. cancers) or increased
output (e.g. wandering in dementia,
Dietary protein is essential for
the body's growth, repair and muscle
maintenance. If protein intake is
inadequate to meet requirements, the
body breaks down muscle causing muscle
wasting and decreased strength. Small,
frequent high-protein, high-energy meals
and snacks throughout the day may assist
the elderly to better meet their needs.
Fortifying meals can help improve
the energy and protein intake of those
who are having only very small meals.
Encouraging liquids can be another great
way to boost energy intake.
FIBRE AND FLUID
Poor bowel health will impact negatively
on overall health and can lead to issues
such as falls, poor appetite and increased
confusion. Issues with bowel health are
often a result of poor fibre and fluid
intake. For optimal bowel management, a
high-fibre diet (30g fibre/day), adequate
fluids (approximately 6-8 glasses per day,
including water, tea, coffee, juice, cordial,
milk, custards and ice cream) and regular
exercise are required.
Aside from constipation, poor fluid
intake causing dehydration has the
potential to lead to headaches, confusion,
irritability, lack of appetite and urinary
tract infections. So it is vital to ensure
daily fluid needs are met.
VITAMINS AND MINERALS
Calcium is essential for optimal bone health.
Dairy foods are the best sources of calcium.
Iron deficiency leads to anaemia and
the elderly can be at risk due to decreased
intake or increased iron requirements
with some medical conditions. Red meat is
the best source of iron.
Zinc deficiency can cause impaired
wound health, reduced immune system
and affect taste which can impact
appetite. Food sources include meat,
seafood, and lentils.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which
is essential for normal bone development.
Sources include tuna, salmon, sardines,
butter and margarine.
Older Australians are encouraged
to consume foods from each of the five
food groups outlined in the Australian
Dietary Guidelines. However, these are
not suitable for frail elderly or those
with complex health conditions and an
accredited practising dietitian (APD)
should be consulted.
Under accreditation standard 2.10
(Nutrition and Hydration) aged care
facilities are required to have a process for
identifying residents at risk of malnutrition.
All residents should be weighed on a
monthly basis. Adopting an appropriate
malnutrition screening tool to determine if
a resident is at risk of malnutrition is also
important. Nutrition screening should be
completed regularly to monitor progress
and identify any new issues.
Nutritional screening will only identify
residents at risk of malnutrition. Clear
pathways must be in place to allow staff to
take action for residents identified to be
at risk. If simple strategies do not reduce
the resident's risk then they should be
referred to an APD for a more complex
It's important for seniors to consume a
varied diet high in energy and protein to
assist in maintaining not only their weight
but also muscle mass.
This can be more easily achieved by
encouraging a team approach to their care
-- involving nursing staff, carers, medical
staff, food services, relatives, APDs and
speech pathologists. n
Samantha Murray is an accredited practising
dietitian and accredited nutritionist. She is
the founding director of Food Solutions Diet
Consultants. Her article was written on behalf
of the Dietitians Association of Australia
(DAA). To find an APD go to daa.asn.au.
Eating for peak performance
Samantha Murray outlines the elements that
are essential in an older person's diet.
"It's important for seniors to
consume a varied diet high in
energy and protein to assist
in maintaining not only their
weight but also muscle mass."
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