Undernutrition in the elderly population living at home in the community: a review of the literature


Paula McCormack, Townfoot of Glengaber Cottage, Holywood Road, Dumfries, DG2 0JQ.


Undernourishment in elderly people has been found to have a variety of detrimental effects ranging from the development of pressure sores to the incidence of fractured femurs. Surveys within hospital settings have revealed that elderly patients are often admitted from their homes in a state of malnutrition, which would indicate nutritional deficits in at least some of the population. Reliable nutritional assessment in the community, however, is difficult and time consuming, with findings subject to distortions from other influences. Consequently there is inadequate accurate assessment of the current nutritional status of the general elderly population, and assumptions are often based on research findings from the 1960s and 1970s. In view of the demographic changes which have moved towards an increasingly ‘old’ elderly population such research may no longer be relevant. This paper provides a review of the available literature on nutrition in elderly people living at home and includes possible assessment screening strategies that could be used by community nurses.