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  • Nutrition

I-CARE: Spotting the signs and symptoms of malnutrition in people you care for

In December 2014, with the support of the Patients Association*, Abbott Nutrition launched the I-CARE Checklist to help people spot the signs of malnutrition in their older relatives and friends, and to take action. Commenting on the I-CARE checklist, Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of the Patients Association said : “The Patients Association warmly supports Abbott’s initiative to raise public awareness of malnutrition. As families get together, it’s an ideal opportunity to identify early signs that things may not be quite right. The I-CARE checklist is a useful, practical tool to help people spot the signs and symptoms of malnutrition in their older relatives. It may help provide that early warning sign to encourage loved ones to take action and speak to their doctor.”

Malnutrition (undernutrition) is a serious condition that occurs when a person does not get enough nutrients. This could be because their diet is inadequate, or because they have problems absorbing nutrients from food.1It may surprise you to know that, in the UK, approximately 1 in 10 people aged over 65 are malnourished.2 However, despite this figure, 88% of people do not recognise the most common signs of malnutrition and only 15% are concerned that their older relatives are not eating well, as shown in a recent survey.3

To read about what it’s like to suffer from, and live with, malnutrition, click here (PDF, 85KB) for Liz and Pauline’s story.

So help make a difference and think I-CARE. It doesn’t matter whether you see the person daily, weekly or even just once a year, recognising the problem is the most important first step and it can be done with just a few simple checks:

I = I will check:

C = Clothing - weight loss can be a sign of malnutrition, so look at clothing. Is it loose or ill-fitting? This could be a sign they’re not eating properly.

A = Appetite - loss of appetite is key. Are they eating less? Do they make excuses about not being hungry? With weight loss, dentures can become loose and ill-fitting making it harder to eat, so watch out for this too.

R = Rings - jewellery can often become ill fitting with weight loss. Keep an eye on items, such as wedding rings, that people may have worn for years suddenly becoming loose.

E = Energy - with lack of food, appetite and weight loss, can also come a lack of energy. Do they seem more lethargic or struggle to keep up in a way they never used to?

Click here to download the practical ICARE Checklist (PDF, 341KB) which also contains useful facts and figures about malnutrition.

For more information and advice about eating well in later life, you might find the following leaflets useful:

A guide for carers on how to identify and prevent malnutrition in later life (PDF, 501KB)

A guide for older people on how to identify and prevent malnutrition in later life (PDF, 490KB)

* The Patients Association’s motto is ‘Listening to Patients, Speaking up for Change’. This motto is the basis on which they build all their campaigns. Via their Helpline, they capture stories about Healthcare from over thousands of patients, family members and carers every year and use this knowledge to campaign for real improvements to health and social care services across the UK. In addition, the Helpline provides valuable signposting and information for patients and supports them as they navigate the Healthcare service.

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