Malnutrition and Older Adults

Local Findings, Successful Strategies, Research & Practice Collaborations

Nov. 10, 2016


A study by the Canadian Malnutrition Task Force has shown that 1 in 2 older adults admitted to hospital in Canada is malnourished. In order to share and address these findings regionally, Island Health and Vancouver Island University held a half-day workshop at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital (NRGH) on November 10, 2016 with academics, clinicians, researchers, and community leaders.

What We Learned

  • The national study found that 56% of patients enrolled in the study at NRGH met the criteria for being malnourished.
  • The majority of malnourished patients at NRGH were not offered a consultation with a dietician.
  • Seniors services in BC need increased support to expand programs and access to nutritious food.
  • Community organizations in Nanaimo collaborated to recover and distribute $2.4 million worth of food in 2015.

What Actions Have Been Taken?

  • On admission to NRGH, patients are now asked about their nutritional habits, weight, financial situation, current medications, and pain. A screening tool has also been embedded in the new electronic health record to track rates and risk of malnutrition.
  • Island Health has introduced initiatives to ensure patients are referred to dieticians as appropriate.
  • Protected meal times and culturally familiar foods will be guaranteed at the North Island Hospitals.
  • In Port Alberni, a dietician role is dedicated to facilitating care transitions for the frail elderly.
  • Giving patients medications with a high calorie drink rather than water is being evaluated as a method of enhancing nutrition.

What’s Next?

Attendees generated suggestions to further improve nutrition for older adults in our communities, including:

  • Increased collaboration within and between agencies;
  • Increased efficiency of resource use; and
  • The creation and use dedicated seniors’ spaces for food or meal distribution.

As a result of this workshop, we will:

  • Distribute a report throughout Island Health, to workshop participants, and other interested parties.
  • Hold an event in Nanaimo with older adults to co-develop an action plan to promote healthy aging and wellbeing.