Background: Many older people desire to remain in their own homes for as long as possible. Yet living independently as one ages can present various challenges. Maintaining an adequate nutritional status is important for remaining independent however despite its importance this key aspect of healthy aging is often overlooked. In Australia and New Zealand, older people living in their own homes who are at risk for malnutrition has been reported in the range of 4-54%. Screening is a simple process to detect those who may be at risk and who would benefit from a full nutrition assessment by a dietitian providing access to nutrition care which may prevent or reduce the trajectory to a malnourished state. Research Aims: We do not have a clear picture of malnutrition screening practices by dietitians working in the community and less is known from the perspective of the older adult. The aim of this study is to explore the malnutrition screening practices of dietitians. It is part of a larger research project aiming to qualitatively examine the practices and perceptions of older adults living in the community in relation to malnutrition. Methods: A descriptive cross-sectional online survey of dietitians providing dietetic care to community dwelling older adults (aged ≥ 65 years) in Australia using a three part 25 item questionnaire with scaled, closed and open-ended questions. Research Findings: Malnutrition screening practices as reported by Australian dietitians varied considerably across all organisations and states. A large percentage of the dietitians reported that many older adults who were screened and found to be at risk for malnutrition declined nutritional assessment. The reasons for refusal were unclear and require further investigation. Perspectives of the elderly themselves would be beneficial in understanding the need for and application of routine malnutrition screening in the community setting.
2015 University Research Conference: Integrate, Innovate, Inspire, Sunshine Coast, Australia 13-16 July 2015