As a carer, paid or voluntary, or a neighbour, or someone close to a vulnerable isolated older person or a health and social care professional such as a social worker or district nurse you may come across someone who is having problems with eating and possibly at risk of malnutrition.
Here in Leeds, like the rest of the UK, our population is not only growing but also ageing. With 152,600 people aged over 60 and growing, we are clear that ageing well is a priority.
At any time in Leeds, there are over 16,500 malnourished people, 90% of people whom are likely to live in the community.
Reasons for malnutrition are varied and may include loneliness, people who have a change in personal circumstances, have mobility problems, don’t know how to cook, don’t know what to cook or who are no longer interested in food.
The new campaign, next hot meal, launched on 22 January 2019, aims to prompt conversations about food and provides suggestions and guidance on how to help by directing people to helpful website.
Here’s an example of how you might get involved
91 year old George lives on his own in Leeds. He is a retired owner of a fish and chip shop chain. George’s wife Margaret died in the summer. They have two sons who live locally but are busy with their own families and work full time.
George has not been eating well since his wife died. He struggles to know what to cook and how to cook. He has had a recent admission to hospital following a fall.
It’s an icy cold day and neighbour Patricia comes round one day to collect a parcel that George has taken in for her.
Patricia notices George is looking frail and his clothes are a bit baggy. She says “It’s a cold day. Have you got a hot meal planned?”
George says that he can’t be bothered cooking for one and that he’ll probably have a sandwich later.
Maggie thinks about George later and after looking at www.leeds.gov.uk/nexthotmeal, calls the Malnutrition Helpline who advise her on some local services and ideas of things to talk about. Next time she sees George she passes on some information about lunch clubs and hot meal deliveries.
Two months later George has started to feel stronger because he is eating better. He goes out once a week to a lunch club and has made some new friends. He has some meals delivered and has started going to his son’s house for Sunday lunch.
George is now having a hot meal every day. He feels stronger because he is eating better and is more confident leaving the house.
So why not try just starting a conversation
“It’s going to be cold – have you got a hot meal for later?”
“I’m off to the shops – need anything?”
“What are you having for dinner tonight?”
“Fancy a hot drink?”
A few simple questions can be all it takes to start talking about food and drink in a casual way and find out what help they need. This website gives you access to 8 key questions that may help in identifying support material and information that you can pass on too.
So the next time you visit an older person, either professionally or personally, why not ask ““Do you know where your next meal is coming from?” and see what happens.