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  • Nutrition

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

Abbott, with the support of the Patients Association*, has 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.1 It may surprise you to know that, in the UK, approximately 1 in 10 people aged over 65 are malnourished. 2

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:

BAPEN self-screening tool (PDF)

Eating well in later life (PDF)

* The Patients Association is an independent patient charity campaigning for improvements in health and social care for patients. Uniquely for an organisation with a remit covering all health and care issues, they work with patients directly. Through their helpline they support thousands of people each year with their concerns and queries about the health and social care system. They also speak to government, the NHS and other stakeholders about patients' priorities and concerns, to ensure the patient voice is heard and acted upon.


  1. NHS, 2020: Accessed June 2020.
  2. Malnutrition Task Force, 2017: State of the Nation: Accessed June 2020.

Date of preparation: June 2020 UK-N/A-2000101

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