Could You Spot the Signs of Malnutrition?

Malnutrition is more common than you might think here in the UK. Here’s how to spot some of the signs.


Malnutrition is more common than you might think here in the UK. Here’s how to spot some of the signs.

It might come as a surprise that a first world nation like the UK has a malnutrition problem. However, figures from the BDA (The Association of UK Dieticians) show that around 3 million people in the UK are either malnourished or at risk of malnourishment. While a small fraction are in residential care or hospital, over 90% of those people are living at home. That’s why as a home care company, we’re helping to spread awareness for Malnutrition Awareness Week. So, here’s some information on how to spot the signs and take action.

Ask, Look and Listen

This year’s campaign is focussing on the 3 main steps people can take to help combat malnutrition – ask, look and listen.

  1. Ask

Be open and talk to the person to find out if they are having any particular problems with regard to shopping, cooking, their appetite, the physical act of eating or their mental health. If someone has issues in any of these areas it may be a big factor in why they aren’t getting adequate nutrition. There may be one simple answer or several issues that need addressing. It's vital to try and encourage the person to share any challenges they have so that you can support them.

  1. Look

Keep your eyes open for signs that the person might be malnourished or is at risk. There are a number of things to look out for, but common signs that someone may be struggling with their nutrition include:

  • A poor appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Feeling cold
  • Feeling weak
  • Mental health problems
  • Being ill a lot or wounds taking a long time to heal
  • Weight loss (look for looser clothing, rings, watches etc.)
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Problems with false teeth and chewing
  • Consistently eating a highly processed diet
  • Difficulty shopping or cooking for themselves
  • Financial problems that limit their food budget

While losing weight is often a sign that something is off balance regarding a person’s nutrition, it’s also important to be aware that someone could be malnourished without being underweight. A poor diet or certain medical conditions may mean that someone is simply not getting the nutrients that their body needs.

  1. Listen

If the person does open up to you, be attentive to what they’re saying. Listening properly is an important care skill and can help you get to the root of the problem. You may find that issue may not even be directly related to eating itself. Listening to what they’re telling you about their life, relationships and general wellbeing can often be the key to solving the problem and finding the right support.

Further information on malnutrition

If you’d like to know more, the Malnutrition Task Force website has some useful resources for domiciliary care workers, including screening tools and guides on nutrition and hydration.

And if you’d like to know more about how domiciliary care from Bluebird Care Bromley could help you or a loved one to continue to live well at home, get in touch. We’re always here to help.