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Senior Malnutrition - A Significant Threat to Successful Aging
posted 09.24.2018

By Brenda Schmitthenner, Jessa K. Engelberg, Andrea M. Morris, Amy Herr, Kai Oliver-Kurtin and Cheryl Hassoldt

Malnutrition disproportionally affects seniors, with up to 1 out of every 2 at risk for malnutrition, and disease-associated malnutrition in seniors is estimated to cost $51.3 billion annually.

West Health, a proud member of ASA and the Defeat Malnutrition Today Coalition, is shining a light during Malnutrition Awareness Week (September 24-28, 2018) on one of the greatest threats to successful aging: senior malnutrition.

With a rapidly growing senior population in the U.S., the impact of malnutrition will be even greater if action isn’t taken now. There is a distinct opportunity to leverage community-based organizations to screen for malnutrition and respond by addressing the broader social factors that contribute to and exacerbate malnutrition.

Aligned with our mission to enable seniors to successfully age in place with access to high-quality, affordable health and support services, West Health is partnering with many of the brightest and most innovative leaders in the fields of aging, senior nutrition and healthcare to advance a strategy to provide comprehensive malnutrition care to seniors in their homes and communities where they live and manage their health.

In February 2018, West Health hosted a Senior Malnutrition Visioning Session in Washington D.C., which included national leaders in healthcare, aging, senior nutrition, policy and research. Participants engaged in constructive dialogue and exchange of innovative ideas to advance comprehensive malnutrition care and prevention for seniors through practice innovations and community-based solutions. The output of the session was a multi-year roadmap to achieve Comprehensive Senior Malnutrition Care, and reduce the incidence of senior malnutrition to avert an ever-growing threat to successful aging. The roadmap outlines four primary target areas to actualize change.    

Call to Action

You can act today to reduce and prevent senior malnutrition to improve the health and wellbeing of seniors! Here’s how:

  1. IDENTIFY: Identify seniors who are malnourished or at risk for malnutrition in both clinical and community settings and increase awareness that senior malnutrition is a crisis in this country!
  2. INTERVENE: Leverage your interactions with seniors to address the medical and social factors that contribute to malnutrition.
  3. EVALUATE: Measure outcomes, conduct research, capture learnings, and promote best practices that advance comprehensive senior malnutrition care.
  4. INCENTIVIZE: Advocate for legislative and regulatory changes that provide incentives for quality measurement and reimbursement for malnutrition-related activities.

Join West Health and Defeat Malnutrition Today on Twitter using #MAW2018 to become a change agent for eradicating senior malnutrition, and support seniors to successfully age in their homes and communities! For more information on Malnutrition Awareness Week, refer to the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (A.S.P.E.N.).    

Please also plan to join West Health and Defeat Malnutrition Today at the 2019 ASA Conference Session: Let’s Talk Policy and Practice – Malnutrition Among Older Adults, A Growing Crisis in America Today on Monday April 15th from 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM to learn more about how YOU can advance senior malnutrition care!

Brenda Schmitthenner, MPA, Jessa K. Engelberg, PhD, Andrea M. Morris, PhD, MPH, Amy Herr MHS, Kai Oliver-Kurtin and Cheryl Hassoldt contributed this post on behalf of Westhealth.

Learn more about the Roadmap For Nutrition here.

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